2017 (Full Year) Japan: Best-Selling Car Models and Mini Cars

The Toyota Prius was again Japan’s best-selling car model in 2017 despite weaker sales. The Honda N-Box was the favorite mini car (kei) of Japanese car buyers.

Toyota Prius Plug-in Geneva

The Toyota Prius was Japan’s best-selling passenger car in 2017 despite sales contracting by a third. The Nissan Note replaced the Toyota Aqua as the second most-popular car model in Japan. The Honda N-Box was the top-selling mini car (kei) in Japan in 2017 and sold in higher volumes than the Prius.

The 30 Top-Selling Car Models in Japan in 2017 (Full Year)

New passenger car registrations, excluding mini cars (kei), released by JADA identified the following as the 30 favorite car models of the Japanese in 2017:

Brand Model Sales in 2017 % Change
1 Toyota Prius 160,912 -35.2
2 Nissan Note 138,905 35.6
3 Toyota Aqua 131,615 -21.8
4 Toyota C-HR 117,299 New
5 Honda Freed 104,405 100
6 Honda Fit 97,939 -7.3
7 Toyota Sienta 96,847 -23
8 Toyota Vitz 90,248 25.5
9 Toyota Voxy 86,772 -5.5
10 Nissan Serena 84,433 14.9
11 Toyota Roomy 78,690 New
12 Toyota Corolla 77,466 -8.6
13 Subaru Impreza 73,171 72.5
14 Toyota Tank 70,839 New
15 Honda Vezel 64,332 -12.9
16 Toyota Harrier 58,732 41.9
17 Toyota Noah 58,729 7.1
18 Toyota Passo 54,186 -23
19 Nissan X-TRAIL 49,873 -21.2
20 Suzuki Sorio 49,742 1.9
21 Mazda Demio 49,302 -14
22 Toyota Velfire 46,757 -4.5
23 Honda Step Wagon 46,457 -11.5
24 Toyota Esquire 43,210 -3.7
25 Toyota Alphard 41,923 13.1
26 Mazda CX-5 41,622 105.7
27 Suzuki Swift 38,442 115.9
28 Toyota Crown 29,085 -26.9
29 Honda Shuttle 28,111 -33.9
30 Mazda Axela 25,837 -1.9
Source: JADA

Japan’s 30 Favorite Car Models in 2017 (Full Year)

Japan’s favorite car model in 2017 was again the Toyota Prius. The Prius managed to retain the top spot for the second consecutive year even though sales were down by just more than a third.

In contrast, sales of the Nissan Note was up by more than a third to improve from fifth to second – the highest placing for the Note ever.

As with the Prius, sales of the smaller Toyota Aqua were also noticeably weaker with the Aqua slipping from second to third. The Aqua was the top-seller in Japan from 2013 to 2015.

The new Toyota C-HR was very well received by the Japanese car buyers and finished its first full year on the market as the fourth most-popular car model. The C-HR, a small crossover SUV, is a completely new car for Toyota and not replacing an earlier model.

The second generation of the Honda Freed was similarly well received with sales doubled to improved from 16th last year to 5th in 2017. The C-HR and Freed were the only new entrants on the top-ten list of best-selling cars in Japan in 2017.

Sales of the Honda Fit were weaker and the Fit lost another two sales rank positions,

Sales of the Toyota Sienta were down by a quarter and the model slipped from third to 7th. In contrast, Toyota Vitz sales were up by a quarter and two rank positions.

Weaker sales forced the Toyota Voxy down from 6th to 9th while the Nissan Serena moved down one position despite higher sales.

Toyota Roomy & Tank
© Toyota

Toyota had two further new models on the top-20 list: the delightfully (or ironically?) named Roomy and Tank. These twins, or actually quadruplets as the cars are produced by Daihatsu and also sold as the Daihatsu Thor and Subaru Justy, are sold through different outlets in Japan. Together, the sales of these two twin cars would have placed it in second position behind the Prius.

The Top 15 Best-Selling Mini Cars (Kei) in Japan in 2017

The 15 most-popular mini cars (Kei) in Japan in 2017 according to sales data released by Zenkeijkyo were:

Brand Model Sales in 2017 Sales in 2016 % Change
1 Honda N-BOX 218,478 186,367 17.2
2 Daihatsu Move 141,373 102,410 38
3 Daihatsu Tant 141,312 155,998 -9.4
4 Nissan Days 137,514 105,731 30.1
5 Suzuki Wagon R 114,711 81,134 41.4
6 Suzuki Spacia 104,763 81,277 28.9
7 Daihatsu mirror 95,772 72,924 31.3
8 Suzuki Alto 88,394 99,715 -11.4
9 Honda N-WGN 75,591 86,710 -12.8
10 Suzuki Hustler 72,600 85,762 -15.3
11 Daihatsu cast 45,540 66,290 -31.3
12 Mitsubish eK 42,486 36,544 16.3
13 Daihatsu Wake 28,466 32,828 -13.3
14 Toyota Pixis 22,284 21,061 5.8
15 Suzuki Every Wagon 16,830 17,282 -2.6
Honda N Box
Honda N-Box © Honda

Mini cars (kei-jidousya) in Japan are vehicles defined by amongst others being shorter than 3.4 m with a maximum height of 2 m and a maximum width of 1.48 m. The engine capacity is restricted to 0.66 l measured by the Japanese standard.

The Honda N-Box was the most-popular mini car in Japan for the second consecutive year in 2017. The second generation of the body N-Box was launched during the third quarter of 2017.

The Daihatsu Move moved up two placed to second with sales up by 38%. The Daihatsu Tant slipped from second to third by sales down by 9%. The Nissan Days slipped on rank position despite increasing sales by a third.

The Suzuki Wagon R moved into fifth place with sales up by more than 40%. The sixth generation of this popular mini car was launched early in 2017.

Top 10 Most-Popular Passenger Car and Mini Car Models in Japan in 2017

In Japan, sales of mini cars (kei) and regular passenger cars are traditionally listed separately. If combined, half of the top ten most popular car models in Japan would be mini cars:

Brand Model Sales 2017
1 Honda N-BOX 218,478
2 Toyota Prius 160,912
3 Daihatsu Move 141,373
4 Daihatsu Tant 141,312
5 Nissan Note 138,905
6 Nissan Days 137,514
7 Toyota Aqua 131,615
8 Toyota C-HR 117,299
9 Suzuki Wagon R 114,711
10 Suzuki Spacia 104,763

Toyota, which is only a minor player in the mini car market but very well represented through Daihatsu, was again by far the largest motor vehicle manufacturer in Japan in 2017.

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience in online writing. His best-selling cars website has been reporting car sales statistics since 2008 with classic car auction prices focusing on the most expensive automobiles sold at public auctions in the past decade. He also owns the travel websites European-Traveler.com and Lake Geneva Switzerland. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Finance from the University of London.