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This storyteller takes a backseat ride in Toyota's JPN Taxi, a next generation people-friendly taxi that will give Japan her very own iconic flavour.

02 Nov 2017

If the Toyota Crown taxis in Japan are too timeworn for you, not to worry because they won't be there for long.

They will be replaced by the JPN Taxi (pronounced as Japan Taxi), Japan's new iconic taxi courtesy of Toyota, by 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The JPN Taxi is designed to be instantly recognisable
According to Hiroshi Kayukawa, Chief Engineer of JPN Taxi, the notion behind its design was to create something that would be Japan's cultural identifier without compromising on the country's spirit of hospitality. In this case, the London black cab and the New York City yellow taxi were used as benchmarks.

But unlike these taxis, the JPN Taxi is dressed in Deep Indigo or Koiai - a dark blue colour that has long been a symbol of Japan.

According to Toyota, the taxi will be exhibited at the 45th Tokyo Motor Show before making its presence known around the Tokyo Bay area for another nine days.

Just as well, because this gave me an opportunity to take a ride in the JPN Taxi for the very first time when I was there for the motor show.

My 61-year old taxi driver, Hiroaki Kaneko, is indeed a friendly bloke. Just a few moments after he closed the rear door electronically from the driver's seat, he whooped out his phone and started talking via a translator app.

During his free time, Mr. Kaneko (above) enjoys playing golf
A friendly chat is inevitable, then. My colleague, too, took out his phone and attempted to do the same. Unfortunately, the app wasn't free. Being cheapskate Singaporeans, we decided to utilise the free service by Google Translate instead.

Apparently, Mr. Kaneko has been a cab driver for 20 years now. In Japan, it is common for an employee to stay in the same company or profession from the time they start working.

Some of the taxis Mr. Kaneko had driven before the JPN Taxi were the Nissan Cedric, the Toyota Prius, the Toyota Prius Alpha (a multi-purpose vehicle version of the regular Prius), and the Toyota Crown Comfort.

Although his favourite taxi of all was the Prius Alpha, thanks to its quietness, generous luggage capacity and a good fuel consumption of 17km/L, Mr. Kaneko bought over the previously taxi-driven Toyota Prius instead.

He has been driving the Prius for six years now and has already clocked 460,000km on the odometer. Unsurprisingly, he has no complains about the Toyota, considering the brand's known reliability and the fact that taxi drivers in Japan take very good care of their cars.

Passengers have the option of credit card payment
"The Prius has no problems. I am still doing an average fuel consumption of 22km/L!" he says.

The Toyota Crown Comfort he was driving just before the JPN Taxi, unfortunately, wasn't as economical. It was merely returning an average of 6km/L. That's also because it's powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine instead of a hybrid engine, which is found in the Prius.

Hence, Mr. Kaneko prefers the new JPN Taxi. Powered by a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) hybrid system, comprised of a 1.5-litre four-pot engine, the car is currently averaging 13.7km/L under his right foot, a respectable figure that's not far off from the stated 19.4km/L.

So far, he has only refilled the car once. He has been driving the JPN Taxi for about eight hours a day for just three days and has merely clocked a mileage of about 350km.

The cabin of the JPN Taxi offers ample space and riding comfort to a variety of passengers
Even so, you don't feel like the car hasn't been 'run in'. The JPN Taxi is tofu-smooth on the go, and exceptionally quiet even at three-digit speeds.

As a rear passenger, I get to enjoy an abundance of space all round, thanks to its box-like dimensions. That's also because the JPN Taxi is designed with a low, flat floor and a wide opening for ease of ingress and egress for wheelchair users.

But the icing on the cake has to be the bright and airy cabin, thanks to large windows. This helps to eliminate the woozy feeling some passengers may have when travelling over long distances.

For myself, I felt just as fresh when I alighted the taxi, as when I boarded. And mind you, it was an hour ride during the morning peak hour, with fair amount start/stop traffic in between.

Needless to say, I had to do the typical 'tourist' thing when I got to my destination and that was to snap a picture with the friendliest taxi driver I ever came across.

Come to think about it, this is the best taxi ride I have ever experienced.
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