So far, Mitsubishi’s bold “Dynamic Shield” design language has only been applied to the company’s SUVs and pick-up trucks, but the new eK kei car, which have just been launched in Japan, show that the expressive face works on tiny runabouts, too – even on ones that are essentially rebadged Nissans.

This treatment, however, has only been given to the eK X, which brings SUV-style looks to the minicar segment. The standard eK Wagon shares its front end with the Nissan Dayz, with trapezoidal headlights and a large lower grille – the only difference is an X-shaped grille instead of Nissan’s “V-motion” unit.

By contrast, the eK X gets a hyper-aggressive fascia with signature chrome bars that create an “X” graphic. This splits the LED headlights into two – a slim upper strip for the position lights and a large main unit lower down for low and high beam, just like what you’d find on the new Triton and Eclipse Cross. A large silver panel surrounds the centre air intake and the fog lights.

The rest is as per standard kei car – short overhangs and almost vertical sides and back to maximise interior space. There are a few details that make the eK stand out, such as the chunky wheel arches, upswept window line, vertical tail lights and blacked-out C-pillars that add to a “floating roof” look. This illusion is helped by the black A-pillars on the eK X, which also gets black body cladding around the car.

Inside, both the eK Wagon and eK X share the same basic design, with bench seating – again to maximise the feeling of space – and a horizontal dashboard design that Mitsubishi says provides a better view out. Both cars get touch-sensitive climate controls and a colour multi-info display.

Where the two differ is in the choice of colours and upholstery. The eK Wagon gets a beige colour scheme and standard fabric trim, whereas the eK X received black and blue hues and honeycomb-pattern fabric. The latter is also available with a premium interior package that throws in a black-and-beige interior and a multi-material upholstery with a funky striped pattern.

Safety-wise, all models get six airbags and an e-Assist active safety package consisting of Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) braking, Emergency Assist for Pedal Misapplication, Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Automatic High Beam (AHB) and the new Lane Departure Prevention (LDP).

Also making its debut is the Mitsubishi Intelligent Pilot (MI-Pilot), the company’s first semi-autonomous driving system that adds Active Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Keep Assist (LKA). Other new features include Grip Control that uses the brakes to assist in accelerating on slippery surfaces, as well as a segment-first digital rear-view mirror and a 360-degree camera system with Nissan’s Moving Object Detection.

As is the norm for kei cars, the eK is powered by a 660 cc three-cylinder engine. In naturally-aspirated form, it makes 51 hp and 60 Nm of torque, while the turbocharged version (only available on the eK X) bumps these figures up to the segment limit of 63 hp and 100 Nm. The eK X also comes as standard with a mild hybrid system that adds a three-horsepower, 40 Nm electric motor and the ability to coast to a stop with the engine off from 13 km/h. All models get a CVT and the option of two- or all-wheel drive.