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Daihatsu's Esse Custom channels a little Renault along the way

This week, Daihatsu released a new version of its Esse minicar called the Esse Custom. Regular readers are by now familiar with the Japanese manufacturers' modus operandi when it comes to their kei cars. For the most part, there are two trim levels offered -- a "regular" one, such as the Esse, and a more upscale counterpart, such as this new Esse Custom. The upscale versions are almost always darker, sportier-looking and appear to be geared more towards male buyers, whereas the base versions are softer, offered in pastels with light interiors, and are aimed squarely at women.

The Esse Custom follows the script, arriving with a black interior with metallic accents and a smart-looking black exterior finish that's accented by a subtle red pinstripe that runs the length of the rocker panels and also trims the edges of the front and rear bumper covers. Foglights, a new radio antenna, a roof-mounted rear spoiler, and a set of alloys completes the look. It's no Model T, though - in addition to black/red,there are a variety of other color/pinstripe combos. Daihatsu has all the bases covered, so if you want a purple one with a grey stripe, they'll be able to hook you up. If you live in Japan, that is.

(Follow the jump for additional info and photos)

[Source: Daihatsu via Carview]

Our favorite thing about this Esse Custom is just how much its look apes the old Renault 5 (a.k.a. Le Car), especially in profile. With it's 3-cylinder kei-spec engine, it's never going to draw any comparisons to, say, a Renault 5 Turbo 2, but we appreciate the homage the Esse pays to the little French car. In a market dominated by squared-off, wagonesque keis (excepting the egglike Mitsubishi "i"), the Esse and Esse Custom bring an interesting retro feel with their 80s era Renault-influenced shapes.

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