In March 1992, Subaru launched another kei car named the Subaru Vivio. It remained in production line up to October 1998. It was powered by a 658 cc, multi-point fuel injected, and 4-cylinder engine rated as 52 PS. The same engine produced 42 PS DIN for European versions. The engine was too small to be placed in the light vehicle class, thus allowing large tax exemptions to its owners in Japan. The Vivio Van version in Japanese market received a carbureted engine rated at 42 PS (31 kW). Despite of its small size, the Vivio still gave a spacious feel due to tall profile and large windows. Compared to other kei cars, it was among the lightest with a weight of about 650 kg (1433 lbs) to 700 kg (1543 lbs) based on the offered trim.
The name Vivio is thoughtfully coined and is based on the engine’s displacement 660 which is written in Roman numerals as ‘VI-VI-O’. The word is also an inspiration of the word ‘vivid’. The vehicle was a successor to the 1970 Subaru Rex. The Subaru Pleo replaced the Vivio later. The Vivio was offered as 3- and 5-door variants. There was also present a 2-door targa top version called the t-top which was offered on special order from 1994 onward. A convertible specialist, Takada Kogyo was the man behind designing the T-top. He was also involved in designing of Nissan Figaro and Silvia Varietta.
The Vivio Bistro was launched in November 1995, an adapted version featuring a retro theme together with a mini-esque front and rear fascias, corresponding upholstery and modified dashboard. The Bistro series gained a lot of popularity and forced Subaru to come up with subsequent versions of Bistro including the Bistro B-Custom, the Bistro Chiffon, the Bistro White Edition, the L Bistro, the Sports Bistro with BBS wheels, the Bistro SS featuring engine package from the Vivio RX-SS, and the Club Bistro having a British black cab look. During the 1990s, the retro-styled vehicles were well sought-after in Japan in a context of the successful Nissan’s ‘Pike’ series vehicles, such as the Figaro and the Pao. Subaru also attempted to use this approach for its larger Subaru Impreza, named the Casa Blanca.
A wide range of engine options were available for the Vivio, particularly normally aspirated or supercharged 4-cylinder options mated to several different transmission options, such as ECVT (electronically controlled continuously variable transmission). There were also a good number of trim levels offered. The engines used were all SOHC 8-valve except for the one used in high performance RX-R trim. All supercharged versions with ECVT tended to deliver 64 PS (47 kW), whereas the RX-R version with Twin Cam 16-valve delivered nothing more than the SOHC equipped models. As for torque, SOHC models delivered 88 Nm (65 lb-ft) compared to RX-R’s 84 Nm (62 lb-ft).
The suspension of Vivio was largely based on the one used in Legacy. The Vivio was available both as front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions.