Unceremoniously drummed off the automotive stage, the bubble car could make a surprising comeback on the European market thanks to a firm that plans to revive the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller, a three-wheeled, two-seat micro car. Spare parts supplier Messerschmitt-Werke unveiled an updated version of the two-seater that offers retro style and modern technology.
Messerschmitt built several variants of the Kabinenroller (which can be loosely translated as "scooter with a roof") between 1953 and 1964. The company built airplanes before it made cars, including fighter planes for Nazi Germany. As such, it's no surprise the Messerschmitt cars had airplane-like bubble cockpits. Over 50,000 units were manufactured and distributed across Europe, and the examples remaining in 2021 are highly sought-after by collectors. Messerschmitt-Werke hopes to leverage this popularity.
Visually, it takes a well-trained eye to tell the KR202 apart from the KR175 and the KR200 built decades ago. It's assembled using replica fiberglass panels shaped just like the originals, so the overall design and proportions are spot on. Buyers can customize their KR202 by choosing from a palette of different paint colors and various types of upholstery. Some customers request a classic look characterized by a two-tone paint job and white-wall tires; others prefer a sportier appearance. Messerschmitt makes a barchetta-like windshield standard and a full roof optional.
The updates are more noticeable inside. German magazine Auto, Motor, und Sport learned a USB port is hidden in the glovebox, while Messerschmitt's photos show a modern-looking steering wheel and a redesigned instrument cluster. For context, most of the original KR models came with a handlebar that looked like it belonged on a moped.
Believe it or not, the KR202 can carry up to two passengers; the driver, of course, and a second (probably small) adult on the seat mounted directly behind the driver's seat. Alternatively, users can remove the rear seat to unlock additional storage space. In this configuration, a driver about 6'5" can reportedly drive the KR202 in relative comfort.
Power comes from a 125-cc single-cylinder scooter engine that spins the lone rear wheel via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It sends the 112-inch-long KR202 to a top speed of about 55 mph. It has a 100-mile driving range, according to Messerschmitt-Werke. Alternatively, motorists can order a battery-powered variant called KR-E 5000 with a 6.7-horsepower electric motor. Its top speed remains the same, but its range drops to 50 miles. Recharging the battery takes between four and six hours, though adding a second battery doubles the range.
For context, the KR175 launched with a two-stroke, 174-cc single-cylinder engine that churned out nine horsepower after being kick-started to life. It came with a four-speed manual transmission linked to the rear wheel via a chain.
Messerschmitt-Werke builds the KR202 in Malaga, Spain, and it plans to start deliveries in Europe in May 2021. Pricing for the gasoline-powered model starts at 10,950 euros, while the EV costs 12,950 euros, figures that represent about $13,300 and $15,700, respectively. Put another way, the EV costs more than a new Nissan Versa. As of writing, it doesn't sound like Messerschmitt-Werke will sell either version of the modern-day KR in America.
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