Choices – 1992 Performance Kei Cars

Welcome back to Choices. An evolution of a series I wrote years ago where seemingly similar cars are pit against one another in a battle for your affection. It’s like trying to choose your favourite flavor of chips (it’s all dressed, right?) Your task, if you agree to accept it, is to determine which of the four cars below belongs in each category:

  • One would be your daily driver.
  • One would become a motorsport special (and maybe enlighten us as to what motorsport).
  • One would be locked away in storage for years to come.
  • One would be tossed aside like the 2020 MLB season. 

It’s as simple as that. Have fun with the quartet below.

The Contestants

  • 1992 Honda Beat
  • 1992 Mazda Autozam AZ-1
  • 1992 Subaru Vivio RX-R 4WD
  • 1992 Suzuki Cappuccino

The Japanese Kei car is a class of micro vehicle sold in Japan to allow basic transportation to the masses without the burden of the cost or taxes associated with larger cars. It was introduced in 1949 when much of the country was still recovering from WWII and has stuck ever since.

As mentioned, the intention of the Kei car was for small, sensible vehicles to help mobilize the general public. But that hasn’t stopped some manufacturers from having fun with the segment. In 1990, the rules changed for Kei cars and they could now have up to 660 cc (0.7-liter) engines with a maximum output of 63 hp. This led to a boom of sporty Kei cars.

By 1992, it seemed every manufacturer had some sort of performance Kei car variant. Some brands took things a step further and created purpose-built performance Kei cars. We have gathered four of those vehicles here for your selection.

Each of our entrants is a different take on the sporty Kei car sub-genre. First up is the high-revving, naturally aspirated Honda Beat. Like a two-thirds sized NSX, the Beat was a mid-engine roadster with an engine capable of exceeding 8,500 rpms. Joining the Beat in the mid-engine department is the Mazda Autozam AZ-1. Unlike the Beat, it is a hardtop, has a turbocharged engine and features fantastic gullwing doors.

Next, the Suzuki Cappuccino is a more traditional front engine, rear-wheel-drive roadster. Picture a three-quarter scale MX-5 Miata, with a diminutive turbocharged engine. Rounding out or quartet is something completely different – the Subaru Vivio RX-R 4WD. It features a supercharged engine, four-wheel drive and a manual transmission. It was a micro rally car that actually saw competition.

My Choices

For my daily driver the Vivio is the obvious choice. It has the most seats, can carry the most cargo and is ready for all weather conditions. The Mazda Autozam AZ-1 also makes the most sense for the car I put in storage as their values are sky rocketing and it is such a cool car to keep in mint condition.

That makes my final selection a hard one. Both the Beat and the Cappuccino would make worth track toys (as long as it is a slow, tight track). But in the end, I’m going to go with the simplicity of the Beat and the mid-engine layout. Hey, can I still keep the Cappuccino as well? They’re all so small, I can stuff them into the garage.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: