Kei Cars are Japan’s SUVs – Autozam AZ-1, Honda Beat, Suzuki Cappuccino | Revelations with Jason Cammisa

by Hagerty
16 September 2022 2 min read
Kei Cars are Japan’s SUVs – Autozam AZ-1, Honda Beat, Suzuki Cappuccino | Revelations with Jason Cammisa

You’ve read the headline above, and we know what you’re thinking. There couldn’t be much more difference in the automotive world between the kei car, a class of vehicle designed to be tiny, lightweight and affordable, and the SUV, one that seems to be growing – both in size and in popularity – with seemingly endless momentum.

That’s why you need to watch the latest episode of Revelations with Jason Cammisa, because the two otherwise unrelated types of vehicle have more in common, at least economically, than you think.

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It’s also a great way of introducing us to three of the greatest kei cars ever created, popularly known as the ‘ABC’ of kei-jidosha: the AZ-1, Beat, and Cappuccino, sold by Autozam, Honda, and Suzuki respectively.

All arrived around the same time, in the early 1990s, when Japanese manufacturers were flush with cash for special projects (the period also gave us the Mazda MX-5, Lexus LS400, Honda NSX, Nissan 300ZX, Nissan Figaro and its stablemates, and numerous others). Conveniently, kei-car regulations had also just increased from 550cc of capacity to 660cc, with a corresponding increase in body size.

And this led to an explosion in the market, as the extra power and size meant less compromise for consumers, and greater scope for manufacturers. Along with the economic boom, it was a perfect storm, and these three perfectly-formed sports cars were the result.

If nothing else, you’ll want to hang around to hear Cammisa debunk the mythos surrounding the kei class’s 64bhp “limit” – and why it means that not all kei cars are created equal…

You can head here for previous Revelations episodes, or over to the Hagerty YouTube channel for other series like Barn Find Hunter, Icons, and Capturing Car Culture.

Read more

The Mazda RX-7 is everything you want in a sports car | Revelations with Jason Cammisa
Your Classics: Eddie Rattley’s Daihatsu Fellow Max is a tiny two-stroke
Your Classics: Iain Ralston and his Suzuki Cappuccino

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  • J.wentworth says:

    No mention of the Honda S660 or both generations of the Daihatsu copone suppose they won’t of heard of them yet due to not being 25 years old.

    Friend of mine has had both the 660cc and non Kei copones which his wife still has it the 1300 he thinks they are great but was glad the 85bhp of the 1.3 was 2 seconds to 60 quicker and also cheaper to tax.

    Shame Daihatsu not selling the mark2 copone in the UK as id consider 1 and my mate no doubt would , not scene a MK2 but I’ve scene several S660s which obviously been imported,Shame being a Rhd market not more Kei cars were sold brand new I’m sure they would have sold reasonably well.

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