Theme: Japan – 1991 Honda Beat

The Beat was an early nineties sensation – a Kei car NSX. Its concept and execution were admirable. Whatever happened to Honda’s genius for creating cars which got so much so right?

1991-1996 Honda Beat: source
1991-1996 Honda Beat: source

The Beat was introduced in 1991 and was much admired by the press and public alike. It recalled the fabulous Suzuki “Whizz-Kid”, but Honda seemed to go one better by achieving daintiness alongside purpose and robust-looking proportions. The stance is balanced, the zebrano-clothed interior daring yet cheery, and the alloys just lovely. It was another grey import into the UK, and a very rare sight these days, more is the pity.

1991-1996 Honda Beat interior: source
1991-1996 Honda Beat interior: source

I got excited by the prospect of Honda rediscovering its touch when it showed the EVSter and then productionised it as the S660, but it sits alongside such poorly resolved cars as the current Jazz/ Fit, the HRV, and the impending Civic, which is possibly the most contrived looking hatch I have ever seen.

So, these days, Honda upsets me almost as much as Citroen; it has such a strong back-catalogue and yet seems to move further away from it with every generation. One lives in hope, and that’s what hurts.

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Author: S.V. Robinson

Life long interest in cars and the industry

13 thoughts on “Theme: Japan – 1991 Honda Beat”

  1. I thought the previous two gens of civic were also pretty contrived, especially the split rear windscreen (which totally blocks rear view). The S660 is perfectly proportioned and even though I did like the beat I prefer the way the indicators don’t fully into the wheel arch on the S660.

  2. That the headlamp contnues to the wheel arch is the only aspect of the Beat I quibble with. I can see why they did it as it simplifies some aspects of construction. It makes the car look wider. It also makes one think it a bit weak or fragile. It´s stil an excellent little car though.

  3. With memories of a really pleasant drive I had through London once in a borrowed MG Midget, I had ideas about one of these when they started appearing as grey imports. It still looks tempting though, in the UK, the problem with convertibles is forever putting the hood up. For that reason, I wondered whether the Suzuki Cappuccino would have been a better bet. Until the Daihatsu Copen came along. But then I realised that I’d got away from the Honda’s purity entirely.

    Indeed, Honda are an odd company. There are so many interesting topics to cover in the Japanese industry, we could almost make it Theme Of The Year.

    1. It is remarkable and also remarkable how little is said about Japanse cars in the press. Could it be that the “Blue Nun” effect is at play? Although German wine is varied in character and often of superb quality, consumers moslty only know about Blue Nun which is a mediocre product well-marketed (much like Hirondelle). The Blue Nun effect is when a poor but successful product overshadows the rest of the products in the same category. From the world of cars it´s the Toyota Corolla – not poor but uninvolving. And from the world of shery, it´s Harvey´s Bristol Cream which is uttely unlike some of the incredibly complex and rewarding fortfified wines from the same region. According to Simon, anyway.

    2. Blue Nun was never sold in Germany, by the way. The wine, as well as its devastating effects on the reputation of German oenology, are utterly unbeknownst around here.

    3. I could send you a bottle Kris.

      Actually, taking the German drink analogy further, when I discovered Jagermeister in Berlin in 1980, I was greatly taken by it – poured into a chilled glass accompanying a foamy beer. Now that any London pub has it on the shelves or, worse still, has a dispenser for making Jagerbombs, the Irn-Bru of the alcoholic classes, I steer clear of it.

      Likewise, bring out a car in Japan and make it unavailable in Europe, and a healthy grey market evolves. Start importing the car officially and people lose interest.

  4. Concerning Jägermeister, i recommend strongly Jägermeister Spice – it is much better than the normal version.

    Concerning the Beat – designed by Pininfarina and the last Honda personally approved by Soichiro Honda – such a car is much better than a Smart Fortwo Cabrio. You can take it as an economic commuter car and as a fun car for a weekend trip by ones or twos.
    If not Honda will build a new Beat or Smart a new Roadster or Daihatsu coming back to Europe with their new Copen – maybe Toyota is brave enough to bring the S-FR to the dealer.

    1. The SFR is a properly interesting renewal of this sector of the market. The “concept” car looks very production ready. How big is the market? I´d guess it´s not MX-5 big but maybe 5000-10,0000 units for three years or so. I presume it´s going to be sold in Japan? Wouldn´t you think the Italians could do a car like this?
      If we are recommending drinks, I´ll suggest amaretto and soda or else a chilled dry Marsala: Vito Curatolo Arini Riserva Superiore Dry is very good indeed.

    2. Amaretto and soda sounds far too easy to drink. That is the good thing about neat Jagermeister. On the subject of pseudo hunter’s tipples, there is also the honey-based Barenjager. Just the thing to accompany a coffee after you’ve had a Black Forest Gateau and a glass of Blue Nun.

    3. Marsala has the same reputation like Fiat – hard to sell with a higher price-tag – even if the quality is great.
      A small and light italian roadster powered by Abarth, this would be great. Like a Tatratea 52 after a huge piece of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte and some glasses Blue Nun 🙂

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