A Few Photos For Sunday: Suzuki Cappucino

Driven to write has something of a jones for these tiny cars. Hell would be being asked to choose between this and a Bristol 411.

Small. Perfect. Perfectly small.

Well, I say Driven to write likes the Honda Beat as if we are a gestalt consciousness devoid of personal preferences. But DTW isn’t really, it’s a concatenation of different automotive tastes that miraculously seems not to be in conflict (except about chrome and brightwork and maybe fake wood in a car interior). We don’t talk about that much.

Today’s car lives in Dublin, Ireland (hence the grey lighting of late March ’18). I’ve seen this example before and indeed, the only other Cappucino I’ve set my eyes on also crossed my trail in Dublin (a black one). Ireland’s roads and traffic conditions being what they are (bad), the Capuccino is a surpassingly intelligent choice alongside a Rover, Cadillac or Jaguar. The roads and country lanes can be narrow. High speed matters a lot less than the sensation of high speed. Being so low to the ground and so Spartan, the Cappucino must

deliver a lot of driving sensations for the buck. It’s so tiny it makes a Miata seem like an SLC in comparison.

There’s a strange thing about the Cappucino: it ought to be a singular car, so tiny, so well-formed. Yet the very same year the Cappucino came out, Honda launched the Beat (and there was the Autozam AZ-1). The Cappucino was front-mid-engined (odd for Suzuki) while the Beat was transverse mid-engined.

In the Honda the engine lurked behind the driver, front in the Cappucino. As well as that detail, the cars cleaved to the Kei-car rules. I really love it that while adhering to the same demands, Honda and Suzuki found ways to differentiate what might have been all-but identical cars (this is not the C-class where you need an electron microscope to detect the differences in execution, with some exceptions).

Honda dodged the temptation to turbo their engine. Suzuki had no such qualms. Another big difference within narrow constraints. The upshot of this is that that the Cappucino was faster accelerating than the Beat. Honda countered with its steering and agility. I think a back-to-back test is the only way to detect which one might be better.

The Cappucino could very well have used something like torsion beam rear-suspension (it can be done) for cheapness and simplicity. Many of their mainsteam cars had a set-up like this. They used a multi-link solution.  Honda meanwhile went for MacPhersons all around (quick: name a superb Italian saloon with this arrangement).

The Cappucino is  today a well-regarded vehicle. Honest John and Jeremy Clarkson both rate it (though I can’t see Clarkson fitting in one). Since production stopped there has been a steady demand for a replacement and no sign of relief. The fun Daihatsu Copen is something like the Beat though not so low in profile.

Quite why Suzuki don’t get around to making a more up-to-date version of this car is not obvious. Yes, demand is probably not in the Swift league yet I imagine the demand would be really steady. You could sell a car like this for a decade before needing much revision.

Suzuki toyed with the little sportscar idea a few times since. In 1997 they showed the C2 with a 1.5 litre V8. That’s rather nuts and not a Kei-car. Then came the Suzuki GSX-R/4 of 2001. Nothing happened about that either. Still, you can buy a Cappucino for very little money, all things considered and they aren’t hard to keep running as they arent’t all that complex

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

16 thoughts on “A Few Photos For Sunday: Suzuki Cappucino”

  1. Lucky old Suzuki are probably the only major car manufacturer with the set of components to build a simple RWD sports car readily available – you can find them under every Jimny.

    Only Caterham have taken advantage of this benefit. The sad reality is that the low cost sports car market is so marginalised that none of the majors – Mazda excepted – is prepared to invest the capital, when the same money put into crossovers and cutesy personalisable superminis will reap manifold riches.

  2. The Cappucino is an utter delight, but ideally should only be driven before noon.

    I’m here all week folks…

    1. Try and order a cappucino in Italy in the afternoon or, even worse, after dinner. Major touristic faux-pas.

    2. Italians traditionally have quite rigid mores around food and beverages. Cappucino, because of it’s high milk content is considered a breakfast drink – in some cases all the breakfast one needs. To drink it later in the day, it is believed, plays havoc with one’s digestion.

    3. Eoin: got it. Millions of Anglo-Saxons have got it wrong. I never drink cappuccinos anyway
      Simon: the vertical sides are a fall-out of the kei dimensions.

    4. Richard: it’s clear for me that the Kei format doesn’t allow for too voluptuous curves. All I’m saying is that others cop(en)ed better with these restrictions.

  3. Looking at Copen, Beat and Cappuccino, the latter for me is the least well resolved design. All the ovoid shapes of the diverse lights and other curves don’t manage to hide the slab-sidedness of its body. The holes behind the front wheel and the ‘grille’ are downright ugly. And honestly, the RWD proportions don’t appeal to me at all. The Honda looks much more dynamic.

  4. Richard, why do I get this nagging feeling that this is just an excuse to sneak another Opel into the picture (and the minds of fellow DTWistas)?

  5. As it happens I’ve seen Clarkson with a Cappucino. I lived in London near what I now surmise was JC’s pied-à-terre. It always had pre-launch machinery parked outside, and I remember a “baby” Aston too. One day I saw him struggling to get out of the tiny Suzuki, without walking off with it strapped to his posterior. He managed to put a brave face on it.

  6. If it’s the one often parked around Leeson street and Ranelagh I know that Cappucino.

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