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.
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