Automakers are adding gears to transmissions at a furious rate in their effort to keep internal combustion engines relevant as fuel economy and emissions regulations ratchet up in countries around the world. Honda has gone the rest of the industry one better by filing a patent with the Japanese Patent Office for an 11 speed device that uses three separate clutches to get the job of transmitting power to the driven wheels done with maximum efficiency.
In Japan, diminutive “kei” cars are popular thanks to their low cost and small size, which makes parking them in the crowded confines of Tokyo’s urban jungle that much easier. Hopping into the Honda N-One Natural concept though, you can be one with nature again thanks to the wood inlaid interior that even stretches to the cargo area. I kid you not.
Look at this thing! It’s like somebody let Ron Swanson design the interior, and he went whole-hog on every surface he could find. The door panels, the back of the seats, even the dashboard are made from real wood. Once upon a time they used to make large portions of car bodies out of wood (those famous Ford and Mercury “Woodie” station wagons), until the realization that wood turns into shrapnel even in a fairly low-speed collision. A wooden interior is not something I’d expect to pass muster during crash testing.
That said, I’m keen to the notion of bringing more natural materials back into automobiles. Luxury automakers have been doing this for year, but these days even Ford Focus seats are being made from sustainable sources. Unfortunately for the Honda N-One Natural, those surfaces not covered in real wood instead use cheap plastic. Also, the steering wheel is on the wrong side, and also it’s never, ever going on sale in the U.S. The same goes for its adorable truck-and-camper kei car buddies.
But if some automaker were to co-opt the idea of using more authentic materials, like wood, instead of petroleum-sourced plastics, it’d be both a talking point, and something buyers like me would take into consideration. I mean, I did just write an entire post about a tiny Japanese car with only one redeeming feature; wood.
Maybe I’m making too big of a deal about this. But I don’t think so. Would you rather have your car trimmed in stained maple, or hard plastic?
Though it’s part of Toyota’s corporate portfolio, most people in the US don’t know Daihatsu – and that’s a shame, because the company most famous around here for its Rocky 4×4 ushered in the era of the American “cute ute” and still builds some good stuff that sells well in Japan and SE Asia. Most recently, Daihatsu has decided to being a bit of fun to the tiny Kei-class segment with an edgy, fun-to-drive new convertible called the Copen.
Daihatsu’s new Copen is just over 11 feet long and features electrically-controlled two-piece folding hardtop. Powering the little cabriolet is a 660 cc turbocharged KF series engine that delivers 47 MPG (Japanese cycle) while producing 64 HP and almost 70 lb-ft torque. The engine sends power through a choice of manual transmission or CVT, then to a limited slip differential for a secure, spirited, and sporting driving experience.
I think it’s a great-looking car …
… but, just for a moment, let’s pretend it’s not your cuppa.
In most cases, if you don’t like the looks of a car – if its grille is too aggressively over-styled or its taillights look a little frumpy to you – there’s not much you can do besides “buy a different” car. Daihatsu (and, by extension, Toyota) has thought of this, however, and if you want a different style for your Copen, you can have one that looks like this …
… or, if that’s going too far the other way, one like this …
… which has, to my eye, even more of the classic Porsche 356 Speedster style that makes the Carice MK1 worth looking at, along with the reputation for reliability and parts/dealer support of the massive Toyota conglomerate.
That’s not magic, it’s just the way the Copen was designed: to be an easily, radically customizable little sportster that will encourage enthusiasts and small shops to develop their own Copen bodywork and (it’s hoped) create something of a cult following for the little Kei car. And, with the proliferation of 3D printed car parts making it easier to design your own “look” by the day, offering the Copen as a safe and stable platform might be a genius move on Daihatsu’s part.
What do you guys think? Would something like this work in the US on, say, a Jeep or Ford- or is this the kind of thing that would only appeal to Japanese tuners and the frustrated Pininfarinas that make up the bulk of Italian car clubs? Let us know what you think in the comments, below.
Source | Photos: Daihatsu, via Paul Tan.
Powered by a diminutive, 660 cc engine mounted just behind the car’s two sporty bucket seats, the old Honda Beat was, like the iconic NSX, a perfectly sporting interpretation of Soichiro Honda‘s vision for his company. Since his death, Honda has veered away from its roots as a builder of small, efficient vehicles that had “enough” power and into the maker of massively powerful minivans and SUVs and, yeah, a Civic or Fit that, now and again, seem true to Honda’s vision. Starting next year, though, Honda’s vision may rise again- in the form of an all-new-for-2015 Honda Beat S660 roadster.
That, in case you were wondering, is awesome news!
The new-age Honda Beat, which may or may not carry the name along with its “S660” alphanumeric, is set to be built at the Yokkaichi factory, a facility that currently builds small “kei-cars” on contract for Honda. If that’s accurate, the reintroduction of the Beat would mean more jobs- and more job security!- for the city of Yokkaichi, and a real reason to celebrate Honda’s product planners.
Also, since I’ve begged and pleaded with Honda to build a production version of the EVSter (the original concept that led to the S660, which is leading to a reborn Honda Beat) ever since I saw it in Chicago back in 2012, I am mentally prepared to take all the credit should an electric version of the tiny runabout ever hit US shores. I’ll need that credit, too, if I’m going to get a good lease payment on the first one to hit the ‘States! Until that happens (which, sadly, may be never), we’ll have to settle for some auto show pictures of the S660 concept. Autoblog has a great gallery of those, and I’ve put some of my favorites, below. Enjoy!
2015 Honda Beat S660
2012 Honda EVSter Electric Concept
Source | More Photos: Autoblog.
This little bit of automotive nirvana is the 555TES Minute S. Powered by one of Yamaha’s high-revving 250 cc motorcycle/ATV engines coupled to Toyota’s Aqua hybrid drive system, the tiny commuter promises some seriously fun urban commuting.
Despite looking for all the world like one of those dynamically flawed 3-wheeled, motorcycle-tired fail-machines (I’m looking at you, Can-Am), the 555TES actually has 4 fat, square-section automotive tires to equalize contact patches front and rear and ensure maximum grip. Like a go-kart, the low-weight/high-grip formula is one that’s sure to thrill … and, with an EV-only mode and tiny footprint, it might be eligible for a SUICA card.
Translation: you can take it on the subway. Can I get a “F@#$ yeah!”?
There is almost no chance that this super-awesome little runabout will make its way to the US, despite the continued presence of awful 3 wheelers sucking up tax credits and
pathetic suckers’ investors’ dollars. It’s too bad, and a genuine loss for America’s car culture.
Here is the 555TES, on video, in motion, NOT vaporware. Try to enjoy the video, below, without shedding manly tears.
Source: 555TES, via the Truth About Cars.
Americans have recently embraced a new wave of economical-yet-refined small cars, abandoning decades of obsession with supersized land yachts. Yet even our compact cars are huge compared to the kei cars of Japan, where government regulations have given rise to a new class of small cars that are light, small, and a whole lot of fun. Japanese automaker Honda is hoping to tug on some nostalgic heart strings with a new line of kei cars based on the popular classic design of the old Honda N-series, which was revealed in recent patent filings.
Cute But Capable
The Honda EV-N concept debuted in 2009 to a lot of accolades, and Honda followed it up with the N Concept 4 last year. Drawing on the design of the old Honda N360/600, this retro-looking design is easy on the eyes without going overboard on the old school. While I much prefer the looks of the coupe, these recent patent filings indicate that Honda is more obliged to build a sedan, which is a more versatile vehicle when all is said and done.
The original Honda N600 could deliver over 30 mpg in an age where most cars barely broke 15. The new N600 however will utilize a 660 cc 4-cylinder VTEC engine that will deliver 64 horsepower and probably over 40 mpg. Alas, this is likely a Japanese market only vehicle, as kei cars are too tiny and slow for motorways in America. Then again, the rate at which Americans have embraced small cars could mean a niche vehicle like the N6000 might find a home in more crowded metro marketplaces like New York City or Los Angeles.
Are we feeling the retro flair from Honda’s new design?
Source: LeftLane News
GM’s marketers succeeded in convincing Gas 2 editor Chris DeMorro that Chevy Volt ownership will help you survive the (almost certainly around-the-corner) zombie apocalypse. Chris is an easier sell than I am, apparently, because I’d want one of these.
What you see here is a zombie-ready Suzuki Carry pickup, complete with four wheel drive, stabby bumpers, a roof-mounted minigun, and a downright miserly 3-cylinder engine that (if the rest of Suzuki’s recent offerings are any indication) delivers massive MPG numbers and the ability to run on several different fuels.
Believe me: flex-fuel capability will be a big deal in the future, zombies or no.
Check out the rest of the Throttle’s Suzuki Carry zombie-disposal gallery, below … and be careful, kids. If the zombies don’t get you, the gray goo will.
Source: the Throttle.
Daihatsu, maker of the Pico and several other tiny and adorable prototypes, is branching out from its (fairly solid) base of the small and cute. The Toyota subsidiary will start selling and marketing a few of its parent company’s larger cars, and Toyota is returning the favor.
Daihatsu is best known for its kei cars, also called yellow-plate cars. They’re the little four-seaters that feature smaller engines and smaller overall sizes in order to escape high tax and insurance payments (which makes them pretty popular, as you can probably imagine). One of their very successful lines has been the Mira, in production in one form or another since 1980.
The Mira – Tiny, Clean, and Green
The Mira has been fairly green for most of its history (the one I owned got about 45mpg, although it needed a stiff tailwind or a downward incline to move faster than 60mph), but the newest addition to the line-up is greener than any of its predecessors. The Mira E-S (Eco-Smart) gets 70mpg and its CO2 emissions are only 77g/km (for a bit of perspective there, current EU regulations are 130g/km or less for all new vehicles this year). It also has an idle-stop system to help improve fuel efficiency.
Why Toyota has chosen now to start selling its subsidiary’s cars under its own name is a bit of a mystery to me. Nonetheless, Toyota will be selling the Mira E-S along with Daihatsu’s MoveConte (a 5-door microvan) and HIJET (available as both a tiny pick-up and as a microvan) as part of its Pixis series. They’re aiming to sell 60,000 kei cars per year.
Daihatsu, on the other hand, will be opening up dealerships to sell the Toyota Camry hybrid, and possibly some of its larger vehicles.
Source | Image: Daihatsu.