In the early 1990s, Japanese car enthusiasts used the term ABC to describe a trio of new sports car born out of the K-car category: Mazda AZ-1, Honda Beat and Suzuki Cappuccino. A long time ago we had already reviewed the first two. Now it is time to complete the trilogy.
Cappuccino used to be a common sight in Hong Kong as people here are fascinated with funky Japanese cars. Last month I saw one parking behind a Mercedes CL-class, and the scene reminded me how amazingly small it was – it looked just like a miniature next to the Mercedes! Like any other K-cars of its time, Cappuccino was bounded to 3.3 meters in length and 1.4 meters in width, but what really set it apart was its lowness – many of today's supercars run wheels and tires taller than its waistline! No wonder it weighed only 700 kg.
2-door coupes couldn't be more different than this pair!
Apart from smallness, the car earned high marks with its cult look and versatile roof. The latter could be configured to 4 forms – hardtop coupe, open roadster, T-bar and Targa, believe or not! You can detach the two plastic roof panels to turn it to a T-bar. Detach also the center bar and it becomes a Targa. Swivel the B-pillar roll bar with integrated rear screen into the space behind the seats and you get a roadster. Marvelous! Predictably, the interior was snug to most Asian and could be unbearable to six-footers, blame to the low roof and narrowness. However, don't think it must be spartan. Far from that actually, it offered standard air-con, power windows and a CD-player. In addition to the decent noise and heat insulation with the roof on, it was a good companion to drive day to day.
Equally worth praising was its engineering. It employed classic FR layout with the small engine sitting fully behind the front axle and driving the rear wheels. 50:50 weight distribution guaranteed agile handling. The suspension was remarkably sophisticated. The front axle rode on aluminum double-wishbone, while the rear employed a multi-link setup with aluminum upper wishbone. Aluminum was also used to construct its bonnet and roll bar to save weight and lower center of gravity.
At a time when Porsche 911 still employed air cooling and 2 valves each cylinder, the Cappuccino's 660 cc 3-cylinder engine had twin-cam 12 valves and intercooled turbo to compensate for its lack of displacement. It produced 64 hp (i.e. the upper limit for K-cars) and 63 lbft of torque, would be happy to rev to 8500 rpm redline and even 9300 rpm fuel cut-out! A new K6A engine from 1995 brought even more torque and flexiblity, while cutting weight by the use of aluminum block. The 5-speed manual gearbox had a slick gearshift. The unassisted rack-and-pinion steering was incredibly sharp and direct, giving the driver full confidence to exploit its chassis. The firm suspension gave a pretty harsh ride on bumpy roads, but on the flip side was good body control. The small tires gripped harder than you would believe. The cornering attitude approached neutral, with minimal understeer and no oversteer to speak of. Braking was exceptional, thanks to ventilated discs up front and solid discs at the back. This car might look small, but its ingredients were absolutely premium!
Unfortunately, the ABC was born at the time when Japan was suffering from a decade-long recession. Although K-cars were generally benefited from the depression, the more expensive niche models were not so lucky. After the first wave of orders, its fever cooled down quickly. Eventually, only 28,000 Cappuccinos were built. Among them about 1500 were exported.
|Year of production
|Size (L / W / H / WB)
||3295 / 1395 / 1185 / 2060 mm|
||Inline-3, dohc, 4v/cyl, turbo, intercooler.
||657 cc (from 1995: 658 cc)
||63 lbft (from 1995: 76 lbft)
||F: double-wishbone; R: multi-link
||700 kg (from 1995: 690 kg)