Suzuki Cappuccino – 1991

The Japanese have an honourable tradition of building sports cars with tiny engines, and showed they hadn’t forgotten how with the splendid little front mid-engined Suzuki Cappuccino that made an appearance in 1992. This met Kei-car specifications (allowing it to exploit Japan’s favourable tax and insurance regime for small cars). Weighing in at a featherweight 1543 lb (700 kg), the Cappuccino had an alloy three-cylinder engine that was just 3 ccs beneath the ungenerous 660 cc Kei-car limit (albeit turbocharged). This was later uprated to a lighter, more powerful unit.

The Cappuccino was a clever triple-whammy car. Three roof panels turned it into a trim coupe. With those removed (and stored away in the boot) it became a targa-top. Finally, retracting the rear window and rollbar created an open-top roadster. It is apparent from the (relatively) long bonnet and short back end that front-back weight distribution is equal, giving great handling qualities. The Cappuccino sported disc brakes all round, power steering and aluminium double-wishbone suspension. There was an upgrade in 1995, offering optional automatic transmission, ABS, limited-slip differential and driver airbag.

Just 1,200 of these clever little sports cars were imported to the UK, with new emission control regulations in 1995 ending the flow. These individualistic machines are both highly regarded and hard to find, as anyone lucky enough to have one tends to be reluctant to part with that hot Cappuccino. Not only are they a joy to drive, with fantastic roadholding and an enhanced sense of speed caused by racing along close to the tarmac, but also the performance is extraordinary considering the minute size of the engine. Two words of warning – the gearbox can be sticky when cold, and don’t even think of buying a Cappuccino unless you like everyone gawping at you as you drive.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

Japan

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1991 (until 1997)

ENGINE:

657 cc DOHC Straight Three Turbo

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 93 mph (150 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.5 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

There were 28,000 Cappuccinos built, most of which were sold Into the Japanese home market. But as international interest has increased, many of those have departed from home as personal imports to distant shores — notably Australia and Europe.

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