This is one K-car you’ll actually want to drive.
Okay, so this Honda Beat is a different kind of Kei car, a class of super-subcompact vehicles sold in Japan that is very different from the K-car sedans and wagons Chrysler sold in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Kei car class owes its existence to a Japanese government effort to popularize inexpensive cars in the years following World War II. To classify as a modern Kei car, a vehicle (there are cars, as well as tiny vans and pickup trucks) can be no more than 3.4 m long, 1.48 m wide and 2.0 m tall, and its engine must be 660 cc or less and produce no more than 63 hp.
The Beat easily satisfied the Japanese government’s Kei class size restrictions, and met the powertrain rules with a 656-cc mid-mounted version of Honda’s E07A three-cylinder engine fitted with the MTREC (mult-throttle responsive engine control) system, which gave each of those little cylinders its own throttle body. The result was 63 hp and about 44 lb-ft of torque, put to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission.
That’s not a lot of power, but you don’t need much in car that weighs a supposed 760 kg.
Depending on who you ask, Kei cars are either your chosen deity’s gift to drivers, or the worst cars to drive on the planet. But the Vancouver-based seller of our yellow, 57,000-km example assures potential buyers the Best is a “super fun little convertible” that “goes like stink.”
True to its Kei car classification, this is a tiny car. As a roadster, there are obviously seats for just two, and a miniscule trunk is stuffed with what looks like a tonneau cover for when the top is lowered and a CD changer. Up front, the space between the front wheels is taken up by a spare tire and not much else.
Quality photography is not our private seller’s strong point, so we’ve sourced a few photos from elsewhere to show details like the cool zebra-print seat fabric and floor mats, which are original to the car.
The Beat could be optioned with a stereo made by a company called Gathers; being a Japan-market car, the radio will not recognize North American frequencies, but we assume the tape deck and a CD-changer (in the trunk) will work just fine.
Our example is going for $9,800; we found another Beat for sale in California for $7,995 with nearly twice as many kilometres on the clock, which makes us think this yellow B.C. car is not a bad deal.
Despite never being sold in North America, the Beat sports details here that will be familiar to anyone who’s owned or spent time in a 1990s Honda. The headlights are similar to those of a Civic, the secondary controls could have come from nearly any Honda model of that era and the gauge cluster looks borrowed straight from one of the company’s motorbikes. One of our favourite features is the “phone-dial” wheel design.
Sixty-some years after the end of the WWII, you’d think demand for tiny cars like these would have all but disappeared, but despite there being just a handful of manufacturers who still make Kei-class vehicles (Honda, Mitsubishi, Daihatsu and Suzuki are just about it), they apparently accounted for an incredible 40 percent of Japan’s new vehicle sales as recently as 2014.
Cars like the Beat may not be unique in the Land of the Rising Sun, but if you want to drive something that stands out in the land of SUVs and box malls, perhaps our latest Find of the Week is the car for you.
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