By Steve Laser reporting from Tokyo, Japan
With all the talk about autonomous vehicles these days, it was refreshing to see so many enthusiasts at the 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon expressing their passion for cars and driving.
While this long-running brand had a brief fling in the U.S. market under its own banner, Daihatsu keeps going strong in Japan where it builds mini vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
The Daihatsu Copen is a popular roadster in the Japanese Kei car class. The beauty of its design is more than skin deep since it employs composite body panels that can be removed and replaced with customized components.
Daihatsu introduced several Copen concepts at Tokyo. The first (above) is called the Copen Cero Coupe. We thought the enclosed cabin might take some of the fun away, yet we must admit that it does look quite pleasing in person.
The Copen Robe Shooting Brake (wagon) turns the car into a hatchback for added versatility. Of course, this isn’t the first time this has been tried. Cars like the Pontiac Fiero and Toyota MR2 offered endless opportunities for customization. Nissan also sold a car called Pulsar in the 1990s with a liftgate that could be replaced with a wagon-style shell.
Take a look at Daihatsu’s display in our walk-through video. The green and yellow cars shown here are spinoffs of Daihatsu’s Cast minicar that was introduced last year in Japan. The tall, boxy model competes with Suzuki’s Hustler (see below) and perhaps Honda’s N-ONE.
Daihatsu showed four customized Cast models. The green car above is called Activa, with an additional sibling (see our video) dubbed Cast Activa Off Road. The yellow car is the Cast D-Sport version, and a white car (in the video) is the Cast Sport Race version.
Boxlike Kei cars epitomized by the Daihatsu Wake (above) take full advantage of Kei car’s height limitations. Honda’s N-BOX remains a top seller in this class. Wake is also sold as the nearly identical Toyota Pixis Mega. Kei car badge engineering is not new in Japan (Toyota owns controlling interest in Daihatsu). Suzuki and Mitsubishi also share their Kei cars with other brands.
Although it’s difficult to see in our picture (above), the in-dash display was showing Daihatsu’s clever Wake ads that still put a grin on my face. Sitting behind the wheel and in the second-row, I’m amazed at how roomy Wake is inside for a vehicle with such a tiny footprint.
Following its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show last October, Mazda displayed the stunning RX-VISION at the Tokyo Auto Salon. (I’m lucky to see it twice.) Designed to be powered by a next-generation SKYACTIV-R rotary engine, the sports car embodies the spirit of the automaker’s “never-stop-challenging” spirit.
I captured the RX-VISION making a turntable spin (above) prior to the start of Mazda’s press conference. The car looks absolutely gorgeous in person. Of course, everyone would cheer if Mazda decided to build it.
Here’s my video of Mazda’s press conference at the Tokyo Auto Salon. Masamichi Kogai, Mazda president and CEO, talks about the RX-VISION and Mazda’s racing programs. Then he introduces race-car driver Keiko Ihara, who spoke about the “Mazda Women in Motorsport” Program.
Following the press conference, I made this video of Mazda’s LM55 Vision Gran Turismo concept. It provides a full-scale look at the virtual racer developed for the Gran Turismo 6 racing simulation game offered on PlayStation® 3. Mazda developed the LM55 in collaboration with Polyphony Digital Inc.
Mazda offered visitors a virtual drive of the LM55 Vision Gran Turismo. While it wears Mazda’s KODO design language up front, the concept’s stance is said to evoke the Mazda 787B that captured overall victory at the 1991 24 Hous of Le Mans.
The Mazda Roadster in Global MX-5 Cup specification (above) is called the first “ready-to-race” MX-5 from the automaker. Mazda says a turnkey race car removes the effort of engineering and costs of fabrication, enabling the racer to focus on racing. Racers can purchase identically built cars so driving talent will be “the top determining factor” for on-track performance.
Mitsubishi’s display at the Tokyo Auto Salon was geared to promote two models: the Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) and Delica minivan.
The automaker created two themes for its concepts: “Outdoor Gear” and “Active Camper.” For the former, Outlander and Delica were dressed in pearl white matte paint with orange stripes to “express the feeling of outdoor life.” If we read the signs correctly, the Outlander PHEV concept could be used as a mobile power supply with a maximum output of 1,500W.
Take a closer look at the Mitsubishi Motors display in our video above. Active Camper concepts on display feature silver-matte body color with black accents. The Outlander PHEV included a styling package with front, side and rear lower skirts, a tailgate spoiler, 20-inch alloy wheels, adjustable suspension, and a roof-mounted cargo box.
Meanwhile, the Outdoor Gear Outlander PHEV concept included orange-painted mirrors, lower bumper, foglight and side trim. Twenty-inch wheels with 15-spoke design help set the theme while a roof rack can be used to transport bicycles.
Mitsubishi’s Delica D:5 Outdoor Gear van also included orange accents, plus a carbon-style front bumper and separate LEDs, integrated front bumper bar, and sporty alloy wheels. We really like the look of this van and wish that Mitsubishi would bring it to the States.
The Active Camper Delica D:5 interior (above and below) reminded us of compact camper vans that used to be popular in the States. Production Delica models in Japan offer seating for up to seven passengers, four-wheel drive, plus a choice of gas or diesel engines.
Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru’s parent) and Subaru Tecnica International (STI) leveraged their racing and performance heritage at the Tokyo Auto Salon.
Join me for a quick walking tour of the Subaru/STI display in my video above. In addition to the BRZs, the video includes a look at the WRX STI NBR Challenge and Japan Rally Championship cars (above and below) dressed with these wild paint schemes.
Subaru says the WRX STI NBR Challenge 2016 is destined to compete in the 24 Hours Nurburgring endurance race this year. Subaru discussed its 2016 Motorsports activities during a press conference at the Tokyo Auto Salon.
Whenever I visit a Suzuki display at a car show in Japan, I’m filled mixed emotions. I’m happy to see the neat products and concepts displayed, yet I’m sad that Suzuki cars are no longer sold in the U.S.
When we last saw the Ignis at the Tokyo Motor Show, Suzuki called it “a compact car that can straddle the boundary between daily life and leisure.” Well, the Ignis Water Activity Concept at the Tokyo Auto Salon is definitely aimed at the latter with its nifty colors and matching boat strapped to the roof rack.
Suzuki has been successful marketing its Hustler small car in Japan. (The name would never fly in the States.) The yellow and black theme with bright decals is designed to promote this Hustler’s “Rough Road Style.”
Join me for a walk on the wild side of Suzuki in my video (above) where the two-wheeled FIM Road Racing World Champion (MotoGP) bike meets the Team Suzuki Ecstar four-wheeler.
Click on the links below for our additional 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon stories:
Story, photos and videos © 2016 CarNichiWa.com