Kei cars by law can only have a 660cc engine with a maximum power of 63hp. Also, it can only of certain length, width and height to make sure they'll fit in those automated car parks in Tokyo. People love them, in fact, they make up for one-third of the new cars sold in Japan, simply because kei cars make you pay less insurance fee, parking fee and even toll. And because they have such tiny engines, they can be cheaper to run too.
Japanese designers, however, have looked at the rules, and said 'Sod it, we should make some sports cars under those rules'. And came up with some capable sports cars, even if they only have such tiny amount of horsepower. Here are five of the best kei sports cars ever.
No. 5: Suzuki Cappuccino
This is a car that you'd want to drive when you've just finished work, drunken with cappuccino, and just hop in and go. Powered by a turbocharged three-cylinder 657cc engine mounted in the front, with power going to those diddly rear wheels. The engine is actually mounted so far back into the car that makes the car an FMR and achieves 50:50 weight distribution, which makes the car handle like a dream. Couple that with a 725kg body, that makes the Cappuccino one of the best handling kei cars there is in history. And it's got a gimmicky name, so what's there not to like?
No. 4: Honda Beat
The Beat was the last car to be approved by Soichiro Honda before he died in 1991 and the design of the car originated from Pininfarina. Behind the driver seat lies an E07A inline-three naturally-aspirated engine will easily go past 9000rpm, and the rev counter stops at 10. The ingredients are all there yet people don't necessarily realise it. This is a car that likes to rev hard to eke out whatever power there is. Despite its rather upbeat name, because it's only got so much power, you can easily annoy people by revving the nuts off it in the city. And I like that a lot. Ricers, instead of straight-piping your Civics, buy a Beat, and just do whatever you like with it, at least it's going to sound half-decent...
No. 3: Autozam AZ-1
People often praise the gullwing doors on the Mercedes 300SL and the SLS AMG, yet they forget this little hero also has a pair of gullwing doors. The cute little AZ-1 might not have the record-breaking potential of the 300SL, nor the great big V8 like the SLS AMG. People who have driven it say it feels like a go-kart, a very bumpy go-kart mind you. It shakes and is very scary to drive, yet it's alive. You'd feel alive in the AZ-1, it's not a car that makes you comfortable, yet a car that scares you, even if it only has a tiny amount of horses under the bonnet behind you. A scary car, sadly, is not something you see very often these days. What's wrong with a scary car? You'd be lucky to make it out alive, that's what makes the AZ-1 a JDM legend.
No. 2: Yamaha Ami
Not many people know the Yamaha Ami exists, and I think we should change that. Just look at the damn thing! Does it not look like a miniaturised F40? The giant wing, the side vents and the quad rear lights. Wow. It's even red for crying out loud.
It came with a choice of two three-cylinder engines, one making 42bhp, the other 55bhp, which doesn't exactly match the performance of the F40, but it's a cool car nonetheless. It's a kit car from Yamaha, and that's applaudable surely...
No.1: Honda S660
The little Honda tops this list because it's new. All of the other cars in this list are from the nineties which virtually unobtainable. But the Honda S660 is a new car that you can still buy today. Albeit Japan-only, at least people can still buy it to enjoy the fun of cornering in the city.
Powered by an inline-three turbocharged engine, with drive going to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual (or a CVT if you desire). The Beat successor might not have a screaming engine, but a turbocharged engine would mean that it's got some torque down low, and makes it easier to drive than the Beat in the city. Plus, they've made the chassis stiffer than an S2000, and the gearbox legendarily easy to shift, this alone makes it better than any car in this list.