Honda's Own Beat Generation Comes West
For Honda fans in this country, the Beat might not ring a bell, because it was a tiny, JDM roadster that was only sold in a few other countries. It is sporty and rear-engined though, so let's dig deeper and get with the Beat.
Why You Haven't Heard of It
The Honda Beat was only sold in Japan as a Kei car, which is a category of small cars in Japan limited to about 650-cc and 63-hp, meaning that it could barely Beat a dead horse. But it's mighty cool to look at although nearly impossible to find outside of Japan, simply because it doesn't meet safety regulation in most countries. All that is changing though, as import restrictions are easing due to its age. That means you may be seeing them soon around the states... if you're lucky.
Rumor has it that the Honda Beat was the last car Soichiro Honda personally approved before his death in 1991. Although the car was small and efficient, numerous people love it. It's cute, fun, sporty all around. When it comes to personality, this Honda is no dead Beat. It's cute, fun, and sporty all around, making it a favorite of Mr. Honda himself. The story of the Beat is similar to the Ferrari story about how Enzo Ferrari approved the F40 before he died.
The Honda Beat's specifications varied throughout the years, but Kei car rules limit them to a 660-cc engine, developing 63 horsepower, in a car no bigger than 1.5 x 3.4 meters. Marching to the Beat of its own drummer, Honda they made that power through a well-designed naturally aspirated motor, with individual throttle bodies, and a red line over 8,000 rpm. The little engine was installed behind the seats and powered the rear-wheels though a 5-speed manual transmission, for a total curb weight of less than 1,800 lbs.
The rear-engined mini Acura NSX that was the Honda Beat was cool for sure but had some rather stiff competition. Known for its gullwing doors, the Mazda Autozam-1 supercar came with a Suzuki sourced 657-cc turbocharged engine, producing 64-hp and 63 lb-ft of torque. The more classic looking Miata-like roadster known as the Suzuki Cappuccino also carried a turbo but produced just 63-hp. That means that despite some competition within the Kei car class, reliability and trusted craftsmanship made Honda the car to Beat.
The Beat Goes On...
The Honda Beat was in production from 1991 to 1996, and there were a total of 33,600 of the tiny roadsters produced. If you consider the 25-five year car import rule, the 1991-1993 Beats can now be driven on American soil. You can buy them fairly cheaply on a number of legitimate online sites, but shipping is going to cost you. Just be sure you are getting a "legal" Beat or there's a good chance that upon arrival the car you've paid for will be confiscated and crushed. Assuming your Beat arrives with all the proper paperwork, you don't have to worry about paying someone crazy amounts of money to have someone fabricate old parts. Honda has Beat us to the punch by announcing that they are producing new OEM replacement parts!
Features and Equipment
The Honda Beat was more equipped than you may think, and although you would never get a backup camera or parking sensors with it, it did come standard with air conditioning, power-windows, and steel wheels. Some later models featured mud-guards, a rear spoiler, alloy wheels, and sporty exhaust tips.
Although the Honda Beat doesn't look familiar, you may have seen it before in one media moment or another. The Honda Beat appeared on the television program Top Gear, where Jeremy actually quite liked it. And if you don't have one, but want to drive one, you can in various video games, such as the Gran Turismo series, and Sega GT, where you can drive other Kei cars as well. So Beat a hasty retreat to your nearest GameStop and test give the Beat a virtual test drive.
In 2015 Honda introduced a new Kei car roadster in the Honda S660, but unfortunately this tiny car is still not leaving Japan. Specifications are standard Kei, with 660-cc and 63-hp, and the S660 shares the same rear engine set up the Beat used. The Beat and the S660 will certainly give you more options to consider when looking for something different from Honda, but remember, when these rare gems do become available, pounce quickly or you will be out of luck.
When it comes to these Kei cars, you don't want to Beat around the bush.