This year marks the 10th birthday of the Suzuki Lapin, perhaps the cutest in the adorable genre of Kei cars. Its mix of retro and bento box aesthetics and teeny scale are balanced out by design execution that still looks remarkably fresh and – something of a rarity in its class – an appealing cabin.
To mark the occasion a special edition has been created with cappuccino coachwork, navy and cream interior and a unique grille featuring a chrome bunny ear motif.
Happy birthday little rabbit!
By Owen Ready
One of the unique attributes of the Tokyo motor show is the fact that nearly every form of road transport is represented: commercial vehicles sit beside kei cars, motorcycles beside cars.
This Y125 Moegi motorcycle, making its debut on the Yamaha showstand beside some of the motorcycle manufacturer’s mopeds and electric bicycles was one of the coolest vehicles on show.
Simple and elegant, the Moegi’s blend of old and new elements make for a timeless design, and the attention to detail paid in its realization make it one of the standout designs in Tokyo.
Every automaker with an environmentally efficient vehicle was showcasing it at this year’s Smart Mobility City exhibition space, a new initiative occupying two halls adjacent to an outdoor parking area that was used for test drives of production vehicles in the category.
Besides the Kobots (see previous post here) GM was showing the Chevrolet EN-V, Toyota has a static display of the i-Real and there were numerous hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell and electric vehicles on show in the two-hall exhibition space.
The exhibition was open to a broad range of industrial sectors, some showcasing new social infrastructure system that supports smart cities and others displaying technology systems and how they relate to the future of automobiles, people and cities.
The photograph above is of the Mitsubishi PX-MiEV II concept car, but its effects were so soporific we were unable to remain awake long enough for the shutter to snap.
The Mitsubishi stand at this year’s show is a rather sad place to be when you remember what a hotbed of fresh, exciting design the brand was under the vast wing of Daimler and the design direction of Olivier Boulay. The PX and new Mirage supermini offer nothing new, exciting or fun in their respective market segments and show a total lack of direction. Their demonstration of how so much can be forgotten so quickly is the one remarkable thing about them.
Thankfully, solace can be found in the last glimmer of greatness from its halcyon days in a small number of Mitsubishi i cars dotted around the stand.
By Owen Ready
These three personal mobility concepts, hailing from new environmentally efficient company Kowa tmsuk, were on show in the Smart Mobility City section of the Tokyo motor show.
Kowa tmsuk, which is developing vehicles under the Kobot brand, is a rather unlikely source for a new car company: the brand actually stems from a partnership between Kowa, a pharmaceuticals and electro-optronics company, and a robotics company tmsuk, creators of service robots such as the telerobotic shopper and the Showa Hanako 2 robotic dental patient.
The urban-centric electric vehicles developed under the new partnership include two single passenger personal mobility vehicles called the Kobot V (red) and the Kobot β (green) and the Renault Twizy-like two-passenger Kobot ∏. According to the Japanese company, the Kobots are ‘ultra small and ultra agile vehicles embodying the design full of playful spirit’. The V and β′s telescopic foldable structure shortens the vehicle’s wheelbase to save space when parked.
The sheer visual presence of Nissan’s latest people carrier needs to be seen up close to be believed.
The NV350 Caravan’s super high windscreen and belt line translates to a massively deep and near-vertical hood and an overall impression of a capable and capacious vehicle channelling both Scooby-Doo’s van and some kind of Star Wars transporter.
Global design boss Shiro Nakamura was on hand to explain to CDN this unusual proportion is caused by having the engine under the driver and passenger seats and thus creates a very high H-point. The downside of this package is a small cabin which goes some way to explaining why the model won’t be sold in the US and Europe. As Nakamura added, “to get in and out you’d have to be quite acrobatic”.
The Tokyo show version features two rows of seats with room for a Kayak inside and massive luggage room behind, but different length versions will allow seating for up to 15, said chief vehicle engineer Atsushi Omura.
The icing on the cake came when we found out about the square porthole in the rear sliding door, which is due to stay on the production version along with almost all of the other elements of this pre-production concept.
Expect the vehicle in showrooms in 130 countries including Japan, Mexico and the Middle East from summer 2012.
Couldn’t help but check out this mysterious stand right next to Mercedes’, especially with the word ‘Design’ so prominently displayed in such a tasteful sans serif.
As the name suggests, Sonic Design is an audio company and a very high end one too. The S-Class you see behind the slats is fitted with a ¥3,000,000 setup that is sold through Mercedes main dealers to wealthy Japanese audiophiles. Needless to say the sound quality is exceptional, but the interesting part is that it’s smart too. By using the existing sensors in the doors, windows and seatbelts, the 10-speaker install can change its sound staging and volume depending on how may people are inside and dim the sound when you drop a window to order your drive-thru.
The speaker units themselves are beautiful, miniature masterpieces in aluminum and carbon. But being so modest, the only sign of this is a tiny badge on the rear of the car that simply says ‘The Stage’.
By Owen Ready
Audi unveiled its A1 Sportback here in Tokyo and it’s a perfectly nice car – just like an A1, but with five doors. Yet this just adds even more confusion to Audi’s sub-sub-brand.
The first time the Sportback moniker popped up was on the A3 – a car different enough in conception to warrant a unique categorization thanks to its deft mix of hatchback and wagon. Then came the A5 Sportback, a five-door fastback, followed by the A7 Sportback, which is much of the same but bigger. So Sportback looks like it now means fastback ‘four-door coupe’ (apologies for the use of this oxymoron).
So slapping the Sportback name on a hatchback with the same roofline as its three-door derivative (compare in the pic above) begs the question: what exactly is Sportback, Audi?
By Owen Ready