In his 'mid-year speech' on September 21st this year (2012), Honda CEO Ito-san officially announced that Honda will develop and launch what he described as a new open-top sports car with strong vehicles dynamics, stating that it is targetted to go on sale in Japan on 2014. This new mini open-top sports car is widely held to be a new generation of the Honda Beat, which Honda marketed from 1991 to 1995.
The original Honda Beat was a JDM-only model though it was also known in small numbers in some countries outside of Japan in the form of unofficial imports both as new and used units. In Malaysia for e.g., the Honda Beat was imported as used pre-owned units known as 're-conditioned' cars. As a result, not many Honda fans outside Japan knows about this car. Since a new generation of this Honda Beat will be launched as the first official Honda 'sports-car' in the next three years, i.e. before the new Civic Type-R and 2Gen NSX, I thought a feature-car article for the 1Gen Honda Beat to introduce it to TOV/TOVA readers might be of interest.
I believe this Honda Beat feature-car article contains lots of information not previously published elsewhere. The contents are obtained from a JDM Honda catalogue of the Beat that I received as a gift from a japanese friend I knew a long time ago (and with whom I have sadly lost contact with). Main specifications and data are taken from the official Honda domestic (JDM) website. I also added some additional data from some car magazines in my collection. The performance test compilation for the Honda Beat might possibly be the first and only one published.
The Honda Beat was sold in a single variant in the Japanese Domestic Market only, from May of 1990 till 1995 when it was discontinued and deleted from Honda's JDM line-up. Its official model code was E-PP1 and was classified as a 'Kei-car' in Japan which is equivalent to a mini-car outside of Japan. The Beat was a truly tiny car. The collection of photos on the left are taken of one unit that I encountered on the road many years ago. I think they show very well how small the car is. Its physical dimensions as listed on Honda's website are 3.296 X 1.395 X 1.175 metre LWH with a wheelbase of 2.28m. This car is less than 11feet long ! Cabin space was listed as 0.915 X 1.215 X 1.015 metre LWH and kerb weight was 760kg (below 1,700lbs).
But the Honda Beat was a very interesting car nonetheless. Like many of Honda's JDM-only Kei-car, it was well equipped with some very nice specifications. The Honda Beat was a two-seater open-top 'convertible'. It was MR in configuration meaning mid-engined, rear wheel drive, and was practically 'wheels at four corners' set-up.
The car comes only in manual form, with a 5MT gearbox and ratios of 3.428, 2.166, 1.576, 1.172, and 0.941 for 1st to 5th respectively and a final drive ratio of 5.714 (R=4.3). These ratios are higher than what was on many of Honda's classic 'hot' models, like the SiR and even most Type-R's. Wheel sizes were somewhat unusual - different between the front and rear. Front wheels were 13inch with tyre spec of 155/65R13 73H while the rears were 14inch size, with tyre spec of 165/60/R14 74H (bear in mind this car is RWD).
Suspension configuration were MacPherson struts for both front and back (according to Honda documents) and it is equipped with an anti-roll bar in front (not the rear). Brakes are discs front and back according to Honda's official specification at honda.co.jp though one U.K. magazine listed them as drums front and rear (we prefer to trust the honda.co.jp information though).
I have personally never tested the Honda Beat before but unusually for a JDM-only vehicle, I have a compilation of performance statistics for this car. These comes from a variety of U.K. magazines where the Honda Beat was available as unofficial (parallel) import at one time. Also rather unusually for japanese car magazines, I have a few issues of the japanese 'Motor' magazine which listed performance data for the Honda Beat. So the statistics in this section are compilations from these sources.
Firstly though, from official Honda listing itself, the fuel economy of the Honda Beat was given as 17.2 km/l (40.5 mpg US) for the japanese 10.15 measure (an older form comparable to EPA City mileage) and a figure of 27km/l (63.5 mpg US) at constant 60kph (37.3mph).
According to one U.K. magazine, the Honda Beat was electronically (by the PGM-Fi ECU) limited to a top speed of 135kph (around 84mph).
Straight line performance wise, the japanese Motor magazine have published the following
statistics for the Honda Beat.
|60-80kph (in 4th gear)||4.09s|
Interestingly, the official Honda specification at honda.co.jp for the Honda Beat also provided a stopping distance from 50kph (31mph), i.e. a 50-0kph stopping distance of 13 metre or around 42.6 feet.
The original Honda Beat was classified by Honda as a 2 door convertible but not a sports car. Neither does the JDM catalog calls it a 'sports car' anywhere inside. As can be clearly seen, while the original Honda Beat was a very interesting car, in truth it was not a very fast vehicle. However, in his speech Ito-san specifically calls the new Honda Beat a new open-top sports car with 'strong vehicles dynamics'. Hopefully the term sports car and especially the emphasis of strong vehicle dynamics are significant and points to a car with more serious performance this time round. This new Honda Beat will continue to be a 'mini-car' which means a japanese 'Kei-car'. But a modern Kei-car has already grown to proportions that a 6-footer like myself do not have a problem fitting comfortably inside. So hopefully the new Honda Beat will bring some much needed excitement to Honda's line-up when it becomes available in 2014. In fact, with a 2014 availability date, it is highly likely that it will debut at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show next year which will be barely one year away.
The only thing of concern really is the hope that the Honda of today can be persuaded to throw away the silly 'this car is for the JDM only' rule that they seem be so fond of in the past. So if the new Honda Beat turns out to be a potent sports-car, it is our hope that Honda will make it available to Honda fans worldwide this time round. Photos below are scans from the JDM Honda Beat catalogue.