Kei cars are an icon of Japanese automotive culture, characterized by extremely small designs accompanied by tiny engines perfect for maneuvering through narrow city streets. The legal requirement for a Kei car is an engine of less than 660 cc and producing no more than 63 hp, or 3.4 m (about 11 feet) in length and 2 m (about 78 inches) in height or less. These cars are the famous small and light vehicles launched by many JDM brands in the past. Cars have often been a lot of fun and while they don’t always have a lot of power or speed, they are loved by enthusiasts all over the world.
With the success of Kei cars in Japan, many of these cars are now starting to look like future collectibles, with enthusiasts starting to realize how special they are. Being so well made and reliable, the Kei cars on this list have not only stood the test of time, but are also a lot of fun to drive. As such, we’ve compiled this list to show off the best Kei cars that will become collectable ASAP.
Honda Beat ($ 7,500)
The Honda Beat was released in 1991 and came out as a rival to the Autozam AZ-1. It was a great little Kei car, with 63 horsepower and a top speed of 84 mph. Due to its tiny size and weight, its naturally aspirated engine is more than enough for serious fun on the road, especially with the roof down.
It might be a bit small for those who need more legroom and it’s definitely not a family car, but it’s still a fun car that’s easy to drive and enjoy. Prices are now averaging around $ 7,500, with some really good examples approaching the $ 10,000 mark, but these cars probably won’t stay cheap for long.
Suzuki Cappuccino ($ 8,400)
Released in 1991, the Cappuccino managed to slip into the Kei car category despite its turbocharged engine. The 657cc DOHC turbocharged I3 engine barely met Kei automotive regulations, which required an engine of less than 660cc and it was also just small enough. The engine produced 63 hp which was enough for the small size and it has been a fan favorite since its release.
Its cute look and fun motor make it enjoyable, and many fans adore the cappuccino, which is gaining in appeal over the years. With Suzuki’s desire to launch a new updated model of the Cappuccino, the original is becoming more and more collectable and will certainly become a collector’s item in the coming years. The cappuccino is averaging about $ 8,400, but interest in those in great condition increases over time.
Autozam AZ-1 ($ 16,000)
The Autozam AZ-1 was launched in 1992 and it was immediately praised for its eye-catching gullwing doors. The car was equipped with a turbocharged engine, but it still complies with Kei automotive regulations. Developing 63 hp, the AZ-1 is incredibly fun on the road, and many fans love the car’s interesting design.
The AZ-1 wasn’t very popular initially and it was a tough sell. But since the 90s, the car has become popular among tuners, given the ease with which it is possible to modify and increase the output of the engine. The Autozam AZ-1 has many price fluctuations depending on the quality and condition of the vehicle sold, but on average the car goes for approximately $ 16,000 with a few examples already going well over $ 20,000.
Honda S660 ($ 18,058)
The Honda S660 was released in 2015, making it a relatively new Kei car. It is considered a spiritual successor to the Honda S2000 and it is also frequently compared to the Honda Beat. It comes with a 658cc S07A Turbo I3-T engine that produces 63bhp and the name comes from the car’s 660cc engine – which fits Kei automotive regulations perfectly. Despite the lack of power, it’s a gorgeous mini sports car that packs a surprising punch.
Unfortunately, the S660 is not available in any other market other than Japan, but over the years and as the car finally becomes available in other markets, we expect the S660 to become an interpretation. modern collectible of a Kei car. Yet current U.S. price estimates are hovering approximately $ 18,058 for the most basic package, with values increasing with extras.
Honda Z600 ($ 10,000)
Released in 1970, the Honda Z600 featured a 354cc two-cylinder SOHC engine that produced 31 hp, and there was a sporty model that produced 36 hp. Complying with Kei automotive regulations, the Z600 was hardly the car one would take to a track, but again, it was never designed for that. It’s perfect for the narrow roads of the Japanese city and it looked fantastic too.
It is a very stuffy car, because he could get by quite quickly on the roads thanks to his Top speed of 75 mph for Japanese models and a top speed of 53 mph for European models. It has since become very desirable and it seeks to become a nice collector’s car over time, loving the speed of the car combined with its nice design and small size. To have one in good condition, the prices are quite low, costing $ 10,000 for one, but expect prices to rise and interest to rise, especially for those in better shape.
Mazda R360 ($ 21,000)
The R360 was Mazda’s first passenger car that turned out to be a Kei car. Weighing in at just 838 lbs and boasting a tiny 356cc V-twin engine that produces just 15hp, the car is one of the least powerful on this list. Still, it can go 52 mph at top speed, which is impressive considering its size.
Since its release, the R360 has become an icon of Kei cars in Japan, with a grip on the market throughout its production life and beyond. For this reason, it became quite desirable among enthusiasts looking for a historic Kei car which paved the way for the production of many other Kei cars. As the interest sparks more and more interest, it seems to become a huge collector car that brings a lot of history with it. One recently went for around the $ 21,000 mark and it was a beautifully restored model, giving buyers a level of quality they should seek as the R360 becomes more collectable.
Daihatsu Copen ($ 10,000)
The first generation of the Daihatsu Copen was released in 2002 and it was an impressive Kei car that many still love today. In Japan, the car was equipped with a 659cc I4 turbocharged JB-DET engine developing 63 hp. However, the engine did not meet the environmental regulations of many other countries, so it was also available with a 1.3-liter non-turbo engine in 2007 for European countries. This engine was indeed more powerful, but as a Kei car the original specs were also fantastic.
Its look is often considered very toy and cartoonish, however, the car is definitely nice and the different looks make it stand out. Since then there has also been a second generation, showing how successful the original Daihatsu Copen was. Having said that, the original has become quite collectable, with many loving it and many being disappointed when it was taken off the market. Prices are currently low at $ 6,000 for some of the best, but we expect that to change soon.
Instantly recognizable to any fan of the Gran Turismo series, the Daihatsu Midget II might not look very good looking, but it’s really cool. Equipped with a 660cc engine that produces paltry 31hp, this one-seater pickup may have been designed for delivery, but it is now a very popular hobbyist racing car.
What makes it a future collector’s item is that it’s really fun on a track. The light body, short wheelbase and simplicity make it really fun, especially since this little car can go 70 mph. There is a single-make racing series in Japan for these cars, which feels like a big spectator sport.
Subaru Vivio RX-RA
Forget the Impreza WRX STI, for the little rally sensations, the Subaru Vivio RX-RA is perfect. Produced between 1992 and 1998, the Vivio was an advanced Kei car, offering all-wheel drive and a range of interesting body styles. The best example however was the RX-RA, designed for rallying, this model was fitted with a 16-valve 658cc DOHC engine with a compressor for 63 hp.
It also featured rally suspension and a closer drivetrain for faster acceleration, as well as an AWD system. Colin McCrae even used an example on the 1993 Safari Rally where he set the fastest stage time before the car broke down. Any Kei car that can stand up to a Delta Integrale is a sure classic in anyone’s book.
Japanese automakers know a thing or two about making affordable and reliable sports cars that can fit the best of them.
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