There is a whole universe of Kei-class roadsters out there that make the Toyota MR2 Spyder look like a Bentley Azure cabriolet, as one Imgur user found out. The car on the left, of course, is a third-gen MR2, and it easily dwarfs the Honda Beat that one intrepid enthusiast imported into the country via the 25-year-rule.
What does the Beat offer less of, aside from interior room? Less displacement, as the Kei car rules in Japan currently mandate a maximum displacement of 660 cc. This means less oomph for the rear-wheel drive, mid-engined Beat (that’s right, it’s technically mid-engined), which uses an inline-three engine displacing all of 656 cc. That’s good for 63 hp sent to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission, which is enough to scoot it along given its 1,675-lb curb weight. A top speed of 84 mph makes it ready for just about every kind of road trip, except a winter one.
The Beat’s three cylinders pump out 63 hp, which is good enough for a top speed of 84 mph.
These have been making their way to Canada far longer than the U.S., due to Canada’s 15-year-rule for private imports, but since the first year of production for the Beat was 1991 they have been legal in the U.S. for just a couple of years. The larger problem is that there aren’t that many of them in Japan to begin with — six years of production only gave the world just over 33,000 Beats.
Does it make a fun summer roadster? We haven’t driven one, at least not yet, but it has all the ingredients of a fun backroad bomber with a favorable weight distribution, a stiff suspension and the curb weight of a fancy refrigerator, the kind that McMansions now come with. The price of entry isn’t a barrier — these typically retail in the $6,000 to $9,000 range in the U.S. — making it an easy enough proposition. The hard part is finding one, but with a bigger pool of Beats building in the U.S. there are usually a handful for sale at any given time.