Daihatsu always has one of the coolest booths at the Tokyo Motor Sh— er, I mean Japan Mobility Show. This year they were one of the few companies to bring some classics from their heritage collection to the big show. The 1957 Midget and 1977 Charade were important cars for Daihatsu but they weren’t considered beautiful or fast. They’re just honest transportation and that’s refreshing to see. It’s probably also somewhat easier to throw a few extra cars in the trailer when they’re so small. Also, there’s some exciting news about the Copen.
Daihatsu dropped a big surprise at the show, but it wasn’t that the Daihatsu Copen had returned. Yes, the fact that it had been reborn 21 years after its introduction was an eye opener, but it was more so that the once front-drive car had become a rear-wheel-drive. We’ve seen plenty of cars go from FR to FF, but when was the last time a model went in the opposite direction?
It’s also grown beyond the original’s kei car constraints, now offering a 1.3-liter engine and a footprint about the size of an ND Miata’s. But here’s the really interesting part: Best Car asked the head of development why this was, and the response came, “The idea behind the Copen was that if it were to be a full-fledged sports car, away from a light car, demand would increase, including the possibility of export.”
Unfortunately Daihatsu is no longer in the US, Europe, or Australia. Currently, it only has a significant presence in Japan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. So it’s unlikely to land in here as a Daihatsu. Perhaps Toyota, which owns 100 percent of Daihatsu, could rebadge it as something else. Paseo convertible, anyone?