Cappuccino and Beat - Evo Magazine, April 2003

What the Press say about the Cappuccino

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Cappuccino and Beat - Evo Magazine, April 2003

Postby Alex Clouter » Thu Jun 12, 2003 12:41

Cappuccino and Beat - driving them today:
Bite-sized parcels of full-sized fun!

Reproduced from Evo Magazine, by kind permission of Jethro Bovingdon

People are fascinated by the Cappuccino and the Beat. The reaction as you drive them is akin to how the Smart city car was received before it became a familiar sight. You feel conspicuous, like you might be in a Ferrari, but for many that's part of the appeal. For so little money the sense of occasion is unrivalled, but don't buy one if you're a shrinking violet.

Both of these tiny sports cars offer a big grin factor…these two were doing the small car, big fun routine long before those "clever" chaps at Smart dreamed up the Roadster. The Cappuccino is traditional front-engined, rear drive, while the Beat wears its little engine in the middle, with drive to the back.

As you'd expect, neither is massively commodious, but if you're less than 6ft tall, it shouldn't be a problem. On the move, the sense that you're piloting something knee-high to a Micra soon disappears because Suzuki and Honda have engineered a real sense of solidity into their babes. But that's the only trait they share because, as their mechanical layouts suggest, these two are very different out on the road.

The Cappuccino performs exactly as you might expect. It feels light and nimble and finds quite strong grip from its modest rubber. The steering is perhaps its biggest asset - so direct that a flick of the wrists is enough to negotiate any turn and laden with the sort of feel that only a non-assisted rack can achieve. The balance of the Cappuccino is neutral' there's not enough power to steer the car on the throttle except in the tightest turns or in the wet, and you'll rarely experience more than a hint of understeer even if you're really pushing on. The Suzuki isn't about big slip angles but you never feel disappointed or bored behind the wheel. Instead, you enjoy the beautifully judged steering and the surprisingly muscular three-cylinder turbocharged engine.

In typical Honda fashion, a high-revving normally aspirated engine was favoured for the Beat and it defines the car's character. It howls approvingly every time you approach the 9000rpm cut-out and makes the Beat feel like a proper miniature exotic. You're pretty busy with the gearbox but it's such a precise mechanical throw that you don't resent the effort. It feels just like a MX-5 shift - better even than the excellent shift in the Civic Type-R.

Unfortunately, the sweet spinning engine hasn't the torque to work the chassis very hard. There's plenty of grip in the dry and unless you're prepared to fully commit to a corner, you'll miss the Cappuccino's grunt (though that's a relative term!).

As an everyday proposition, the Cappuccino is better - quieter, faster and slightly more rewarding. The Beat seems a bit more special, though, and never fails to put a smile on your face.

These Japanese oddities aren't the obvious choice but they're really worth a look. All the presence and fun of the Smart Roadster at a third of the price. Tempting, eh?
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