Independent - August 2003

What the Press say about the Cappuccino

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Independent - August 2003

Postby Alex Clouter » Mon Aug 18, 2003 11:06

The following piece was in the 8 August edition of the Independent newspaper:

Alex Houseman, 34, a business consultant from Cambridgeshire wants a small soft-top to run round the fens in. It does not have to be new, and he is quite taken by the idea of a second hand Suzuki Cappuccino which he remembers with affection. No MG Midgets etc, but likes the idea of an MGF or MG TF provided he does not go over his £10k budget.

Alex is absolutely right not to want an old British sports car. If you ever want to know why the mass production British sports car industry largely disappeared look no further than O60s and O70s MGs, Triumphs and Austin Healeys. Rust came as standard, mechanical reliability was marginal and Mr Lucas¹s hit and miss electricals led to him being dubbed the Prince of Darkness in the United States. That explains why we don¹t export cars there any more. To run a classic car you need a classic car mindset, which means adjusting your driving style and able to cope with unexpected expenditure.

Of course owners¹ clubs can put together convincing arguments for upgrading their old Brits to new millennium motoring standards. The fact is though that older cars are sluggish, don¹t handle as nicely and can need much more attention than modern sportsters. Classic cars are not for everyone, especially Alex. Unfortunately he can¹t quite afford the MG TF. A surprisingly good car, however even the earliest examples with what are high mileages (30K) still retail for over £10,000. The obvious choice would be to go for the ubiquitous Mazda MX5 because there are lots around, they are
reliable and cheap.

A car for the head

Despite the MX5¹s obvious appeal, Alex ought to seriously consider the MG TF¹s predecessor in the very similar shape of the MGF. There are lots around, depreciation has eaten into values and despite a history of niggles, essentially this is the most reliable MG in years. It is also one of the most exciting. And because MGFs are run by affluent, committed and careful drivers rather than immature, sound system obsessed kids, they ought to be in good nick. If you always promised yourself a less than traditional British sports car, now is the time to buy an MGF.

The stroke of genius was to put it behind the driver; effectively creating a pocket sized Ferrari. The basic 1.8I had a 120bhp version of the well-proven K series engine with a decent acceleration, getting to 60mph in under 9 seconds. You can buy these from under £5000 now. However, the majority of buyers though opted for the more responsive VVC (Variable Valve Control) model. On average £8000-£9000 buys a 1998/99 in great condition. Cars built in the first year could have odd panel gaps, leaky hoods and rattles from the interior, although mechanically there isn¹t much to worry about.

A car for the heart

I am more than happy to let Alex have his wish when it comes to the Suzuki Cappuccino.

I drove one of the first in the country over a decade ago when it was an unofficial grey import direct from Japan. I would like to think that my enthusiastic review in Car magazine at the time had something to with Suzuki officially importing it soon after. It is still a sensational little roadster with perky and purposeful styling.

Under the bonnet is a tiny turbocharged three cylinder engine. The Cappuccino is a fun car with a fun name and a clever roof. These days it is also very rare. Just a few
thousand were sold officially through Suzuki dealers and imported by specialist companies. Indeed a search of the massive Autotrader website turned up zero for sale. It was the same in the Exchange & Mart.

There is a great UK based owners club called S.C.O.R.E., the Suzuki Cappuccino
Owner's Register for Enthusiasts. It is worth joining them for £25 a year.

Go to their website and find like-minded individuals who have precious Cappuccinos for sale on their message board. The going rate seems to be around £5000 for the best examples.
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