CSR46 Test Drives
Saturday October 30th, 1999.
Following a week of contacting dealerships to be assured to have cars ready to test drive and potentially buy, Makoto and Kiko head down to the little Honda Beat for another visit to nine dealerships in the Minato ward. By the end of the day they'll be driving home a new kei car better fitting for their upcoming needs as a young family.
The first dealership they Takahashis head to is BM. As is to be expected from an unknown company first entering the Japanese, the place is quite small and lacking heavy traffic. The logic to visiting this dealership was that the premium interior of the Pea-L could be the absolute best comfort to compare other cars to.
Now that they get to see the car in person, there really isn't all that much to say about it. The debadged look is still strange, but it's a clean and modern design, albeit a little empty from some angles.
The test drive brought few surprised to the Takahashis. Both really enjoyed the comfort and features of the premium interior, while Makoto enjoyed the manual transmission that Kiko saw as a downside. The Pea-L's behaviour was what they expected out of a kei car, so no surprises there. It was quite balanced on the road and well tuned. Even with the high price, the fact that BM is offering a premium kei car without compromises is enough for the couple to keep it on their shortlist. For now, at least. They've still got a long day ahead of them.
@Leedar Bord Bronto Jr S
Following the leather hug driving experience of the Pea-L, the couple take their Beat over to the Bord dealership. Seeming out of place with the large American cars stands the diminuative Bronto Jr.
The design is truly a scaled down version of the regular Bronto, which they agree is too big and out of place for the Tokyo streets, and should offer a nice rugged contrast to most of the cars they'll be driving today.
The test drive of Bord's kei offering wasn't quite like the comfortable Pea-L. Driving the Bronto Jr S made the Takahashis truly realise that the S stands for Sport. Where the Bronto is a go-anywhere offroader, the Bronto Jr is a city car through and through. The S variant's 6 speed manual transmission is rather sporty, more to Makoto's delight than Kiko's, while the suspension and tires keep it well planted on corners. This sportier nature seems to make it quite nimble and manueverable in the city. Overall, however, the 6 speed and rear wheel drive are the drawbacks for Kiko and a selling point to Makoto. With this difference in opinion, the Bord Bronto Jr S just makes it onto the shortlist. This one could easily be displaced by a similar car offering better value.
The next dealership visit is a contrast to the others: Ikkonagashi is a renowned premium brand with a decent footprint in the kei car market. The large and well travelled dealership offers a lot of choice for test drives, but the Takahashis are only interested in the Bug 660L.
The design feels more natural in person, where the flow of curves flows more organically than in photos. This offering is very much designed for this time and place, something that might only be avaialble from a domestic company that is part of the market it serves.
The test drive of the Bug is most different from the last two due to having an automatic transmission. Kiko especially liked the ease of driving offered by it while Makoto could admit that it wasn't terrible though he had to say it felt slower than the manuals. The car feels solid and well balanced; Ikkonagashi clearly had talented engineers working on it. It turns out to feel very comfortable and drivable, though not as nimble as the Bord. The Bug 660L is also making it to their shortlist and at this moment the couple realise that maybe the test drives won't make the final decision much easier.
@Ornate Accursio Bruco 660
The next stop of the day is the Accursio dealership for the Pikachu of cars, as Kiko put it. The first thing they notice on this visit was an employee sweeping was looks suspiciously like rust around the new cars on display.
In person, the Bruco 660 is smaller than they had imagined based on the dimensions in the brochure. It makes up for it by looking so cute. In Makoto's case, the European nature of it is enough to be enticing.
The Bruco's test drive was a very brief one... just enough to head out onto the street. In the minute the Takahashis spent in the car, everything went wrong. The first sign was when they closed the doors and realised how tinny they sounded. Makoto swore he warped his from this action. Next was starting the engine. The 660cc I3 was LOUD. They later found out the exhaust system was quite literally just pipes from the engine, without a catalytic converter or muffler to be seen. The real issue, however, was when Makoto drove it out of the parking lot and the small bump of the curb made the rear bumper fall off. He then had trouble getting out due to the door he had actually warped. The decided to quickly leave the dealership and swore they would never risk their lives again in a car with such horrible quality issues. Needless to day, the Accursio would not be making the shortlist.
@abg7 SMG CK60 Eco
After the terrifying ordeal at the Accursio dealership, the Takahashis took the time to relax with a nice lunch. Following this, a visit to the SMG dealership was in order for the CK60 Eco. At the dealership, not much is shown about the company and so Makoto and Kiko were still in the dark about the car's origins.
The design of the CK60 is a strange contrast of attempted cheerfulness and a distinctly mischevious looking front end. For better or worse, neither has strong feelings on the look of the car.
The test drive of SMG's kei car was probably the most average they would get. It was neither very sporty, very comfortable, or even very bad. Trouble free and uninspiring; certainly a decent way to get from point A to point B. Kiko was quick to point out the convenience of the automatic transmission. The averageness of the CK60 Eco was enough that neither had much to say about it, so it made it to the shortlist by sheer value of making neither a good nor bad impression.
@racracer11m Mott Works Akari
The next visit is to the Mott Works dealership to test drive the Akari. Like at the Bord dealership, the lot is full of cars that seem much too cumbersome for the Tokyo streets, but there is still a fair share of smaller choices.
As far as the Akari goes, its design seems even more subdued in person. It feels a bit dated, even, especially compared to some of the other choices. What it does offer is excellent fuel economy, hopefully without terrible bodywork as weight reduction.
Test driving the Akari was just as uneventful as some of the others. It felt balanced but didn't really stand out in any way other than being very light. Acceleration was fairly good, though that's expected more from a manual transmission, and there didn't seem to be any compromises to achieve the excellent 3.6L/100 km. What did seem like an issue was the full aluminium construction used, especially the glued aluminium chassis. This all seemed a little too space age, quite a contrast from the somewhat dated design. After tough consideration and confirmation from a salesman that they wouldn't have any avaialble in stock for a couple of weeks due to the hands on nature of such a construction, the Takahashis pass up the Akari for something they could buy today.
After the unnotworthy but futile test of the Akari, the Takahashis head to the nearby Nohda dealership. For a Japanese brand, not much is known about it, but the dealership experience seems very average while rather devoid of customers.
Both Makoto and Kiko think the Bop! looks even better in person. The seemingly European-inspired design is different and modern. The little 'wings' on the back truly give it a distinct look.
The test drive of the Nohda Bop! was another uneventful one. The car felt well planted and maneuverable. The four wheel drum brakes, while seeming a little dated, did the job quite well. The sport factor of the manual transmission was present, so of course that was a positive to Makoto and a negative to Kiko. The Bop! ultimaely makes the shortlist mainly by virtue of its attractive design hiding an average package.
@strop MM Espresso F-RX
The next dealership visit is the one Makoto has been looking forward to all week: Matteo Miglia. Following the terrible experience at Accursio, the couple hope this Italian experience will be much different. The Japanese engineering might be the saving grace.
After seeing the Espress in person, both agree that is a restrained yet modern design. The mid engine layout makes it quite unique for practical reasons. Kiko likes that the designers didn't make it look as outlandish as it is in the mechanical sense. The sliding doors are also as practical as the ad made them seem.
The Espresso F-RX had the most unique test drive after the Accursio Bruco. The MR layout, maximum possible power output, short gearing, sportier tires, and relatively stiff suspension all make this boxy kei car almost a veritable sports car. It was even quicker than the the Honda Beat, though the higher centre of gravity wouldn't allow it to be as dynamic around the corners. Even Kiko had to admit she had fun with it, but as zippy and nimble as it was, the Espresso just wouldn't work as their daily vehicle. The compromise comfort and lack of power steering would just end up being issue when using it as a family vehicle, which would be most of the time.
@EnryGT5 Seishio Mizar AX Special
The Takahashi's last visit before making a decision is to the Seishido dealership to see the Mizar AX Special. As a prominent Japanese company, the dealership has a large inventory of all trims and models in all colours.
Makoto and Kiko drift toward the Mizar in Amethyst Mica. Neither would believe that under the modern design of this special edition lies an older vehicle adapted to changing needs. The Mizar looks attractive without being over the top.
The final test drive of the day was quite uneventful. The automatic transmission in the Mizar worked really well and certainly made it a comfortable driving experience while the 48 hp I3 worked well to pull the car. This was another that felt a little average but it looked good and was one of the more comfortable offerings after the premium Pea-L. It's strange that neither had much to say about many of their shortlisted cars, but maybe average could be what this quite average soon-to-be young family will need.
Makoto and Kiko have stopped to relax at Hamarikyu Gardens to sort their thoughts and decide which car they'll be trading in their Honda Beat for. Of those test driven, the ones that failed to meet their needs were the Accursio Bruco 660, the Mott Works Akari, and the MM Espresso F-RX. They also consider that the BM Pea-L, as comfortable as only a premium offering can be, is simply more than they're looking for and not quite worth spending so much, so that one gets removed from the running as well.
Out of the remaining five, the Takahashis face a tough decision. Lots of careful comparison of what was in the brochures and how they felt in the test drives have given them a final ranking and a decision on their new car:
5) Leedar - Bord Bronto Jr S
4) abg7 - SMG CK60 Eco
3) Dorifto_Dorito - Nohda Bop!
2) Leonardo9613 - Ikkonagashi Bug 660L
1) EnryGT5 - Seishido Mizar AX Special
And with that, the Takahashis return to the Seishido dealership to trade in the 1991 Honda Beat for a 2000 Seishido Mizar AX Special.
Congratulation to EnryGT5 for winning CSR46 - Y2Kei!