Curbside Classic: Subaru Vivio Bistro – Boxster Day Find

December 26th is known as Boxing Day in the United Kingdom and many former colonies like Canada. Traditionally it was a time to give a small gift (or Christmas box) to your trades person or deliver person. But these days it is known as a shopping day in the mold of Black Friday in the United States. Black Friday is slowly becoming a trend in Canada as well but for us Boxing Day is traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year. Usually I avoid it like the plague as the large crowds are armed with their Christmas gift money and there generally is not anything at the mall that I desire. This year the family desperately wanted to go and I obliged but this time I managed to see something I liked.

The mall was so busy I could not even find a parking spot so I resorted to scouring the side streets. This turned out to be a stroke of good fortune as it allowed me to discover this Subaru Vivio Bistro. I had previously seen a black example but never managed to get any reasonable photos of it.

Canada law’s allow for the importation and registration of almost any passenger vehicle fifteen years or older. The result is a small supply of Japanese sports cars, four wheel drive trucks and vans. While Nissan Skylines, Toyota MR2s and Mitisubsi 4×4 vans are the most popular occasionally someone is inspired to import something a little more unique like this pint sized Subaru.

The Bistro is based on the Kei class Vivio. Rather cutely the Vivio is named after the Roman numerals representing 660 (VI,VI,O) which is the CC displacement limit for Kei class cars.

The Vivio was fitted with a variety of 658cc four cylinder engines that ranged from normally aspired SOHC, supercharged, and a DOHC configurations that all claimed an output of 64hp which is the limit for Kei class cars. The DOHC motor did claim a small 3 lb-ft bump in torque output. Transmission options ranged from a five speed manual, conventional automatic and a CVT. Both front and all wheel drive variants were offered.

Starting in 1995 the Bistro was offered. The Bistro followed a wave of nostalgia and retro vehicles initiated by Nissan’s Pike cars of the late 1980s and early 1990s (BE-1, S-Cargo, Pao, Figaro). The front end styling was supposed to be inspired by the British Mini. I am not certain that I buy that but it is certainly full of character.

Due to the cooler temperature I did not get a good interior shot of the Bistro but this internet sourced one will have to suffice. Pretty basic but attractive and slightly retro with the round vents.

I wonder how the little Bistro handles the snow. Ground clearance is likely the biggest concern. This example sports some handsome alloy wheels but a Minilite style wheel could be ordered as an accessory for those doubling down on retro nostalgia.


The Bistro proved popular in Japan so several special editions followed including this White Edition of 1997. Other special editions included B-Custom, Chiffon, L, Sports and SS.

Boxing Day usually does not hold out anything special for me but thanks to a family shopping trip I was able to spot an usual JDM import.

As a bonus I spotted this early Honda Accord once I trudged through the snow to get to the mall parking lot. My family might have snagged themselves a few deals on clothing but for a change I felt like the real winner this Boxing Day.