Curbside Capsule: 1991-97 Suzuki Cappuccino – Hot Frothy Little Thing

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The first Mazda MX-5 Miata was praised for its light weight, tipping the scales at just over 2,000 pounds. It was in a class of its own: the British roadsters that had inspired it all were mostly gone but for the Lotus Elan, which was front-wheel-drive. It didn’t stay alone for long: 1991 heralded the arrival of the Suzuki Cappuccino, an even lighter, front mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive roadster.

The featherweight Cappuccino weighed just 1,600 pounds. The turbocharged engine was also considerably smaller than the Miata at just three cylinders, 63 horsepower and 657 cc, falling under the new 1990 Kei class maximum capacity and power standards.

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Like all Kei cars, the Cappuccino was diminutive in all dimensions: length was a measly 129.7 inches and width 54.9 inches, a good 25 and 10 inches less, respectively, than the MX-5.

To harness the power of the titchy turbocharged triple, a five-speed manual transmission was standard. However, a three-speed automatic was available later during its run.

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Unsurprisingly, the Cappuccino was fun-to-drive. It had almost 50/50 weight distribution and a high-revving engine that redlined at 8500 rpm. Despite the low horsepower rating, 0-60 was still accomplished in just 8 seconds.

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Its neat handling wasn’t the only ace up its (tiny) sleeve: the Cappuccino also had a trick roof that could be switched between targa, t-bar and full convertible.

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The kei roadster segment multiplied shortly after the Cappuccino’s launch, with the Suzuki joined by Mazda’s Autozam AZ-1 and its clone the Suzuki Cara, as well as the Honda Beat. Only the Cappuccino was exported outside Japan, with just over a thousand exported to Europe.

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European exports ended after 1995 due to new emissions standards, but the Suzuki received some meaningful revisions like a new, lighter engine with more torque. However, the end of the roadster’s run was nigh. It was axed after 1997 and there was no replacement. Suzuki would tease the public with concept convertibles like the 1999 EV Sport, but as of yet Suzuki has not offered another sports car. Owing to its sharp dynamics, cute styling and solid reliability, the single-generation Cappuccino has developed a well-earned cult following. Rest assured, a drive in this perky little roadster could wake you up better than a… well, you know.

Related Reading:

Curbside Classic: 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Curbside Classic: 1986 Suzuki Carry KC 4WD

Automotive History: Honda Beat