CC Capsule: 1987 Honda Today G – The Tomorrow You Worried About Yesterday

You have to hand it to Honda: they really had a knack for designing iconic cars. At a time when most economy cars were boring, boxy-looking things like the Fiat Panda, the Mini Metro or the Daihatsu Charade, Honda created a one-box kei car that was years ahead of their competitors, style-wise. On the other hand, its 2-cyl. engine was a bit passé. Well, you can’t do everything

Honda made their mark in four-wheeled transport via smaller-sized vehicles – tiny roadsters, miniature trucks and kei cars – all under 800cc. This was certainly due to their experience in motorcycle technology, but when the firm’s assurance started growing, their cars did as well. By the early ‘70s, Honda were targeting mid-size family transport – the star product became the Civic. At the same time, the firm decided to leave the kei car game altogether in 1974, though they kept a kei truck/van in the range.

Honda’s big return in the small car game came with the City in 1981, followed by the 1985 launch of the Today. Whereas the City was a small car with a relatively large (i.e. normal, for the rest of the world) engine, the Today was a JDM-only proposition in the kei class. At the time, this meant a maximum displacement of 550cc and a maximum total length of 320cm (10.8 ft). Tiny!

And just look at how well Honda utilized that tiny space. In profile, the Today looks like a Renault Twingo prototype – a car that came out in the early ‘90s. The hood and windshield form a straight line that, back in 1985, was only seen on the likes of the Espace. Another Renault? Hmm…

The Today is actually classed as a “van” by the Japanese taxman, even though it has a rear seat. Said rear seat looks very cramped, as there is supposed to be some space left over for 200kg’s worth of cargo. That’s asking a lot of just 320cm.

Most kei cars on the market in the mid-‘80s had already moved on to 3-cyl. engines, but Honda had only leftover ‘70s technology in their cupboards, so they had to make do with that initially. The 545cc water-cooled twin, also used on the Acty kei trucks, was essentially half a Goldwing’s flat-4, albeit limited to 31hp.

Behind the scenes, Honda were frantically working on a brand new triple, to keep up with the likes of Suzuki, but that engine would only be ready by 1988. The Today celebrated that new engine with a facelift, and we’ll look into one of those in greater detail in due course, as I have already secured a specimen for our scrutiny.

But I feel the basic one-box body, shrunk down to kei car size, was the Today’s main automotive legacy. That and however you call this giant double-jointed single wiper, which looks like one of this car’s most technologically advanced features.

If you want to see how cutting-edge the Honda Today would have been back then, just cast your eyes back to my post on the Mistubishi Minica. But more than that, the Today has more personality than all of its rivals put together. Yesterday’s Today was the car of tomorrow, but now that it’s the future, we’re waxing nostalgic about these. That’s Today’s CC paradox.