Introducing the Honda Beat – Midship Amusement!
The rear side panels of the Pininfarina-designed Honda Beat kei car are adorned with stickers proclaiming ‘midship amusement’ – a fitting summary!
Midship – the engine is immediately behind the rear seats.
Amusement – Manual transmission, go-kart style handling and a rev-happy naturally aspirated engine all make for a highly amusing package.
The Honda Beat is also known for being the last car to be approved by Honda’s founder Soichiro Honda before his death in 1991. The car was produced and sold only in Japan between 1991 and 1996, with just under 34,000 being produced in total.
Engine and drivetrain
The engine has a small but perfectly formed 656 cm3 capacity with 3 cylinders. It is a single overhead camshaft design with 4 valves per cylinder. The cylinders have individual throttle bodies, helping it to reach the maximum permitted 64 bhp power output from a kei car without resorting to a turbo. The lack of a turbo does affect acceleration: the 0-60 time of 13 seconds makes the car slower than its turbocharged peer the Suzuki Cappuchino.
Five speed manual transmission is the only option, and as you’d expect from a mid-engined car, it is rear wheel drive.
There is an electronic speed limited which kicks in at 135 km/h (84 mph), although from what I’ve read it can be removed for a higher top speed of around 100 mph. I think pursuit of a top speed in this car would be missing its point somewhat.
Interior and equipment
This section won’t be very long because the Honda Beat doesn’t have a great deal of equipment to mention. This can only be a good thing: you wouldn’t want to weigh a lightweight car down with a load of unnecessary equipment. I was surprised to see it has air conditioning as standard, although I probably wouldn’t be if I’d experienced a few summers in Japan. Even the inclusion of electric windows seems excessive. I can’t quibble with the zebra print seat cloth!
Equipment that would barely warrant mention on many of today’s cars was optional equipment on the Beat: driver’s airbag, alloy wheels & exhaust pipe trim.
Honda Beat problems
There are a few problems to look out for:
Oil consumption. A high revving 3 cylinder engine in a sporty car is likely to get worked hard. There is a certain amount of ‘normal’ oil consumption, so the oil level needs to be checked and topped up regularly. If it hasn’t been checked and maintained properly, and given good quality oil with regular changes, there is a likelihood of oil burning due to piston ring wear. Fastidious attention to oil levels and changes will help any engine live a long and happy life: I guess this is one of those engines where ignoring the oil can cause problems quite quickly.
Rust. This can be a problem on these cars. Actually it can be a problem on many Japanese import cars of this sort of age. One ‘plus point’ for the Honda Beat is that the rust is often not in structural areas as on some of its peers (the Suzuki Cappuchino in particular). The bonnet lip, doors and sills are common problem areas.
A great example of what can be achieved within the kei car specifications and definitely a car to buy if you enjoy handling over pure speed/acceleration. If you are going to buy one, inspect it carefully for rust and engine problems.
The following Japanese language video will give you more of an insight into the Honda Beat, and will show you the difference in acceleration I mentioned above.
I’d be happy to help you import a Honda Beat from Japan if you’re struggling to find a good one already in the UK. There are about 10 cars sold at the auctions in Japan each week. Do get in touch if you’d like to know more about this.