It’s the Honda I return to for the return leg back to Tokyo, having stopped at the shrine to Mount Fuji on the way back down to see what can be done about the rain. Nothing much, it turns out, and the Honda bears the brunt of the worst conditions yet on the flooded motorway with visibility no more than a few car lengths in front.
You would expect the S660, or any kei car, to feel rather exposed in such an environment, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s even confidence-inspiring, and feels ‘big car’-like here. It’s happy, and so am I. The only thing that isn’t is my neck, which has to be hunched down to avoid banging on the rollover hoop. I’m not exactly a giant at 5ft 10in, so anyone bigger need not apply. It is not too much of an issue in town or on a mountain road but becomes one on a longer motorway run.
We arrive back in Tokyo after dark, and well ahead of the full force of Lan, which was due to hit Tokyo at six o’clock on Monday morning. In the end, it did a Brian and just missed the city, leaving clear blue skies rather than a trail of destruction in Japan’s capital. The clouds above Mount Fuji apparently dispersed too.
Even so, as endearing as the cars are, I’m not planning a return trip yet, nor to send David Davis a text to add something to the Japan trade talks post-Brexit. Kei sports cars have their own place in Japan and in Japanese culture; they are a satisfying itch to scratch when visiting but there’s no need to have one waiting for you at the airport back home. Just knowing they exist is enough for me.
This article was originally published on 25 November 2017. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide entertaining content during these difficult times.
Three of the best Kei sports cars
SUZUKI CAPPUCCINO - This 1990s joy had a timeless shape with so much appeal that it was exported to Britain, one of the few kei cars ever to do so. It was rear-wheel drive and a coupé, targa and full convertible all in one, depending on which parts of the roof you removed.
AUTOZAM AZ-1 - This car started life as a Suzuki, but became a Mazda. The baby Ferrari, mid-engined and with gullwing doors, is now one of the most sought-after kei cars in Japan and fast appreciating. Much of the AZ-1 development actually took place in the UK.
HONDA BEAT - The inspiration for the current S660, the Beat was a Pininfarina design and, like the S660, mid-engined and rear-wheel drive. Never sold outside Japan, it was the last car company founder Soichiro Honda signed off for production before his death in 1991.