Feature: Tokyo Motor Show 2011


Toyota
There's a wave of revival running through the Japanese car industry. It has realised it was becoming too dull, as happens during a recession, and then it was hit by first the east-coast earthquake and then the floods in Taiwan, where many suppliers have factories. So the industry is fighting back, and cars to engage the driver are back on the agenda.

The 'Fun Vehicle Interactive Internet'
The 'Fun Vehicle Interactive Internet'
"If a car is not fun, it's not a car," said Toyota president Akio Toyoda at the Tokyo show. He is determined to re-ignite younger buyers' interest in cars: "They go, they stop, they turn and they connect," he says of the cars Toyota is planning to achieve this aim.

One such is a concept car called Fun-Vii (Fun Vehicle Interactive Internet). If it all works as its creators imagine, this three-seater electric sports coupe can display any image on its complete surface as sent to it from a smartphone, and its sat-nav system's instructions come from a 3-D hologram of a speaking woman. It could link to other Fun-Viis or exchange data with them.

'Fun to drive, again' is Toyota's new slogan, and the idea is that it will apply to all Toyotas and not just the sporting ones, of which the GT 86 is the obvious new example. Another Tokyo Toyota debut was the FCV-R, a family-size fuel cell car with two hydrogen tanks for a decent range and a compact fuel cell stack to improve space. Its walrus-like face is said to improve aerodynamics.

You'll know what this is...
You'll know what this is...
The FCV-R enters limited production in 2015, fuelled by hydrogen that's an abundant by-product of Japan's industry. There's enough to power five million fuel cell cars, apparently.

Finally, the Toyota iQ took on its third guise as the FT-EV III, an electric version showing the trapezoidal nose treatment that is to become Toyota's rather Ford-like new face. Its range is said to be about 65 miles, but there's no word on an Aston Martin version.

FCV-R
FCV-R
FTEV III
FTEV III

Honda

RCE electric bike
RCE electric bike
Honda, too, is trying to get interesting again. There was no further word on the future semi-supercar except that the production version will be at next March's Geneva show and it won't be called NSX, but new chief executive Takanobu Ito talks of 'sharp, edgy projects' including an electric version of the rapid RC motorbike.

Aside from the N-BOX range, three square micro-MPVs and a neat hatchback inspired by the 1960s N600, the main news was the EV-STER electric sports car. This miniature two-seater has rear-wheel drive and vertical handlebars, plus a part-carbonfibre structure and the usual internet connectivity. It's good for about 100 miles before a sub-3hr recharge, although not at the 100mph top speed. The 0-37mph time is 5.7sec so it's not exactly quick. Production is unlikely in this form, but a petrol-engined version would make a great latter-day Honda Beat.

N Concept
N Concept
EV-STER
EV-STER

Mazda

Mazda Takeri
Mazda Takeri
Mazda's Skyactiv technology, keeping weight down and moving it with very efficient engines, is a no-brainer in its relevance to how cars need to be, but the first complete Skyactiv car, the CX-5 compact SUV revealed at Frankfurt, is no beauty. What a relief, then, that the Takeri concept car is a cracker, sleek and handsome and pretty much the next Mazda 6. Meanwhile, the lightweight and under-rated Mazda 2 gets a small Skyactiv engine for Japan but can't be sold in LHD countries because its exhaust manifold won't fit in an LHD car. And although we're RHD, we probably won't get it here either. Shame.

Suzuki
Sometimes a show star comes from nowhere, and the Suzuki Regina is it.

Suzuki Regina. Regal...
Suzuki Regina. Regal...
With shades of Panhard and Citroen Bijou in its styling, the 800cc hybrid with CVT transmission weighs just 730kg and is very aerodynamic. CO2 output is 70g/km, and far from being just a concept it's a pointer to Suzuki's next global compact car.

Suzuki, meanwhile, is trying to extricate itself from its disastrous and fruitless collaboration with Volkswagen by buying back the shares that VW holds. "'You don't go into a Sumo match and expect not to win," said executive vice-president Osamu Honda (no relation, probably).

Nissan
Major Nissan interest centres on the official arrival of the Nismo performance brand in Europe, beginning with a Nismo-enhanced Juke. Tokyo also saw a Nismo-bodykitted Leaf and a Leaf-based Nismo racing coupé, but the main interest was in Pivo 3, the third in a series of urban microcars able to manoeuvre in unfeasibly tight spaces.

Nismo Juke
Nismo Juke
Pivos 1 and 2 had a body section able to swivel round 180 degrees and wheels able to steer so much that the car could rotate in its own length. Pivo 3 is more normal but still has extreme four-wheel steering for a four-metre turning circle. It seats three, has an electric motor in each wheel and could yet make production.

The handsome Esflow electric sports coupé, revealed at Geneva, made a reappearance, promising a 150-mile range and 0-62mph in under 5sec. Despite having the proportions of a front-engined car, it has two mid-mounted motors driving the rear wheels.

Stay tuned for further updates on Subaru, Suzuki, Volkswagen and more...

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Comments (24) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Mr Gear 06 Dec 2011

    Bodo said:
    f you dare a peek on the Chinese market, you'll see the cars made for people that earn a tenth of what we earn. They're small. They're nasty. And they don't appeal to anyone except those who desperately want a new car. Think Tata Nano, but built to look like a sedan. And they're profitable.
    If that sort of thing appeared in the UK, any magazine reviewing it would tell you to simply buy something better that is second-hand.

    Which is probably the advice I'd take myself.

  • Bodo 05 Dec 2011

    Twincam16 said:
    Bodo said:
    Twincam16 said:
    What I suspect young people really want in a car is something simple, small, cheap to run, fun to drive, that actually looks cool rather than like their grandmother's runabout, and more to the point, that they can afford to buy. When you're under 25 and on your first job, you can't afford to spend what amounts to half your salary on a base-model supermini.
    What they want is a sports car or a camper van; what they need is a super mini, and what they can afford is not a new car. And guess what? It's been like this for the last fifty years, since young people started considering owning a car.
    True, but look at the Dacia Logan - it's entirely possible to make a brand new car that retails for £3500 - or to put it another way, second-hand car money.

    I have it on good authority that any given mass-production car designer could do a simple car for young people, with pretty much any body style - sports coupe, camper van, whatever - for a similar amount of money, but they don't, simply because the marketing department say you can sell the same thing covered in spangly bells and whistles to older, richer people for more money.

    You can see why (profit), but surely all it takes is for one manufacturer to be bold and they could suddenly have an entire market sector to themselves.
    If you dare a peek on the Chinese market, you'll see the cars made for people that earn a tenth of what we earn. They're small. They're nasty. And they don't appeal to anyone except those who desperately want a new car. Think Tata Nano, but built to look like a sedan. And they're profitable.

  • Twincam16 05 Dec 2011

    Bodo said:
    Twincam16 said:
    What I suspect young people really want in a car is something simple, small, cheap to run, fun to drive, that actually looks cool rather than like their grandmother's runabout, and more to the point, that they can afford to buy. When you're under 25 and on your first job, you can't afford to spend what amounts to half your salary on a base-model supermini.
    What they want is a sports car or a camper van; what they need is a super mini, and what they can afford is not a new car. And guess what? It's been like this for the last fifty years, since young people started considering owning a car.
    True, but look at the Dacia Logan - it's entirely possible to make a brand new car that retails for £3500 - or to put it another way, second-hand car money.

    I have it on good authority that any given mass-production car designer could do a simple car for young people, with pretty much any body style - sports coupe, camper van, whatever - for a similar amount of money, but they don't, simply because the marketing department say you can sell the same thing covered in spangly bells and whistles to older, richer people for more money.

    You can see why (profit), but surely all it takes is for one manufacturer to be bold and they could suddenly have an entire market sector to themselves.

  • vintageracer01 05 Dec 2011

    WHERE ARE THE TIMES WHEN CARS WERE EXCITING ?????????????????????????????????????

    AARRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHH...







    Where should all this end...?

  • Bodo 02 Dec 2011

    Twincam16 said:
    What I suspect young people really want in a car is something simple, small, cheap to run, fun to drive, that actually looks cool rather than like their grandmother's runabout, and more to the point, that they can afford to buy. When you're under 25 and on your first job, you can't afford to spend what amounts to half your salary on a base-model supermini.
    What they want is a sports car or a camper van; what they need is a super mini, and what they can afford is not a new car. And guess what? It's been like this for the last fifty years, since young people started considering owning a car.

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