Honda BeatThe Honda Beat was a Pininfarina designed mid-engined Kei Car built by Honda in the mid-1990s. During its 4-year production run, Honda built over 33,000 of these mini roadsters that offered customers the affordability of a Kei Car with the performance of a mid-engined car. The fairly exotic 3-cylinder engine revved to 10,000 RPM and featured Honda’s MTREC (Multi Throttle Responsive Engine Control) system, this system featured independent throttle bodies and produced an impressive 63 horsepower. The Beat only came with a 5-speed manual transmission and was limited to only 84mph due to the laws surrounding Kei Cars. Today one of these 1,600lb roadsters can be yours for around $7,500 once the import process is complete.
Nissan Pulsar GTI-RThe Nissan Pulsar GTI-R was a homologation special built so Nissan could compete in Group A rally. This hot hatch featured Nissan’s SR20DET engine producing 227 horsepower and 210 lb-ft or torque mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. When matched with Nissan’s ATTESA AWD system the GTI-R accelerated to 60 in 5 seconds and could run the quarter mile in 13 seconds. These figures are impressive by today’s standards but back in 1990 when the car was released they were astonishing. Since the GTI-R was built in the 90’s it only weighs 2,600lbs even with AWD. Today Nissan’s GTR hot hatch can be yours for around $13,000 and offer a classic hot hatch driving experience with modern performance.
Nissan FigaroThe Nissan Figaro is the only car on earth guaranteed to attract girls. Built in Nissan’s Pike Factory, the Figaro was a homage to classic car design and features a modern drivetrain underneath its retro skin. The 2+2 coupe was meant to be part of a short run of only 2,000 cars but demand prompted Nissan to build more than 20,000. The Figaro was built on the Nissan Micra platform and is powered by a 1.0L turbocharged 3-cylinder engine. It may only produce 75hp but this is more than enough to motive this 1,700lb car. With a dedicated fan base and the added rarity of a classic Japanese car made to look like and even older car, the Nissan Figaro might just get you the attention you wish a Skyline could. Prices hover around $12,000 for an already imported model.
Mitsubishi EVO IIn the quest for rally success, Mitsubishi determined they needed to ditch their large Galant rally car in favor of the smaller Lancer platform. The engineers shoehorned the Galant VR-4’s engine and AWD system into the Lancer creating the first EVO and birthing the company’s greatest rally car. Due to homologation rules the Japan only EVO I hit showroom floors with an impressive 244hp and 228 lb-ft of torque. Between 1992 and 1993 Mitsubishi sold 5,000 EVO I’s in GSR and RS trim levels. The RS model rode on steelies and was stripped of features like ABS, power locks, and a rear wiper saving the car 150lbs and intended to be the basis for a club racer. Today you can finally import one of these legendary cars but it won’t be cheap
Autozam AZ-1The AZ-1 is a mid-engined Kei car built by Suzuki but sold by Mazda under the name Autozam. This Honda Beat competitor was released in 1992 during a recession in Japan making its $12,000 price tag hard to stomach for the fiscally responsible Kei car shopper. Mazda only managed to sell 4,300 AZ-1’s compared to Honda’s 33,000 Beat sales making it a financial failure for the company. The AZ-1 was powered by a turbocharged 3-cylidner engine that revved to 10,000rpm and produced 64hp and 63 lb-ft of torque mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. Although the AZ-1 didn’t sell well this gullwinged Kei car offers a lot of personality and now it can live in your American garage.