It wouldn’t be worth mentioning kei cars without talking about the Honda Beat. The Beat was Honda’s answer to Japans love for small cars. So, what are kei cars? Well, from a far, kei cars look like a scaled down version of a regular vehicle. They come in all different body types, but by far the rear-engine, RWD, two-seater ones just like the Honda Beat are the most fun. Although not many of them have been seen in North America, Japan at one point had around 40% of the cars on the road being kei cars.
The Honda Beat was produced for only a short period of time (1991-1996) and was one of the last projects to be approved by the famous engineer Soichiro Honda before his passing in ’91. In total, just over 33,000 units were produced, with 2/3 of the being produced in the first years. And the rest slowly trickled in as demand dropped over the next four years.
In order to comply with the kei car requirements, Honda stuffed a naturally aspirated 656cc 3-cylinder engine into the Beat equipped with the MTRC system that made 63 hp at an astonishing 8100rpm. The top speed was maxed electronically out at 135km/h (84mph). Surprisingly however, the engineers decided against forced induction such as turbocharging or supercharging as opposed to their competitors at that time.
Eventually, the Beat was phased out and its place was taken by the Honda S660, which was very well received by critics and was also considerably faster thanks to a new turbocharged inline 3-cylinder engine.
Pros and Cons
- Rear-engine, RWD setup
- Affordable price compared to other kei cars
- Great fuel economy
- Fantastic handling
- A/C was standard
- Felt slow due to the lack of torque
- 0-60 in 13 seconds
- Was quite loud
- Can be imported to the US
- Parts can be hard to find
There isn’t a lot to go wrong with such a basic, small car that didn’t come packed with electronics to complicate it and add weight. That being said, there are a few common issues that you should look for before buying a Honda Beat. The most common issue that has been reported was the excessive oil consumption. Because these small engines were naturally aspirated, they were worked quite hard. If the previous owner didn’t keep an eye on the oil level and used bad quality oil when it came time to change it, more than likely it did damage to the piston rings. This in turn will cause oil to seep past the pistons and produce blue smoke that comes from the exhaust.
Another issue was rust. Like many cars of this era, the Beat was plagued with rust in the usual areas such as the hood corners, door sills and wheel wells. The good news is that the reported rust was never on the structural parts of the car, such as the frame. Other kei cars, like the Suzuki Cappuccino were not so lucky in the rust department.
The average price of there fun little sports cars stays consistently around $10,000, although some can be had for way less, while other can go as high as $20k!
The average price for a Honda Beat seems to hover right around the $6,000 to $7,000 mark. Keep in mind that the price listed above is the average. You can model for just under $4k, while the well-maintained examples can go for as much as $15,000. In conclusion, there is a Beat out there for everyone’s budget, however, we never recommend getting the cheaper of anything because more than likely there will be hidden issues that make themselves known once you’ve purchased it. The best advice we can give is to get a pre-purchase inspection done at your local mechanic shop before pulling the trigger.
We have listed a few of the cheapest and most expensive models available on JDMbuysell.com below
The Honda Beat is part of the holy trinity of rear-engine, RWD, two-seater kei cars. The other two cars are the Suzuki Cappuccino and the Mazda Autozam AZ-1. Feel free to check out those buyer’s guides in order to get up to speed with the other two kei cars.
Here are some links to similar models:
Models and Specifications
All Honda Beat models came standard with an extensive list of equipment that was quite unheard of in the world of kei cars due to the imposed wight limit, but Honda made it work some how. These features included air conditioning, power windows, 3-point seatbelts, front stabilizer, laminated windshield, toughened side glass, soft top, steel wheels, halogen headlights, and sun visors. Optional equipment included an available drivers side airbag.
Three special edition versions were available during its five-year production run. There were:
The Version F was introduced in February of 1991 and it featured an Aztec Green Pearl color and alloy wheels.
Version C was unveiled in May of 1992 and had a Captiva Blue Pearl paintjob along with white alloy wheels.
The last version, known as the Honda Beat Version Z was released in May of 1993 and it consisted of a Blade Silver Metallic or Everglade Green Metallic paint color, three black gauges, mud guards, rear spoiler and exhaust tip, and of course, alloy wheels.
|Year of production||1991-96|
|No. produced||33,635 units|
|Size (L / W / H / WB) mm||3295 / 1395 / 1175 / 2280|
|Layout, Gearbox||Mid-engined, Rwd, 5M|
|Engine||Inline-3, sohc, 4v/cyl|
|Engine capacity||656 cc|
|Power||64 hp / 8100 rpm|
|Torque||44 lbft / 7000 rpm|
|Top speed||84 mph (limited)|
|0-60 mph||13 sec (est)|
Yes and no. Although there was only one official generation, about halfway though its lifecycle Honda revised some mechanical issues.
No. They only produced the Beat only with a 5-speed manual transmission.
Yes. The Honda Beat is over 25-years old, meaning it can be legally imported to the US.
It can be challenging for the first few days. After that you won’t even notice that your steering wheel is on the wrong side.
Unfortunately not. The Honda Beat, like many other kei cars were only produced for the Japanese market. This means that all 33,000 cars were RHD only.
Since these little cars were built for the Japanese market only, finding parts here in North America can be rather challenging.
How to Import a Honda Beat
Read our ultimate guide, How to Import a Car from Japan.
Can you make this guide better? Are you a huge fan of the Beat? If so, please contact us.
- Robert's been into cars ever since he was little. His experience with vehicles comes from his passion and ownership several cars including many JDM vehicles
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