Motoring / Road Test: Dinky toy for big boys: The small Cappuccino is strong on driver appeal, reports Brett Fraser

THE ONLY big thing about the new Suzuki Cappuccino is its price: pounds 11,995. Why so much for a car you could carry on an aircraft as hand baggage? Blame the agreement that limits the number of Japanese-built cars which can be sold here. If it is bringing in a little car, Suzuki must still make an average-size profit from it.

The tiny Cappuccino (only 129.7 inches long) looks like a motorised Dinky toy: it does not seem feasible that anyone past puberty could squeeze inside. But they do, and when they step out afterwards, they are smiling.

Suzuki has not produced a shrunken car just to be different: the Cappuccino is a product of Japanese law. Overcrowded city streets have resulted in the 'microcar' class, with strict rules governing their dimensions (including engine size). To buy a full-size car in Japanese cities, you need to provide proof that you have off-street parking, but you can leave a microcar on the road.

The tiny Suzuki is perfectly proportioned for outsmarting British urban congestion, too. It can wriggle into Mini-sized parking spaces and nip easily through gaps in rush-hour traffic. And because it looks so cute, you will even find folk making space so you can get through.

If you are thinking that in a car so small there cannot be much under the bonnet, you are right. And wrong. The three-cylinder engine boasts just 657cc (keeping it within the 660cc limit of Japan's microcar laws), but is brawny far beyond its cubic capacity. Double-overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, fuel injection and a tiny turbocharger help it to produce a mighty (all things considered) 64bhp; it can produce much more power than this, but the microcar regulations also control power output.

They limit top speed, too, to 87mph. Frankly, it is just as well, because at motorway speeds it buzzes and screeches at an unpleasant volume and is bashed about by the great winds that blow off big trucks.

On any other sort of road, though, it is party time. Because the Cappuccino occupies such a small area, you get more road to play with: B-roads become as wide as A-roads. You can experiment with the corners, safe in the knowledge that if you get it wrong you will still be on your own side of the road. The Cappuccino has rear-wheel drive, which makes it a more satisfying 'driver's' car; it is better balanced through corners than most front-wheel-drive cars, and the steering is sharper and more responsive.

Adding to the fun on the open road (and in town, for that matter) is that whizzy little engine. Its maximum rev markings begin at 8,500rpm; most normal engines would have gone pop by that point. When the turbocharger kicks in, the Cappuccino is able to stay ahead of most other traffic.

Like it so far? Drop the roof and you will like it even more. The ingenious roof is not made of canvas but a rigid plastic material. Its rear section has a heated glass window, and pivots down behind the seats when not required. The rest of the roof is in three sections that can be removed altogether for the full alfresco effect or one at a time to admit as much fresh air as you want.

If you are much over 6ft, this is not a car for you: even if you do not mind looking over the top of the windscreen, there is not enough length in the cabin for your legs. It is cosy even for short people, with the door-trim panel against one thigh and the transmission tunnel against the other. Forget about luggage: with all the roof bits stowed away, that leaves enough room for a lunchbox.

But who said sports cars were meant to be practical? Ignore the compromises, and you can have great fun in the tiny Cappuccino.

SPECIFICATIONS

Suzuki Cappuccino, pounds 11,995

Engine: 657cc, three cylinders, 64bhp at 6,500rpm. Five-speed gearbox. Top speed 93mph. Fuel consumption 35-45mpg.

COMPARISONS

Fiat Punto 1.6 ELX Cabrio, pounds 12,996

Unlike the Cappuccino, the Punto is not a sports car; but it is the cheapest cabrio for sale in Britain. It seats four, and is a hoot to drive.

Mazda MX-5 1.8i, pounds 14,495

Much dearer than the baby Suzuki, but bigger and more powerful. Great to drive and to own: MX-5s hold their value extremely well.

Suzuki Vitara convertible 1.6 JLX, pounds 11,250

Little off-roader bought for the same reasons as the Cappuccino - top-down fun on a relatively modest budget. Does not perform or handle as well.

(Photograph omitted)

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    E-Commerce Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice