The 45th Tokyo Motor Show 2017 - Sneak Peak:
You know where you are with certain international motor shows. Geneva is the glamorous one, where supercars and concepts rule. Frankfurt and Paris are the big ones, where the German and French brands preview the next few years of their core model ranges. Meanwhile, the American shows like Detroit and Los Angeles do the same for the American car industry – usually with a few surprises thrown in.
Tokyo could fairly be described as the fun one. Among important new launches for Japanese manufacturers, you can usually rely on a scattering of Japan-only microcars and some of the more unusual concepts you’re likely to see during the motor show season.
Held biennially, the Tokyo show’s current home is Tokyo Big Sight, a large exhibition centre on the edge of Tokyo Bay. As is the case every year, there’s a theme to this year’s show – “Beyond The Motor” – so think today’s common themes of connected vehicles and future mobility. This year’s show is open to the public on Friday, 27 October until Sunday, 6 November, with press access from Wednesday, 25 October.
What cars are being revealed at Tokyo 2017?
Exchange rate woes during the financial crisis in 2007-2008 put an end to Daihatsu's sales programme in the UK, but the brand – a subsidiary of Toyota – is still going strong in its home nation, where the Copen sports car is still offered. And it's always one to watch at the Tokyo show, if only for some of the delightful concepts it tends to show.
The DN Compagno concept is one of the most delightful we've seen so far. Inspired by the original Compagno – the car that kicked off Daihatsu sales in the UK back in the 1960s – it takes the form of a coupe-styled four-door saloon with retro styling reminiscent of Nissan's "Pike" cars (Be-1, Pao, Figaro and S-Cargo) from the 90s.
Power comes from a 1.2-litre petrol-electric hybrid and is sent through a CVT, so its on-paper specs aren't quite evo material, but we've a lot of time for any company making something genuinely interesting. No idea whether it's going into production, but if it does, bet on it remaining in Japan. A range of wonderfully daft kei-car concepts will also appear in Tokyo.
It was expected to see a concept representing the replacement for the S2000 at Tokyo, but Honda looks on track to pull its second motor show surprise in a row at Tokyo.
Following the Urban EV Concept revealed in Frankfurt – which packs an electric drivetrain, styling inspired by the original 1972 Honda Civic and is actually set to go on sale in 2019 – Honda has confirmed it will show a sports car equivalent dubbed the Honda Sports EV Concept.
And from the initial teaser image, it looks fantastic, taking the same kind of clean-cut approach as the Urban EV and using similar retro-inspired details. Predictably the teaser doesn't give much away, but the rear panel with inset tail lights looks much like that of the Urban EV and there's a refreshing lack of pointless cuts and slashes in the bodywork. But will this point towards the S2000 replacement, or is it another, smaller sports car – perhaps an MX-5 rival – that Honda wants to build?
Mazda has revealed its plans for the 2017 show with two concepts, each previewing the brands technical and aesthetic futures. The first, called the Product Concept 1, will preview a forthcoming replacement of the Mazda 3. Not only showing off a new look, the concept will also pack the next generation of SKYACTIV-X sparkless petrol engines and a new modular platform which will go on to underpin a majority of the brand's range in future.
The second concept is a design study building on the RX-Vision concept's design language in a more sensible four-door package. Called the Next Generation Design Vision Concept, it should foresee the future of Mazda's Kodo design language that will be spread across its future line up. Contrary to rumours, Mazda tells us it's unlikely to use a rotary engine.
One interesting car we’re expecting to see in Tokyo is a version of the MX-5 RFdesigned specifically for wheelchair users. Shown at the recent International Welfare Equipment Exhibition, it puts acceleration and braking functions, as well as controls like the indicators and horn, on a lever beside the centre console. Sports cars aren’t traditionally the most accessible vehicles for those with disabilities, so Mazda’s efforts here should be applauded.
The Evo is back – sort of. It was expected for a while that Mitsubishi’s replacement for the legendary nameplate would be some kind of SUV, and the e-EVOLUTION concept will give some idea of the brand’s rethinking for this new model.
And yes, it’s a crossover, one still sending power to all four wheels but with an electrified drivetrain for extra punch. One electric motor will power the front wheels, with two on the back axle, and an Active Yaw Control system providing torque vectoring. It’s not been confirmed for production, but it should preview Mitsubishi’s evolving design direction, as well as the first step in its renaissance as part of the Renault-Nissan empire.
SUV it may be, but the concept does at least look striking – there’s a high tail, a steeply-raked rear screen, a wide track, and some evidence of clever aerodynamics in the form of a split C-pillar that reminds of the BMW i8.
For much of the world Nissan’s Tokyo highlight will be the new Nissan Leaf electric car. More interestingly for us, Nissan has shown a Nismo concept variant of the new Leaf, with retuned suspension, a flashy body kit, and some tweaks to its electric powertrain to improve response. It's not clear whether there are any actual performance improvements, but it's good to see manufacturers understanding that there's a market for EVs with a bit more fizz.
Elsewhere there are hazy rumours that Nissan will preview a replacement for its ageing 370Z sports car. We’ve seen various hints to this at past shows – including the unusual Gripz concept first shown at Frankfurt back in 2015 – but we’re likely to find out for sure closer to the show itself.
Subaru’s star of Tokyo will be the VIZIV Performance Saloon Concept. It’s not a catchy name, but we’re expecting it to give us clues as to the future of the WRX STI brand, a new version of which has been confirmed but may not arrive before 2020.
However, we’ll temper your enthusiasm here – not because the STI may use some kind of hybrid technology to boost its performance (which could prove quite interesting), but because Subaru has a nasty habit of toning down its concepts to something rather less appealing by the time they reach production.
Other Subarus making an appearance at the show include the S208 WRX STI, a Japanese market-only special with more power and suspension upgrades, and an “STI Sport” BRZ with styling and suspension tweaks. It too will be Japan-only. Impreza hatchback and XV Crosstrek-based concepts will also be on display.
Tokyo should give us another opportunity to see the new Swift Sport revealed at Frankfurt, with its low 970kg kerb weight and 138bhp power output – it’s sure to be popular in its home market. Elsewhere, Suzuki’s lineup will be a bit more wacky, primarily as the brand is a huge player in Japan’s kei-jidosha microcar market.
Maddest is the e-Survivor concept, with electric power to all four wheels and a body that looks somewhere between a beach buggy, Suzuki’s Jimny off-roader and the unloved Suzuki X-90 of the 1990s.
Production in this form is hugely unlikely, but you can expect a few of its details to appear on the Jimny’s replacement, which may itself make its debut in Japan. Elsewhere there’s more small-car madness, with a series of XBEE (cross-bee) concepts seemingly based on Suzuki’s Hustler production car.
The unusual car you see above is the GR HV Sports Concept. Essentially, it's a GT86 with tweaks inspired by Toyota's LMP1 programme, including a set of powerful stacked LED headlights, and a hybrid, automatic powertrain that still lets you choose your own gears through a conventional H-pattern gearshift. Oh, and there's a targa-style roof. It's not the prettiest car we've ever seen, but we're intrigued to learn more about its drivetrain in Tokyo.
Elsewhere, Tokyo could be the place we finally see an official version of the much-anticipated new Supra. Inspired by the FT-1 concept shown way back at Detroit 2014, and co-developed with BMW, it’s expected to feature a range of powertrains and importantly, rear-wheel drive.
Whether the Supra will be shown in concept or production form is unclear, but it’s certain to be one of the show’s stars. Expect to hear more news on Toyota’s sports car lineup in general at Tokyo, too – such as progress on the expected sub-GT86 offering, a vehicle hinted at by Tokyo 2015’s S-FR concept.
First Published on evo.co.uk | Photos: evo.co.uk