DMC to show MX-5 rivalling RWD Daihatsu Vision Copen concept, but this isn't its first
CY Foong · Oct 13, 2023 01:50 PM
The Daihatsu Copen is the only kei-sized sports car currently on sale following the discontinuation of the Honda S660 in 2022. As the second-gen Copen enters its first decade, Daihatsu announced that it will be showing what might be its successor at the upcoming inaugural Japan Mobility Show in Tokyo.
Daihatsu will be displaying the Vision Copen concept alongside 4 other concept cars ranging from kei-sized commercial vehicles to a funky-looking urban electric vehicle (EV). However, there is something vastly different about this Copen concept because it’s significantly larger than the current Copen.
It’s almost the same length as the Mazda MX-5 and under the hood is a 1.3-litre engine capable of using carbon neutral (CN) fuel. The D brand has not revealed power output figures but another interesting info from the Vision Copen concept is its drivetrain layout which is revealed to be rear-wheel drive (RWD).
That’s a massive departure from the current Copen which is a front-wheel drive (FWD) kei sports car. Still, a larger 1.3-litre unit isn’t exactly alien to the Copen since the first generation which inspired the design of the Vision Copen was offered with a naturally aspirated 1.3-litre K3-VE for markets outside of Japan.
It might seem exciting that Daihatsu is showcasing a Copen concept that seems to be a challenger against the MX-5 but this isn’t the first time the small car experts envisioned a proper sports car. More than 30 years ago, Daihatsu unveiled the X-021 roadster concept car at the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Back in the wild period when the Japanese economy was booming called the Bubble Era, Daihatsu was really considering challenging the MX-5 which was reigniting the appeal for fun-to-drive and relatively inexpensive sports cars in the early nineties.
The X-021 was powered by a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine that made 140 PS with a top speed of 200 km/h. It has a fibreglass body and was built on an aluminium chassis by Dome, the legendary Japanese racing car manufacturer.
The front engine, rear-wheel drive sports car weighed only 700 kg and had a 50:50 weight distribution. American journalists praised the sports car for its balanced suspension set-up and agile handling that in retrospect, it sounds more like a Japanese Lotus Elise than an MX-5 competitor.
Despite that, Daihatsu shelved the project to focus on smaller cars as the Japanese economy entered a period of crisis. Eventually, it would relook into the sports car market and introduced the Copen a little more than a decade later.
Could the Vision Copen turn the X-021’s dream into a production reality? Perhaps the Copen’s true successor might be based on the open-top Osanpo EV concept which will also be shown at the Japan Mobility Show. Which would be more close to reality though?