It's also one of the lightest mid-engined cars ever made.
You might not have heard of the Autozam AZ-1, but that’s ok. It was a rare sports car-ish designed and manufactured by Suzuki, but sold by Mazda as part of its Autozam brand. Suzuki had its own version of the car known as the “Cara.”
Available in Japan beginning with September 1992, the AZ-1 never really took off as many criticized it for being too cramped, even for a kei car. In addition, people found it to be expensive when compared to more popular cars such as the Suzuki Cappuccino and the Honda Beat. As a consequence, production of both the AZ-1 and the equivalent Cara ceased just three years later after combined sales of less than 4,500 units.
The folks from Pacific Coast Auto have an extensive video detailing the pint-sized car, which at 129.7 inches (3,295 millimeters) in length, is one of the smallest cars ever to come with gullwing doors as standard. At the same time, it’s also one of the lightest mid-engine production vehicles, tipping the scales at a mere 1,587 pounds (720 kilograms), which is just about the same as the cutesy Suzuki Cappuccino.
Speaking of Suzuki, it developed the three-cylinder turbocharged engine with a displacement of 657 cc producing just 64 horsepower (47 kilowatts) and 63 pound-feet (85 Newton-meters) of torque delivered to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. The same engine was also used by another Mazda kei car, the Carol.
As far as the design is concerned, some would say it borrows cues from the Ford RS200 at the front with a whiff off Testarossa on the sides and a hint of Toyota MR2 at the back. Overall, we find it to be quite adorable, like many of the sporty kei cars are. Sure, it’s far from being perfect, but that’s part of its charm.
The Autozam AZ-1 is a reminder Japan is privileged to have some cool cars. Off the top of my head, the Honda S660 and the Daihatsu Copen are two of them. There are rumors of a bigger S1000 version with global availability, but it’s more of a pipe dream right now…