Me and my car: Tiny Suzuki is naval officer's cuppa

Mr Russell Ewe and his 1993 Suzuki Cappuccino. PHOTO: LIONEL SEAH

SINGAPORE - Mr Russell Ewe grew up on Japanese manga, car magazines and Tomica die-cast toys, so it was almost natural that the 27-year-old naval officer picked a 1993 Suzuki Cappuccino as his first car.

The tiny car was featured in the popular Initial D manga and anime series, where it raced with the legendary Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86.

The Cappuccino is one of three kei cars (Japanese micro cars) and known as the sporty ABC Kei. The other two were the AZ-1 from AutoZam (Mazda's defunct sub-brand) and Beat from Honda.

The Suzuki two-seater roadster is merely 3,295mm long and powered by an equally diminutive 657cc three-cylinder turbocharged engine, which makes a modest 64hp. When paired with a five-speed manual transmission, it manages a not-too-shoddy nine-second 0-to-100kmh sprint time - thanks in part to a featherlight 700kg kerb weight.

"I'm fascinated with cars from the 1980s and 1990s," Mr Ewe says. "So when I spotted this one, which was within my budget, I decided to buy it."

He paid $53,000 for the Cappuccino last year. The car had undergone an engine overhaul in 2013 and it is "still running fine".

Another thing which endeared Mr Ewe to older cars is their simplicity. "There are fewer things that can go wrong," he says, adding that the Cappuccino does not even have power steering or anti-locking brakes.

After buying the car, he changed its rims, parking brake handle, gear lever knob and steering wheel "to get it back to original specifications".

The car is low-maintenance, he says, with an annual road tax of $486 and a fuel consumption of about 15km a litre.

Asked why he did not consider the newer Daihatsu Copen, a kei roadster which came after the Cappuccino, Mr Ewe says: "The Copen is front-wheel-drive, whereas the Cappuccino is rear-wheel-drive and has a 50:50 weight distribution."

He did look at other Japanese domestic model cars such as the Honda S2000, Mazda RX-7 and Toyota MR2, but they were either above his budget, highly modified or in a sorry state.

The Cappuccino is one of three kei cars (Japanese micro cars) and known as the sporty ABC Kei. PHOTO: LIONEL SEAH

The Cappuccino is a coupe when its three-piece roof is in place, a targa when the panels are removed and an open-top roadster when its rear screen roll-bar are retracted.

"It sits close to the ground for a zippy go-kart drive," Mr Ewe says. "I can drive it with gusto and still keep within the speed limit."

"I typically drive with the air-conditioning off as it saps quite a bit of power from the small engine. And because it is a tiny car, I keep a wide berth from large trucks."

On really hot days when air-conditioning is preferred or when he requires more space, Mr Ewe, who is single, uses a spare family car - a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E, which he says is a comfortable cruiser and which he spends as much time in as the Cappuccino. His father, whom he lives with, drives a Mercedes-Benz E200.

The younger man is sticking to the Cappuccino for the long haul. He paid $59,179 in March to extend its certificate of entitlement by another 10 years.

What's in the boot?


- Car's roof panels

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