Thursday, November 17, 2011

Suzuki goes wild and wacky at Tokyo show

DETROIT — For a brief moment, following Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami, there were fears this year’s Tokyo Motor Show might not happen. It didn’t help that even before the disaster most foreign manufacturers said they’d pull out of the event citing routinely weak import car sales.

The biennial even is back on the calendar, it turns out, and when it opens its doors, early next month, the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show will do what it is often best known for: showcase some of the wildest and wacky concept vehicles ever put on wheels — such as the new Suzuki Regina concept.

Though it clearly adopts some modern aerodynamic detailing, the compact Suzuki show car strikes the sort of retro-futuristic theme that has often fascinated designers preparing for the Tokyo Motor Show — and led to such distinctive designs as the old Nissan Figaro and snail-like S-Cargo.

Not surprisingly, small cars are at a premium in Japan’s crowded capital, with makers looking for ways to make them desirable, both visually and in terms of features and comfort. But fuel economy is also critical, Suzuki noting that its “vision of a next-generation global compact car” will get about 75 miles a gallon in Japanese government testing.

Along with wind-efficient details like the minimalist grille mounted below the front bumper, the Suzuki Regina also makes extensive use of new lightweight materials to hold mass down to a mere 1,609 pounds.

Suzuki will have another quirky concept to reveal in the form of the bright orange Q – which resembles some of the strangely pod-like Nissan Pivo concepts of years past. The 8-foot-long city vehicle is designed to carry two tandem style, which redefines the concept of backseat driving. Described as “ideal for everyday journeys within a radius of about 10 km,” it appears to be battery-powered, though the maker isn’t offering up details yet.

Suzuki focuses on the small car market, so the Regina likely does provide a few hints of what it might have in mind for the future. Lightweighting and aerodynamics will be critical with the maker’s push into battery car technology, Suzuki also planning to show a hybrid version of its tiny Swift model on the Tokyo Motor Show stage.

The plug-in reportedly will deliver battery range of as much as 18 miles before the Swift EV Hybrid switches on its small internal combustion engine.

Copyright 2011 The Detroit Bureau. All rights reserved.

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