If you want economy motoring but don’t want to have to cut back on the fun factor, the Cappuccino is the car for you.
Offering plenty of fun per pound, you don’t need more than four grand to snap up something nice, and despite a tiny three-cylinder engine up front, there’s more performance on offer than you’d ever imagine. You’re also onto a winner when it comes to running costs, because 45mpg is no problem and as long as you look after one, a Cappuccino is reliable, so you don’t need many new bits to keep one going.
Despite those compact dimensions, you’ll also find plenty of room inside the snug cabin, as long as you’re not well over six feet tall. The Cappuccino is brilliantly adaptable, as it converts between fully open and fully closed with the minimum of fuss. You can also go for a half-way option, by leaving the sliding rear window in place. However, if you’ve got luggage to carry, that might be all you can manage as the boot is tiny. But there are plenty of people in the Cappuccino club who use their cars every day – and love every minute of doing so.
Only 1110 examples of the UK-spec Cappuccino were sold in the UK between 1993 and 1995; 80 per cent were painted red and the rest were silver. UK sales ended in 1995, but Japanese buyers then got a revised Cappuccino. It had a different engine, optional three-speed automatic transmission, power steering plus ABS, driver’s airbag and LSD.
Total Cappuccino production was 28,010; lots of cars now in the UK were originally sold in Japan – including some examples of the highly desirable post-1995 model. While these later cars are unusual over here, they’re well worth seeking out.
Power [email protected]
Torque 63ft [email protected]
Top speed 93mph
Gearbox 5-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
These cars weren’t particularly well rust-proofed as Japan doesn’t use salt on its roads. Even official UK type-approved cars didn’t get much rust protection – the floorpans were pretty much untreated despite a six-year anti-corrosion warranty. As a result, the floorpans, sills and wheelarches (inner and outer) all corrode, along with the headlight supports and inner wings. Indeed there can be corrosion all around the engine bay, so lift the bonnet and check.
The roof panels, boot lid and bonnet are all aluminium, which is great for reducing weight, but not so good when it comes to dent resistance. Bearing in mind the high replacement cost, check them closely.
If you can find a car that‘s been Waxoyled from new, you’re in luck – even better if it’s been retreated every few years. However, even rusty cars can be revived as everything is available apart from floorpans – but reviving a Cappuccino professionally costs at least £5000.
Engines It might be a spiritual successor to the Spridget, but the Cappuccino is a lot more complex. Along with a turbocharger and intercooler there’s multi-point fuel injection and a pair of overhead camshafts acting on a quartet of valves for each cylinder. Crucially, even though the Cappuccino features a 657cc engine, you can expect the triple to last well over 100,000 miles if looked after.
Buying a car with history is desirable as the engine needs its oil changed every 6000 miles. Although there’s a turbocharger, it’s usually very reliable, but if it fails you’re looking at £695 for a replacement plus a couple of hours to fit it – assume a total bill of around £900 from a specialist such as Cappuccino Sport. Check for white smoke and untoward noises – you should be able to hear it working, but it shouldn’t be particularly loud. More likely is a cracked cast-iron exhaust manifold; they fatigue with the constant heating and cooling. Various replacements are available from £120; tubular stainless steel items are popular at around £600.
If the car has had its restrictor removed, or if it’s had its brain remapped (chipped), the chances are the car has seen some hard use. The ECU is located in the passenger side footwell; any aftermarket ECU cover will be obvious, although most owners own up, as they see these things as a selling point.
Cambelts need changing every 60,000 miles – on any high-mileage car it’s worth replacing it as a matter of course.
Second gear synchro usually wears out within 60,000 miles, so try to beat it on the test drive. If all doesn’t seem well, haggle hard on price, as although the part needed is only £50, the labour rates to fit it will soon push up the cost to £400. The rest of the transmission is strong, but clutches can prove weak on hard-driven cars, so check for any slipping as you accelerate through the gears.
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
There’s nothing to worry about with a Cappuccino’s suspension, except for the possibility of tired dampers. It’s the same with the brakes; with discs at each corner and a kerb weight of just 725kg, the system doesn’t have to work too hard.
The trim may look like it’s leather, but it isn’t. It is hard-wearing though, so any car that’s looking tatty is neglected.
The ious roof and door seals perish, leading to water leaks into the cabin. Sets of new seals are available for £239 per set, and they’re easy enough to fit; the biggest problem is reviving an interior that’s got damp.
It’s easy enough to pick up a set of overmats for the footwells; at £46 per set, they’re worth it in order to protect the factory-fitted trim.
Despite the tiny numbers associated with the Cappuccino, it’s a surprisingly useable car. You don’t need any special tools to service a Cappuccino, although any owner should join the Suzuki Cappuccino Owners’ Register for Enthusiasts (SCORE), which has a deal with ious Suzuki dealers around the country, allowing you to get discounted servicing.
If there’s a downside to Cappuccino ownership, it’s high parts prices; consumables are cheap enough, but replacement headlights are £375 for example. That’s why you must make sure any Cappuccino you’re thinking of buying is in good condition, or priced to sell. Get a good one and you won’t believe just how much fun such a small car can be.