For 2023, the Japanese renamed their Tokyo Motor Show to the Japan Mobility Show. Strangely enough, we’ve never seen so many sports car concepts in a row for a long time. We had to go back almost twenty-five years to see such an abundance.
It was in 1989, when the Tokyo Motor Show moved to the Makuhari Messe in Tokyo’s outskirts, that the list of debuting sports cars was also impressive: Honda Acura NSX (the adorable original one), Mazda MX-5 ‘Miata’ (although already shown in Chicago), Mitsubishi GTO, Subaru SVX, Suzuki Cappucino, Toyota MR2, and a bunch of concepts that are mostly forgotten now.
Yet, the first edition of the Japanese Mobility Show can be considered one of the most sports-car-heavy motor shows of recent times. Suddenly, the Japanese seem not only convinced that the new era for the car is an electric one, but they also want to present their visions of a mostly electrified sports performance future.
In earlier articles, we already spoke about sporty concepts like the Mazda Iconic SP and the Toyota FT-Se, among other more family-friendly SUV-like proposals; today, we pay some attention to the sports cars we haven’t mentioned yet.
Daihatsu Vision Copen
Although previous generations of the Daihatsu Copen have been built to Japan’s restrictive kei-car regulations, limiting both size and performance, the cute little sports roadsters have been sold for a while outside Japan, for example, in Europe.
But the new Vision Copen concept is graduating into the (slightly) more significant leagues, with a turbocharged 1.3-liter engine and similar dimensions to the Mazda MX-5. Calling it a sports car might be pushing the definition to its limits, and electrification is no buzz here, but it’s undoubtedly got cuteness going for it. Whether it will ever come on the Japanese market as a production model is not sure yet, let alone the rest of the world. This will also depend on what Daihatsu parent Toyota has in mind.
Honda Prelude Concept
Here’s one that we didn’t see coming at all. Honda is bringing back the Prelude coupé no less than 22 years after the last version of the original car, which went through five generations, was retired.
Unusually, the Prelude concept is electrified rather than fully electric, with Honda confirming the prototype’s powertrain is a hybrid. Still, it looks good, in an excellent, rather conservative way, and entirely production-viable.
Honda didn’t give any details on the Prelude’s hybrid powertrain or which platform it will use, but we suspect it may share underpinnings with either the Civic or the Accord.
“Honda has always been committed to creating sporty vehicles,” said Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe in his speech at the show. “And the word ‘prelude’ means an introductory or preceding performance.”
“This model will become the prelude for our future models, which will inherit the ‘joy of driving’ into the full-fledged electrified future and embody Honda’s unalterable sports mindset. The Prelude Concept is a specialty sports model that will offer an exhilarating experience that makes you want to keep going forever and extraordinary excitement you never felt before.”
Nissan Hyper Force Concept
There was a massive crowd around the Nissan booth for the unveiling of its five concept cars at the Japan Mobility Show. We already told you about some of them. The final vehicle hidden under the drape was something low and sporty with a giant wing, so expectations were high for high performance, and Nissan didn’t disappoint.
While some concept cars play it safe, the Nissan Hyper Force is as high-energy and aggressive as its name suggests. The Hyper Force may be square in overall profile; Nissan says the design was done with input from the Nismo racing team and will cut through the wind like the knife it resembles.
The Hyper Force gets a solid-state battery providing energy for up to 1 000 kW/1 341 hp of electromotors, which will hit the ground via a beefed-up version of Nissan’s e-4ORCE all-wheel drive.
Behind the Hyper Force’s vertically opening doors is a cockpit made of more forged carbon, with floating laid-back racing buckets with four-point belts and a mere suggestion of a backseat. The squared-off edges of the exterior repeat in the concept’s narrow steering wheel and surrounding screens. Those screens move toward the driver in R mode, displaying system data like tire pressure and temperatures.
In GT mode, the interior lighting goes blue rather than red, and the interface focuses more on infotainment and cabin comfort. When not being driven, the Hyper Force can be used as a VR gaming room, with modes that allow racing without even leaving the garage. This is the high-tech version of sitting in your parked car making engine noises and vroom sounds; only now you can do it with friends worldwide.
If you’re thinking of a modern and radical GT-R when looking at the concept with its four round taillights, you’re not alone. While representatives at Nissan wouldn’t quite admit that the next GT-R will be entirely like this or even fully electric, they did say that the responses to the Hyper Force concept would be closely monitored as the company makes its plans for the performance cars to come.
Subaru Sport Mobility Concept
As a link back to the show where the Subaru SVX debuted, this year’s Sport Mobility Concept is another forcefully styled coupé, although one with a ride height that suggests off-road intentions.
Subaru says the concept has an electric powertrain and can “control all four wheels at will”, suggesting quad motors, rear-wheel steering, and the ability to crawl through the wilderness. The Sport Mobility Concept has muscular looks, with a squared-off front and boxy fenders, giving it an assertive stance.
Subaru showed one interior photo that looks surprisingly production-ready, with a rectilinear steering wheel, a pair of conventional-looking screens, and plenty of physical buttons.
The Subaru Sports Mobility’s chances at production are probably relatively low, but it shows that Subaru is at least weighing how to approach the electric performance cars. In the future, features of this concept may trickle down to the electric STI sports model Subaru has promised us before 2030.
Finally, something completely different: the Yamaha Tricera. The three-wheeler proves that attempts to split the difference between cars and motorcycles will continue into the electric age.
Yamaha says it features a steerable (single) rear wheel, in addition to those at the front, to “sharpen turn-in response”, which sounds both intriguing and terrifying.