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New Daihatsu Copen replacement set for debut

The Daihatsu Copen was always about being super-cute rather than super-quick. And that formula will continue as Daihatsu unveils five concepts under the Kopen (with a K) name as successors to one of Japan’s smallest sports cars. All five concepts will appear at the Tokyo motor show later this month, with the version that draws the strongest response potentially bound for the production line.

The similarity of the Kopen concepts with the 2011 D-X concept also suggests development for the Copen is in the advanced stages, with only the surface design to be finalised. The Copen is a halo model for Daihatsu, which specializes in small cars, so it’s important for the brand to nail an appealing design.

The Copen was also one of the last Daihatsus sold in Australia before Japan’s oldest car manufacturer was removed from our market in 2007 by parent company Toyota. It continued to sell overseas until production ceased earlier this year, making a replacement model imminent. When it launched in 2003, the Copen combined a 0.66-litre four cylinder turbo engine into a light body on a diminutive footprint.

Its 50kW and 100Nm were enough to power the small sports car, but not enough to break any records. A folding aluminium roof and a low centre of gravity and curved bodywork made this a popular cheap car in many markets worldwide - especially in its home market of Japan. The Kopen concepts stick to this formula, although the concept cars rely on a CVT automatic transmission (very popular in Japan) instead of the manual setup that was available in Australia.

But the diminutive turbo engine, folding metal roof and toy car feel remain. The sports roadster concept will coincide with the Tokyo show unveiling of Honda’s S660 – another similarly sized roadster. Although there is a small chance we’ll see the latter in Australia, it’s unlikely Toyota will consider reviving the new Copen in our market.