1994 Subaru Vivio RX-R

Sold and Exported

The first time I test drove a supercharged Subaru Vivio RX-R I was more than a little impressed. More than impressed. More than very impressed. I was thrilled. And that little car, along with the Suzuki Alto Works, is what turned me onto the world of Japanese Kei Sports Cars. I finally bought a Kei sports car myself, a turbo charged Mitsubishi Dangan, and I had it for eight and a half years of happy, and thrilling, motoring.

This hot little Kei car rocket that we are exporting now from Japan to the USA is the two-wheel drive version of the RX-R. There is also a full-time four-wheel-drive (AWD) version. I’ve driven both on the back roads and mountain roads here in Japan and I solidly recommend either version for serious motoring fans who are looking for something different, something delightful, in their motoring life.

The AWD Vivio RX-R I drove belonged to an oddball friend of mine who works as a mechanic in a car dealership. Now, it’s not that he is a mechanic that makes him an oddball, nor that he works in car sales; it’s his hobby that makes him a bit odd in my estimation: He collects Japanese Kei sports cars. This is not a common hobby, but it is a hobby of which I thoroughly approve. I’d collect Kei sports cars, too, if I could, but I don’t have enough parking space! He does, and at last count he had five Japanese Kei sports cars: A Honda Beat, a Suzuki Alto Works, A Suzuki Cappuccino, a Suzuki Cervo Mode Turbo, and the 4WD Subaru Vivio RX-R that he let me have an afternoon with.

That was a fun car, and it is a bit different from all the other Kei sports cars available here in Japan. The key point about the Vivio RX-R is that, rather than using a turbo charger to give it high power in a light body, it uses a supercharger (with an intercooler).

As soon as you put the accelerator down hard in an RX-R you feel the difference with, say, a turbo charged Cappuccino: No boost lag. With a supercharged engine the power comes on hard in the low rpm range. The supercharged Vivio is like that, and with the all-wheel drive system on the first RX-R that I test drove, all that power goes straight to the road and you just rocket forward. So here you’ve got this little car, with a nice, rigid, very compact and light (well under 800kg) hatchback body, putting low end supercharged grunt down with all four wheels. Like I said at the beginning: Thrilling. Handling was crisp and tight and very responsive. Turning sharp. Just what you’d expect in a sports car weighing 760kg. And all this in the completely stock version of the car.

The two-wheel drive (FF) Vivio RX-R that I test drove later was lighter still, at only 710kgs. That car had been modified with coil overs, much harder springs than stock, and lowered about a centimeter, maybe a bit more. The handling of that RX-R just took my breath away, and all that supercharged intercooled low end grunt going through just the front wheels meant that wheel spin from a standing start was always available if you wanted to horse around. (And I did!)

Both Vivios had the simple, clean instruments that you see on this one here that we are exporting direct from Japan to our customer in America. Just take a moment and click on our picture of the gauges. Clean. Easy to read. There is no visual clutter so that, when you are ripping around corners, or blipping up the throttle for some nice shift matching, a quick glance with your eyes is all you need for these gauges to tell you what you need to know.

And look again, Gents, look again at those gauges. Do you see it? Yes: A true 9,000rpm redline!

Good things come in small packages, Guys, good things come in small packages like a nice, clean Vivio RX-R Kei sports car exported directly from Japan.

Kei sports cars like the Subaru Vivio RX-R, the Suzuki Alto Works, and the Suzuki Cappuccino, are catching on more and more in the countries that we most often export Japanese used cars to, like the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, France, and other EU countries. The reasons for this growing popularity are obvious, and we at Japan Car Direct are scoring good units from the Japanese used car auctions (as we did with this black RX-R), and from the Japanese secondhand car dealers.

Sometimes I worry about telling you guys overseas about these thrilling Japanese Kei sports cars because I am afraid that you are going to buy them all up and export them from Japan, leaving me with nothing to choose from. But that’s o.k. I’ve had mine, and I am well satisfied with my motoring experience in a Kei Sports Car.