Best Cars of the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show

Concept Cars

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From a surprisingly sexy electric coupe to a motorcycle with artificial intelligence, the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show had something for any enthusiast interested in looking five, 10, or more years into the automotive future. Mazda debuted two incredibly bold concepts and Suzuki previewed the next-gen Jimny in the form of a cool concept. We walked the auto-show floor to bring you our favorites; keep reading to learn about the Best Cars of the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show.

The Vision concept is an extension of the themes started by the RX-Vision concept two years ago, but it is grown and sexy in its own right. Unfortunately, both of those concepts are just too far in the realm of Ain’t Never Gonna Happen. Mazda’s Kai concept, on the other hand, is a very believable as what the next-generation Mazda3 could look like. Will the deceptively long hood and rear-drive proportions make it through to production? Tough to say, but I remain hopeful about those headlights, aggressive hunchback profile, and super clean body surfacing. Kai is the antidote to the ridiculously busy bodywork (no floating roof here) of Mazda’s larger domestic rivals. —Ed Loh

Yes, Mitsubishi had the audacity to attach the Evo name to an electric vehicle, an SUV no less. The purists won’t get over it, ever. But Mitsubishi is lucky to be alive, and low-volume boy racers won’t keep the lights on. A performance SUV might. Somehow this big-shouldered, tight-hipped, high-beltline, and shallow-greenhouse concept cuts through the clutter. It has one of the more dramatic floating roofs and looks strong and agile, as Mitsubishi intended. Execs say it is a concept only, but design cues will make their way into production, as will a flat screen along the dash. The taillights will become a signature design detail. Tech such as autonomous driving and artificial intelligence are also destined for future models. And if it’s quick, powerful, and agile, maybe it deserves the Evo name. —Alisa Priddle

Daihatsu DN Compagno Concept

The coolest car in the show is one we can’t buy in the U.S. But we should be able to. If you were looking for a groovy first car and lived in an urban community with tight parking (San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York), wouldn’t this be great? Surging forward on its haunches like an energetic puppy, the DN Compagno concept has the face of a Volvo, the side profile and roofline of an Audi A3, and the back end like something out of Pininfarina’s 1965 catalog. It looks even better in person. Daihatsu chief designer Toshio Shibagaki says it rides on a sub-B segment platform, but at 165.3 inches long, it splits the difference between a Toyota Yaris hatchback and Yaris iA sedan, with a similar width. The instrument displays are digital-modern but housed in a retro framework. It’s powered by a 1.0-liter turbo, but we could probably squeeze Toyota’s 1.2-liter 114-hp, 136 lb-ft engine in there. Why a Toyota engine? Because Toyota owns Daihatsu. So let’s tell @Toyota to #BringCompagnoHere. —Mark Rechtin

Yamaha Motoroid Concept

Yes, it has two wheels, but we are Motor Trend, and that means we can write about motorcycles if necessary. Aside from looking like the transport for our new insect overlords, the Motoroid concept electric motorcycle has artificial intelligence that can recognize its owner via facial recognition (take that, bike thieves!) and, as Yamaha puts it, “is capable of interacting in other capacities like a living creature.” It can stand upright on its own without a kickstand and roll forward without its rider from a tightly packed parking space. The bike’s bodywork actively embraces the rider’s waist and chest, and its embedded haptic sensors quickly react to the motions of the rider. Oh, and its lithium-ion batteries drive a rear-wheel hub motor. —Mark Rechtin

Honda Sports EV Concept

One of the biggest hurdles electric cars have to tackle before they overtake internal combustion cars in the next decade is overcoming the stereotype of EVs being dorky to look at or uninspiring to drive. While there are a few exceptions to the rule—the Tesla Model 3 and Model S spring to mind—EVs still have quite a ways to go.

Enter the Honda Sports EV concept.  A follow-up to the gorgeous Honda Urban EV concept it showed in Frankfurt, the Sports EV takes the retro-futuristic motif to a whole new level. The low, wide, ’70s-inspired sheetmetal hides a battery pack and an electric motor, with the car’s proportions hinting at rear-wheel drive. Given how good to drive recent Hondas have been, the Sports EV appears promising if Honda ever puts it into production. —Christian Seabaugh

Yamaha Cross Hub Concept

Yes, I’m picking a “car” from a renowned motorcycle manufacturer. Why? Because we’re talking about the Tokyo Motor Show where the wildest concepts see the light of day, and boy did Yamaha deliver a doozy. The Cross Hub concept is based on a platform mashup of two previous Yamaha concept cars (2013 Motiv and 2015 Sports Ride) developed in conjunction with renowned designer Gordon Murray. Murray didn’t play role in the development of the Cross Hub, but that isn’t important. Nor is any discussion of powertrain (which could be a traditional 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine, electric motor, or hybrid combo). What’s crazy about the Cross Hub is the packaging and seating layout. Check out the diamond pattern seating configuration and cargo area just large enough to strap down an adult’s motocross bike (and child’s) on the diagonal. Funky? Cool? Yep. —Ed Loh

Subaru Viziv Performance Concept

I debated leaving this one out because Subaru has a knack of over-promising on design with concepts, only to then drastically under-deliver with the production version—the current WRX is the perfect example of that. Regardless, the Subaru Viziv Performance concept, our first peek at the next-gen Subaru WRX and WRX STI, is way too cool to leave out. If the next-gen WRX retains even a portion of the Viziv Performance concept’s good looks, I think we’re going to be in good shape. —Christian Seabaugh

Suzuki E-Survivor, XBee and Spacia Concepts

This trio of mini car concepts from Suzuki make us wish Suzuki was still selling vehicles in the U.S. Plainly speaking, they look like fun. The e-Survivor is an open top, ladder-frame lightweight body, four-wheel-drive vehicle, but this next-gen look at a Jimny is electric, with an electric motor in each wheel. The Spacia concept is a tiny but tall wagon with a low floor, sliding doors, and lots of space. The XBee, pronounced  ”cross-bee,” is a mini Toyota FJ Cruiser or Mini. On the Outdoor Adventure version, it has wood panels on the sides. The Spacia and XBee are coming soon, but not for us. —Alisa Priddle

Suzuki E-Survivor Concept

Ever since I went to Iceland a few years ago to drive an Arctic Trucks Toyota Hilux, I’ve been obsessed with the Suzuki Jimny. Those little Jeep-like things, the modern successor to the Suzuki Samurai, were EVERYWHERE, going off-road in places you’d never expect from something that small.  The current Jimny is fast approaching its 20th birthday, and the Suzuki E-Survivor concept is our first official peek at what the next-gen Jimny could look like. Ignore the concept’s open cockpit and electric motors, because more importantly the E-Survivor shows that both dimensionally and visually, the next-gen Jimny hasn’t lost the plot. —Christian Seabaugh

OK, so this is not a coupe—it’s a four-door sedan. And it’s not Mazda’s normal fare because it is a full-size sedan from a maker of cars that top out at midsize. Mazda is not teasing a future large flagship sedan; it just wanted the proportions to show what its designers can do and the result is sexy, sinewy, and simply succulent. There is no room for a proper front suspension in this show car because many panels break production rules. But as a design vision, it is bang on, and the actual production cars it influences will be better for its existence. –Alisa Priddle

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