The Autozam AZ-1 Is The Coolest Car You Can Own If You're Willing To Make Sacrifices

Today on Regular Car Reviews, we have the Mazda Autozam AZ-1. One of the least regular cars ever made.

This is a Japanese domestic market legend, arguably the peak car of the Bubble Era, a product born of extravagant weirdness the likes of which we will probably never see again. A niche within a niche, built anyway despite it being unclear who the audience truly was. And yet as Mr. Regular describes it, like the friends you had when you were 12—loyal, up for adventure, eager to explore the world with you, unencumbered by the ugliness of life yet to come.

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The video also dives into the AZ-1's unique history. A joint venture between microcar mainstay Suzuki and Mazda that had its genesis in the mid-1980s, it went to the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show as three different but similar concepts. Three years later, one of them went to production, built by Suzuki and sold by Mazda through the latter’s Autozam sales channel. At the time it competed with several sub-Miata kei-class sports sports cars like the Honda Beat and Suzuki’s own Cappuccino.

Anyway, the AZ-1 couldn’t survive the Japanese recession of the 1990s, so it was only made for three years and remains relatively rare today. But more and more of them are finding their way to the U.S., like this blue example in the video, which later sold on Bring A Trailer.

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What’s it like to drive? Tiny, if you’re a tall and wide-assed American. Even Mr. Regular, who I’d describe as thin and of average height, has to take his shoes off to work the pedals because they are so small. The bizarre windows aren’t great for visibility. And it attracts so much attention it’s kind of hard to take anywhere.

But it’s so small that it feels fast, even if it really isn’t. He says the kilometer speedo actually feels like miles per hour when you’re driving it—much quicker. It has to be revved constantly and howls in your ear when it does.

Worth $16,000, like this blue one? Maybe for now. Mr. Regular says it’s pretty much the coolest car you can own at the moment—but he’s not sure that moment will last forever, and it comes with such immense sacrifices that you have to really want it.

I don’t care. I do.

Editor-in-Chief at Jalopnik. 2002 Toyota 4Runner.

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DISCUSSION

flyingfrenchy
Flavien Vidal

Ok so I’ll just copy-paste what I’ve already written as a comment on the video... AZ-1? Meh...

I sell Cappuccino, Beat, AZ-1 and many other JDM cars for a living, based in Japan... And I agree... I have an AZ-1 in stock now and my customers are fighting for it in spite of me telling them that it’s the worst of the ABC in stock form! It doesn’T matter... They don’t want another Cappuccino, they don’T want a Beat... AUTOZAM!!!! You didn’t really review the car over the limit and how it is to push it so I’ll add a little to that review... The AZ-1 has the worst stock suspensions EVER. The engine is located quite high and the suspensions are not hard enough which makes the body roll feel terrible! On top of that, weight transfert between corners make the rear feel extremely unstable as it lacks suspension to hold all the highly placed weight... Lift off oversteer is massive and you neither have horsepower nor a LSD to bring the car back on track once the tail goes out too far. Oh and it’s CRAMPED. The Honda Beat is the slowest but if you’re not TOO fat, anyone, no matter how tall they are can fit in one.... The Cappuccino is a bit tighter, but well, it feels fast and its worth the lack of room.. But the AZ-1?? Fuck me it’S tight! If you still have the stock steering wheel (which is HUGE) you won’t be able to move your two hands on the wheel more than half a turn because your legs will block your hands! Oh and I’m 6'2... I fit.. but not fun! So yeah the AZ-1 is not very good... But I have one for sale if you want. 12k$, shipping to the US included (you still have to import it yourself...). But it’s not very good... You have been warned.