You ever love something so much it hurts? You try to ignore it, try to distract yourself to stave off that pang of pining, until it inevitably rises to the surface and all those emotions come flooding in. That’s sort of how I felt when I first saw Suzuki’s new Misano concept this morning. I really miss Suzuki.
The Misano, which derives its name from the Italian circuit famous for MotoGP racing and dedicated to the late Marco Simoncelli, was designed by 24 master’s program students at Italy’s Istituto Europeo di Design in collaboration with the Japanese car and motorcycle manufacturer. Inspired by the brand’s history of making fun things on two and four wheels, it’s an all-electric roadster with tandem-style seating and a yoke where you’d expect to find a steering wheel. I’d argue a yoke doesn’t evoke a motorcycle much more than a wheel does, but I suppose handlebars would have been a little awkward in the cramped driver compartment.
The design is simple and timeless: a wedge silhouette, little in the way of a windscreen and one roll hoop behind the passenger, trailing off to a minimal rear deck and practically no overhang. It’s not the most novel pitch in the world, but maybe that’s why it works.
A window in the door, like the McLaren Senna had and the new Bronco almost had, ensures the driver never feels too removed from the asphalt, just like a rider. Meanwhile, the car’s battery pack sits right of the seats. Copper accents tie it all together. What’s not to love?
The Misano is so thoroughly Suzuki, too. Part of the reason I miss Suzuki’s cars is that the brand always had a knack for something I can describe only as “playful performance.” Not necessarily performance for the sake of competition, speed or execution of a goal, unless that goal was fun. And it was present across the variety of cars it built, from the plucky-but-nimble SX4 to the sport-sedan-on-a-budget Kizashi and, of course, the honest-and-adorable Jimny. Suzuki “got it” then and still gets it now.
In fact, the Misano isn’t even Suzuki’s first stab at a roadster with the soul of a sportbike. In 2001, Suzuki stuffed the 1.3-liter four-cylinder from a Hayabusa into the body of a Braun electric trimmer to give us the GSX-R/4 concept. Sure, it’s peak millennium, but in the good way — like Bondi blue iMacs or the last-gen Toyota MR2 that looked like a cute anime Porsche.
When we lost Suzuki in the States nearly a decade ago, we lost an optimistic, delightful presence in the industry. And nobody stepped in to fill those shoes — something the Misano has just painfully reminded me.