From electric cars to full-blooded 4-wheeled rockets, we've definitely seen our fair share of ingenuity being added into cars. Japanese automakers are some of the best in the world and it's totally unsurprising that they're responsible for pretty mind-blowing cars in the past. Trends in the car market come and go, some stick for extended periods of time while some aren't so resistant to time. Nonetheless, these trends start their way from designers' noggins to the drawing board then translated into concept cars to be revealed at auto shows for the public to feast their eyes on. Regular people and car enthusiasts alike are always quick to flock to press releases and social media to mull over these new peculiarities.
Concept cars are surely fun to ponder on especially when they have a few tricks up their sleeves. Some of these quirks are legitimate features that actually make the vehicle better in one way or another but some are outright publicity stunts as well. With that said, we've encountered concept cars for new models or updates on existing models. We were fortunate enough to have the bulk of the design of some concept cars on what the car makers actually released; but for other models, we weren't so lucky (needless to say that a lot of people were royally pissed). You certainly won’t be judged if you are one of those people who express their frustrations when manufacturers don’t go through with the concepts they made themselves.
20 Mazda KOERU
Swept back headlights are becoming a distinct trend in car designs as of late and rightfully so, they are fashionable for more avant-garde palates and Mazda is one of the first to clearly install them in all their models and the KOERU concept car is a big factor in that feat. It was a full-sized SUV with massive 21-inch wheels that would likely put any ricer to shame and a dual exhaust system. Sadly, what we had in the form of the Mazda CX-5 isn’t what we hoped for but nevertheless, it’s a decent vehicle that does its job well.
19 Acura Advanced Sports Car Concepts
Remember a Japanese mid-engine car that could give Ferrari a run for its money? We certainly do, the Honda (or Acura) NSX is considered to be one of the greatest 90’s hero. Unfortunately, the brand killed its only mid-engine vehicle in the early 2000’s and we were merely teased by a couple of concepts for a new iteration of the NSX. The first concept following the NSX was good but the second one really hit the spot as it featured a long hood reminiscent of the cult classic BMW Z3. The hybrid NSX released a few years ago would have big shoes to fill in as the legend was revered by so many. Although going electric is a nice addition, the new NSX is a far cry from what we got a taste of more than a decade ago.
18 Lexus LF-A
Toyota’s involvement in Formula One has long been unnoticed in their fleet of vehicles. Fortunately, the Lexus LF-A concept was released in the 2005 Detroit Auto Show to make buyers across the globe aware of its association with the world’s premium motorsports competition.
However, the one that got released a few years later had larger dimensions compared to the concept car they featured.
Even though the V10 engine and all its glorious howling high up in the rev range is a sensation to behold, the concept car had proportions that it couldn’t imitate. Nonetheless, we were certainly happy with what we got in the end regardless.
17 Mazda MX-5 Super20
SEMA 2010 was graced by a Miata prototype by the name of the Mazda MX-5 Super20. It didn’t have pop up headlights much to the dismay of the large following of the MX-5 but one thing it did have is a Cosworth engine perfect for the little Miata that could. The one that Mazda gave us a few years after the Super20’s reveal was different, to say the least, the company had to follow the edgier profile of all their models and the MX-5 was no different. Even though the hardtop is a nice addition, the third generation’s Super20 is way better and more aggressive than the new MX-5 with even better-supporting modifications to make the vehicle more track worthy.
16 Mazda RX-500
The 1970 Tokyo Motor Show was quite unforgettable, to say the least. Mazda’s RX-500 was one of its notable exhibits and rightfully so since it’s simply an outstanding car, to begin with, the incredibly bulky rear is by far the most recognizable design cue on the whole vehicle.
Along with the admittedly weird rear end, the tail lights are also eccentric in their own right.
Red brake lights of course, but more interestingly, there are multiple brake lights that would progressively light up depending on how hard the driver is braking. A green light would also come on if you were accelerating and a yellow fixture would light up as well if you were cruising.
15 Nissan GT-R50
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is now becoming more and more popular and the participants get increasingly interesting by the year. It’s no surprise that Nissan’s concept car for the GT-R which was designed by Italdesign got a tremendous amount of attention at the event. The best of Japan meets flamboyant Italian styling is definitely a gimmick worth taking a look at. It was originally a GT-R NISMO but to commemorate Nissan’s 50th anniversary (and Italdesign’s as well), the company had to do something special. Unfortunately, we’ll never have this particular GT-R on dealerships world-wide but it is nice to see this collaboration.
14 Subaru WRX
It’s impossible to talk about the Subaru WRX without mentioning the legendary EJ series engine. This motor has been tried and tested through years of usage and experimentation by countless independent tuners.
The new FA20 engine is arguably inferior compared to the 2.5-liter EJ257 and the 2-liter EJ207; although it is nice to have a fresher engine design, it would have been better if Fuji Heavy Industries continued the EJ207 for the WRX.
Aside from the engine, the concept car also featured more aggressive looks compared to what was released at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.
13 Suzuki Swift S
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” says Muhammad Ali and apparently, the Suzuki Swift S followed suit. First of all, gigantic rear wings aren’t for everyone’s taste but if only manufacturers would follow Subaru’s spoiler for the WRX STI, that would be much appreciated.
The Swift is praised for being a fun, sporty hatchback with a price that would never break the bank and a performance package would definitely help the brand.
Although a true sporty Swift is soon to be released for the public, we’ve been dying to get something like the Suzuki Swift S since 2011.
12 Toyota GRMN Sports FR
Tokyo Motor Show is no stranger to peculiar vehicles of interest as many of the Japanese car manufacturers make their big reveals for concepts on this stage. When Toyota surprised us with a Supra-like GT 86, it’s safe to say that enthusiasts of the Japanese automobile giant absolutely lost their wits. The 86 we have now and the soon to come Supra by the partnership between BMW and Toyota would be no match for the GRMN Sports FR supercharged and turbocharged 2-liter boxer engine. We’re glad that they released not only renderings on a screen but also a fully functional concept car that we could contemplate no further.
11 Subaru Cross Sport
Instead of the Subaru XV or Crosstrek, a mix between the BRZ and the Levorg would have been a welcome addition to Fuji Heavy Industries’ formidable lineup of vehicles, of course, we're talking about the Subaru Cross Sport concept.
Modern styling and a more aggressive look would surely help any model to be more appealing to any potential buyer.
If the Japanese car maker was feeling more extravagant, they could have even dropped in their brand new FA20 turbocharged engine for that extra oomph. Unluckily, all we got was a more family-oriented station wagon and a crossover inclined to be a daily driver instead of a full-fledged all-wheel-drive monster for the loose gravel.
10 Mitsubishi Evo XI Hybrid
Way back in 2008, Mitsubishi unveiled a hybrid concept car that would replace or even refresh the Lancer Evolution name. It would have been complete with an all-wheel-drive system and 500 horses that would compete with the Porsche 911 or the Nissan GT-R. Sadly, the hybrid never got a foothold since the brand was struggling to make ends meet in the car market especially after the economic crisis right around that time. A new iteration of the Evolution might not be what the company needs right now but it is what the people want therefore it is what the people should get, preferably in the near future. Mitsubishi better straighten up their act.
9 Toyota FT-HS
Being dubbed and hyped as a modern Toyota Supra would put a lot of weight on anybody’s shoulders, B-pillars in this case. Although the FT-HS never got to the assembly line, some of its styling cues are quite pronounced in the GT-86 and lives on as a distant dream of ours. The car had a mediocre 4-speed automatic transmission but that didn’t stop the FT-HS from getting a 0-60 time of about 4 seconds, that’s a respectable achievement if you ask anyone. We highly doubt that the up-coming BMW/Toyota partnership would yield a better vehicle than this one.
8 Honda CR-Z
The 40th Tokyo Auto Show was filled with surprises such as the Honda CR-Z concept. Even though hybrids were a fairly new technology that car makers began to tap into, the one that was shown back in 2007 had a lot of potential and onlookers were hooked.
As for all first-generation hybrids, the CR-Z tends to break often since the car wasn’t perfected at the time when they were selling.
The interior renderings featured an incredibly futuristic vibe much to the public’s arousal and that was definitely a factor in how much hype was surrounding the first Honda hybrid.
7 Toyota Prius Hybrid
The dawn of the 21st century brought in the Toyota Prius, now the world’s best-selling hybrid car at 4.3 million units sold worldwide. The Prius concept car revealed at 1995 featured a rather chic interior fit for a nondescript vegan who would lash out at someone eating meat in public. Its electric motor was efficient and had more environmentally friendly emissions compared to any gasoline-powered engine as expected. However, the Prius we got two years later was just a mundane Japanese car that didn’t differentiate itself from the other vehicles in Toyota’s fleet of cars.
6 Nissan 350Z
As we all may very well know already, Nissan knows a thing or two about building amazing cars which is exactly why when the company announced an update to the Fairlady, some of us just went crazy!
The sketches from different Nissan design studios were released and we were met with a very modern, sweeping body and one sketch even had a boat-tail theme.
The 350Z that came out of the assembly line wasn’t exactly what we expected but it was still a nice car to drive though not really what we would call outstanding in any case.
5 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Concept-S
Mitsubishi has since shifted their energy into making vehicles with more utility than cars that are built for more enthusiastic driving. With the end of the Lancer Evolution out came a hybrid compact SUV concept that garnered a lot of attention at the 2014 Paris Motor Show. It was fed by a 12 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 2.0-liter 4 banger Dual Overhead Cams MIVEC engine which is a lively combination for anybody’s standards. The Outlander PHEV Concept-S also sported a contemporary chrome radiator grille that allowed the headlights to be housed in them seamlessly which completed the look quite well.
4 Mitsubishi G4 Compact Sedan
The G4 Mirage we have now is far from what Mitsubishi showed us 5 years ago way back at the 34th Bangkok International Motor Show. A little sedan and an incredibly tiny hatchback at an extremely competitive price point is one way to conjure up sales in the car market but it would have been best to keep the design cues they released in 2013.
It was a fresh take on how vehicles as a whole have progressed through decades of research and development with its modern styling reminiscent of a present-day Tesla.
Although it isn’t a hybrid or an electric car, the fuel economy of both the concept car and the actual vehicle released are nothing to scoff at which is an unambiguous plus for us.
3 Nissan Kicks
Crossovers are gaining a lot of popularity since they offer the best of both worlds between sedans and SUV’s. With that being said, it’s no surprise that even with Nissan’s already successful Juke at the helm of crossover sales; they just had to release another similarly designed vehicle but only bigger and more for everyone’s taste. The concept car we were shown about half a decade prior featured a bit more flair than what we received. Less fashionable rims are among the few details we sort of dislike and the muted styling as well doesn’t appeal to us that much.
2 Acura Concept SUV-X
Apparently, Acura has stepped up their game on putting together a well-constructed vehicle. Although the Acura MDX is mainly sold in Asian markets, the concept car they released way back in the 2013 Auto Shanghai was pretty much an SUV that had the looks of a younger James Dean.
It was rumored to have a hybrid system in order to have a more competitive fuel economy against other luxury SUVs available on the market.
China is a big consumer in the car industry and if only Acura released a vehicle that was more similar to the Concept SUV-X, they would have been bathing in wads of cash by now.
1 Scion iM
Installing drilled brake rotors into your concept car is one gutsy move even for Toyota’s (or in this case, Scion’s) standards. Unbeknownst to some, Toyota has yet to have a respectable hot hatch in recent years and the Scion iM concept car would have been a great entry to put into the fray.
Unfortunately, Scion was not up to the task yet as they backed out of the enticing features that their concept car had back in the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show.
Although the in that was made available to us had a nice fuel economy and easy ownership, it was somewhat lacking in the performance side with a 0-60 mph time of 9.1 seconds, disappointing for the 1.8-liter engine.
Sources: japanesenostalgiccar.com, usatoday.com, cars101.com, motor1.com, caranddriver.com