The Sporty Kei car - The history of the Daihastu Copen #Blog


Today I am going to give you a little history lesson about the Daihatsu Copen.
The Daihatsu Copen is a small sports car built for the kei car class in Japan and is built in the Copen factory in Ikeda, Osaka, Japan.
The Copen released after the famous “ABC” trio went out of production, there fore it had no direct competitors. It was the first and only sports kei car of the modern era at the time.
The first Copen was shown at the 1999 Tokyo motor show, and it was put into production in 2002 and is currently in its second generation.
Daihatsu still makes the Copen today.

1991 Daihatsu X-021

In 1991 Daihatsu revealed a concept car called the X-021. It was a light weight sports car that weighed only 700KG and had a 1.6 litre inline 4 that made 140BHP. The reason for it being so light is because its body was made from fibreglass.
Sadly this concept stayed a concept and never made it into production.

1993 Daihatsu Personal Coupe

The Personal Coupe was shown at the 1993 Tokyo motor show. It was a 2 door coupe and it had a 1.3L SOHC 4 cylinder engine.
This also never made production.

1997 Daihatsu FR-X Concept

The FR-X was a front engine, rear wheel drive sports coupe. It had a 850cc turbocharged engine that made 100hp. It had a 2+2 seating layout and a sloping rear roof line.
It also never went into production.

Concept drawings

The Concept drawings of the Copen show a very bubbly and curvy 2 seater with 3 spoke wheels, a futuristic interior and body coloured roll over hoops.

1999 Daihatsu Kopen

The year is 1999 and we are at the Tokyo motor show. Daihatsu reveals the Kopen concept.
It is a little sports car for the kei class of vehicle in japan.
The Kopen gathered lots of attention and wowed the public with its electronically operated hard top roof. It was popular due to the fact that the famous ABC trio of sports kei’s were old, outdated and going out of production, and it was the first ever kei car to have an electric hard top.
It even had disc brakes on all four wheels and double wishbone suspension! (sadly these two features were removed later on)

Compared to the X-021, Personal Coupe and FR-X concepts, you can see some similarity’s such as, the light weight, sportiness and the rounded shape. I’d also like to point out that the engines gradually got smaller, starting out as a 1.6 and ending in 659cc. It’s almost like they were testing their ability to make a sports car before scaling it down to a “safer” car that they could sell more of.
Daihatsu then made the smart decision of putting it into production.

2001 Pre-production Daihatsu Copen

The Copen is shown again and has had some minor changes such as a new interior that very closely resembles the final interior, new door mirrors, and a slight name change from Kopen to Copen.

2002 Daihatsu Copen (L880K)

When Daihatsu put the first gen Copen into production, they changed the name from Kopen to Copen. Copen being a combination of two words, Compact and Open, and they mostly kept the design of the super cute concept Kopen.
Compared with the Kopen, the Copen had different door mirrors, interior, and badges and slightly altered roof mechanism. (Watch video above from 2:26 and look carefully behind the seats. You will see an automatic cover that raises and lowers to close the gap between the boot and the cabin)
It also lost the rear disk brakes, using cheaper drums instead, and the double wishbone suspension was changed to torsion beam in the rear and McPherson in the front. This was likely done to keep costs down.

The Copen was hand assembled and fitted with Daihatsu’s 659cc JB-DET engine, which is a newer version of the JB-JL engine. It also had a bigger brother, the JC-DET which is pretty much the same engine but with a couple more cc’s and was found in the Storia X4.
It was also exported to other Asian and European countries, and in 2007 they squeezed the 1.3 litre K3-VE engine into it for the European markets. The K3-VE was jointly developed by Daihatsu and Toyota and could be found in other Daihatsu’s and Toyota models including the Sirion and Yaris/Vitz. The European markets also had slightly longer gear ratios to make the Copen a little quieter at higher speeds.
The 659cc models were RHD only and the 1.3L models were available in LHD or RHD.

Japan also got a detectable top version which was 30KG lighter. The roof was a fixed resin top that could be easily removed manually. The roll bar was optional on this model.
It was discontinued August 2007.
Watch the video below from 21:30 to see how the roof is removed.

The specs for Japan / Australia (2002-2012)

Japan: Chassis Code: L880K
•659cc Inline 4
•Twin scroll Turbo
•63HP @6,000RPM
•109NM @2,500RPM
•Red Line 8,500 RPM
•830KG (Active Top)
•800KG (Detectable Top)
•0-60 11.7 seconds
•5 Speed Manual or 4 speed automatic
•Open Differentrial, Daihatsu’s Super LSD was an option and was made standard later in production.
•Front Engine Front Wheel Drive

The specs for Europe (2003-2007-2009)

Europe: Chassis Code: L880K / L881K
•JB-DET, K3-VE in later models
•659cc / 1,297cc Inline 4
•Twin scroll Turbo / Naturally aspirated
•67 HP / 86HP @6,000RPM
•100NM @2,500RPM / 119NM @ 4,400RPM
•Red Line 8,000 RPM / 6,800 RPM
•830KG / 850KG
•0-60 11.7 seconds / 9.5 seconds
•5 Speed Manual
•Open Differential
•Front Engine Front Wheel Drive

2003 Daihatsu Copen SARD Special

In 2003 a SARD Special was made. It had a huge rear wing, wider wheel arches, a body kit, a 1.3L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that made 140hp and 130nm, and some bright yellow paint.

2004 Daihatsu Copen Vivid

The Vivid edition was limited production and it was only available in red and it came with all sorts of optional extras as standard, like the Momo steering wheel and tonneau cover.
I have seen many sellers claim that their Copen is a Vivid edition in their advert even though it isn’t, so be careful so you don’t get scammed!

2003 1st anniversary edition

This special edition was made to celebrate a year of the Copen. It came with tan leather heated seats and a momo steering wheel as standard.
It was later made available again as the “tan leather edition”

2004 2nd anniversary edition

This model celebrated the Copens 2nd birthday. It came with heated Recaro seats and a momo steering wheel as standard.

Copen S

The Copen S was an option package that gave you a sticker on the side and an extra chassis brace.
Part numbers:
Right brace: 65365-97201-
Left brace: 65366-97201-
Right sticker: 75381-97201-
Left sticker: 75382-97201-

2005 Daihatsu Copen ZZ Concept

In 2005 Daihatsu revealed the Copen ZZ concept. It was powered by a 1.5L engine that made 103BHP and it had a wider body too. It was also left hand drive.
In my opinion, it is basically just a concept for the 1.3L Euro Copen that released in 2007.

2006 Ultimate edition

To celebrate the Copens 4th birthday, the Ultimate edition released. It had BBS wheels, recaro seats, Bilstein suspension and of course, a momo steering wheel all as standard.

Visual differences between 1.3L and 659cc

Speaking of the 1.3L, visually they are almost identical to the 659cc, but there are a few tiny differences.
•1.3L Copen in some European countries have slightly larger mirrors. (as seen in above picture)
•All 1.3L Copen came with optional spoiler as standard.
•1.3L Copen has a small sticker that reads “Daihatsu” under the Copen badge.
•Momo steering wheel is red and black on the 1.3L.

The Copen's Popularity + 2007 Ultimate edition II Memorial

The Copen was very popular in Japan and sold more than expected, which is why it remained on sale for so long, and to celebrate Daihatsu’s 100th anniversary they made a 100th anniversary edition which was fully loaded with all the options.
BBS wheels, Chrome grille, Clear tail lights, Recaro seats, white gauges etc.
It was available for only 4 months in 2007. Later in 2008 it was made available again but as the Ultimate edition II.
The Copen also has a cult following in other countries around the world, and huge Copen meets Happen every year. The biggest meets include, Copen Treffen in Europe and Love Local in Japan.

The reason for its popularity is simple.
It was the only kei car on sale at the time that was sporty, fun to drive, and had a hard top convertiable roof.
It was also quite tunable because the copen was de-tuned to make 63 HP in Japan. In fact if you look at a dyno graph you can see the HP flattens out once you go past 6,000 RPM. Apparently boost is reduced to maintain 63 HP and the air intake is very restrictive. It is also very easy to bump the power up to 80HP with a piggyback D-Sport ECU. (Only works with JDM and Aus model)
Oh and remember its bigger brother, the JC-DET? Yeah, that opens up a nice window for opportunity. Companies like Halfway, can increase the bore for your JB-DET and they managed to get 140HP out of the little thing!
MoFAC can even get up to (and beyond) 210HP
Below is a video of a stock copen on a dyno.

Production of the first gen Copen ended in 2012 in Japan and we wouldn’t see a replacement until 2014…
However Daihatsu had plenty of concepts to show us until then.

2007 Daihatsu OFC-1 Concept

In 2007 Daihatsu showed off the OFC-1 Concept. It remained very similar to the current copen of the time but it had a seven speed auto with paddle shifters and a three piece folding roof rather than a two piece one. Part of the roof was also made from liquid crystals and could be made transparent or opaque with the push of a button.

2008 Facelift

In 2008 The JDM Copen had a tiny facelift. The antenna was removed due to a new safety rule in Japan.
And in 2007 the Detachable top version was discontinued.
Apart from that, it is exactly the same as it was when it launched.

2009 Ultimate leather edition

This one was the same as the Ultimate edition II except it had leather seats instead of the cloth Recaros.

2010 10th anniversary edition

This was the last special version of the L880K Copen. It came with BBS wheels, and a black plated grille.
The 1st gen Copen was then discontinued in 2012.

2011 CCP

CCP stood for Copen Challenge Project. Three concepts for a future Copen were made.
α, β and γ
The γ later became the D-X concept, which then turned into the XMZ and then the Copen X-Play.
And α and β became the D-R then the RMZ then the Copen Robe.

2011 Daihatsu D-X Concept(s)

At the 2011 Tokyo auto show, Daihatsu revealed the D-X concept. It was a 2 seater convertible kei car with a tough suv-esque look.

2012 Daihatsu D-R Concept(s)

At the 2012 Indonesia International Motor Show, Daihatsu revealed the D-R concept. It was based on the same chassis as the D-X but it lost the chunky black fenders and bumpers.
It was also Kei spec and it had a CVT transmission.
There was two D-R’s, a convertible and the D-R Estate concept.

2013 Kopen concept(s)

In 2013 Daihatsu showed off two concepts for the next Copen.
(The one in blue later became the Copen Robe and the one in green became the X-Play)
It had a new aggressive design, engine and chassis called the “D-Frame, as well as removable body panels. Fans of the first Copen were pleased that Diahatsu was still interested in the sports kei market.

2014 Daihatsu Copen (LA400K)

The second Gen Copen LA400K came to the Japanese market in 2014 with a new chassis and engine but same formula, front engine, front wheel drive, open top fun!
Work on the new Copen actually started back in 2010!

So what exactly is new?
Daihatsu developed a new chassis which they call D Frame. It is more rigid and safer in a collision.
The new copen also has plastic body panels which are pretty easy to swap out. Owners of the first gen Copen enjoyed customizing their car so Daihatsu embraced this and made it even easier to customize the copen.
The name is the same as the L880 but the meaning is slightly different, it means, “Community of Open car life” instead of “Compact & Open”.
The 2nd Gen was also more aerodynamic and produces significantly less drag.
The wheel size was increased by 1inch.
They also changed the engine.

The specs

Japan: Chassis Code: LA400K
•658cc Inline 3
•63HP @6,400RPM
•92NM @3,200RPM
•Red Line 7,500 RPM
•850KG (Manual)
•870KG (Auto)
•0-60 No official figures, however according to the CVT takes 13.4 seconds, and the 5MT takes 12.1 seconds.
•5 Speed Manual or CVT
•Open Differential, Optional Limited Slip Differential
•Front Engine Front Wheel Drive

There are three versions of the copen you can buy.
First there is the Robe, which is an aggressive looking copen.
Then there is the X-Play which looks like some sort of crossover thing.
And later on the Cero came out, bringing the cute looks of the original back.
Mechanically they are all identical to each other and you could always change the body panels and lights to turn your Copen into one of the other three.

2015 Design Concepts

In 2015 Daihatsu made two concepts for a shooting brake and a coupe. Mechanically they are unchanged, and the shooting brake is not yet in production. Speaking of the shooting brake, it looks similar to the D-R Estate concept from 2012.

The 2nd gen Copen is still popular in Japan as many fans from the first model were excited to get an all new Copen, however there is a new sports kei car that the Copen now has to compete with for the first time.
The Honda S660.

A Competitor

The S660 is Honda’s answer to the Copen’s success.
Honda made a modern interpretation of the Beat from the 90’s.
The S660 is also a lot more driver focused than the Copen.
Mid Engined
Rear drive
Super car looks
Honda saw that there was still a market for sports kei’s and they delivered.
As a sports car the S660 is definitely taking it more seriously than the LA400K.

However, people still love their little Copen.
It’s more spacious, a better cruiser, and easier to live with and to visually customise.
But there is still a little disappointment with the new Copen in some areas. Yeah it is more refined and safer, but it wasn’t much better than the previous model from a performance and driving perspective, as it had less torque, more weight and and 1 less cylinder and cc of displacement. It’s only performance improvement is probably with handling and road compliance, due to the stiffer Chassis and newer Bridgestone tyres.

But it still sells reasonably well and it’s cult following of Copen enthusiasts are still pleased with their sporty Kei car.

Sporty Kei cars live on!

Honda and Daihatsu continue to manufacture the S660 and Copen and all of this is proof that there is still a market for small wind in the hair cars, built for nothing more than just to have some fun.

2019 Daihatsu Copen Coupe

Late 2018, Daihatsu announced that they will make only 200 Copen Coupes. The Copen Coupe is based on the Copen Cero LA400K. It is available in Pearl White III and British Green Mica.
It looks very similar to the concept, however the front bumper is slightly different and that gorgeous red paint is not available.
Options include, HKS exhaust, HKS suspension, upgraded sound system and a limited slip Differentrial.

Tokyo Auto Salon 2019

Daihatsu showed off some neat concepts at Tokyo Auto Salon, but for this post we are focusing on the Copen related things.

2019 Daihatsu Copen Cero Sport Premium

The Copen Sport Premium features a chromed grill, a beautiful dark blue body and a white roof.

2019 Daihatsu Copen GR Sport Concept

Yes, you read that right. A Toyota GR Copen. It uses the “Functional Matrix” design if other GR versions of Toyota cars.
It has a stiffer chassis and tuned suspension.

October 2019 Daihatsu Copen GR Sport (LA400A)

The new GR Sport Copen is now on sale and is very similar to the concept.
It has tuned suspension and a stiffer Chassis, as well as new front and rear bumpers and some nice looking BBS wheels. (unfortunately, it seems you can’t get them in gold)

Tokyo Auto Salon 2021

In the 2021 January Tokyo Auto Salon Daihatsu showed some neat concept cars. There’s the Thor Premium, Taft Cross field, Hijet Jumbo Camper and Sporza ver and of course, a Copen.

Daihatsu Copen Spyder Ver

The Spyder Ver is based on the 2nd gen Copen Cero. It features TE37 wheels, Harnesses from Sabelt, and a bunch of parts from D-Sport which include, exhaust, shift knob and bucket seats. The standard steering wheel is also lined in Suede Fabric.
Oh and there’s no roof and a short windshield.
The Copen Spyder also weighs 100KG less too making it roughly 750KG!

In an (google translated) interview with Mr. Tomoyoshi Yoneyama, it was mentioned that they wanted to make a car that enhanced the driving pleasure. He also mentioned that the Cero Coupe was not initially planned for production, but due to the positive response the decision was made to make a limited number of them. So if the reception of this concept is high, we might see a limited run of these too? I sure hope so!

This was my second blog post and I really hope you enjoyed reading it! (^-^)
I will continue to add to this post during the Copen’s evolution.

Want to read about another kei car? Why not read about the Cappuccino.

P.S Hey Suzuki, when are you gonna make a new Cappuccino? We’re waiting…

Here is a YouTube playlist with some of my favourite Copen videos:


Thank you :3

01/17/2018 - 15:56 |
0 | 0
BenPaye(JDMSquad)(MX5Squad)(LFAsquad)(Subie Squad) (Rotary F

Awesome! I want a Suzuki Cuppacino when im older

01/17/2018 - 16:09 |
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GTRTURTLE 🔰 🐢(Oo \ S K Y L I N E / oO) (Koen

Kinda looks like a miata and beetle mix

01/17/2018 - 16:20 |
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And with a bit of Audi tt and the roof from a slk

01/17/2018 - 16:56 |
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Porsche 959 (CarThrottle's only Facel Vega fanboy, still act

Yay, Daihatsu!

01/17/2018 - 18:03 |
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Would love to see these Keicars over here in germany.
They sure look and sound like a lit of fun ^^

01/17/2018 - 23:18 |
1 | 0

Wow! Thanks for this awesome blog! :D You even included a picture from Love Local!

01/18/2018 - 06:09 |
1 | 0

Thanks :D
Oh, and there’s something I forgot to include in the post. I just updated the post.

01/19/2018 - 13:58 |
0 | 0

K-cars is Kawaii-cars

Seriously, Kei cars are really the most cutest categories of cars out there

01/18/2018 - 07:00 |
0 | 0

This has been ported to DT

04/24/2021 - 12:28 |
0 | 0

04/24/2021 - 12:28 |
0 | 0

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