Early talk was that this year's Tokyo Motor Show would be more “subdued,” occurring as it did barely a month after the September U.S. terrorist attacks.

Subdued, perhaps somewhat, but the auto show here has earned a reputation as the industry's biannual weird-fest — and the 2001 edition didn't disappoint. In fact, there may have been more offbeat and bizarre concepts than usual.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. unveiled perhaps the most attention-grabbing grouping of concept cars, plus a few production head-turners as well. The most true-to-form concept was the Unibox, an “out-there” large, see-through paneled box on wheels that, despite having no intentions of ever achieving production status, prompts the showgoer to ponder the possibilities.

The Unibox, controlled only by side-mounted joystick, also sports moveable exterior panels, a built-in powered shopping cart, plus a couple of motorbikes and an interior cabin that more resembles a living room than a vehicle. This one was odd, but strangely engaging.

Other concepts included the Bulldog, a chunky-looking 2+2 coupe that sports the Insight's hybrid powertrain — with the added attraction that it also charges two electric commuter motorbikes whose seats double as the car's rear seat.

The Dual Note, with which Honda really hit the mark, will have automotive enthusiasts questioning whether outstanding horsepower and top-notch fuel economy really are mutually exclusive. This fuel-efficient sports car features all-wheel drive with a twist: a high-tech V-6 featuring an Insight-like Integrated Motor Assist unit drives the rear wheels, while independent electric motors power the fronts. Total horsepower: 400 — but Honda says the system, which uses technology available right now, also has the ability to achieve 42 mpg (5.5L/100 km).

The automaker also showed a face-lifted NSX and the Civic Hybrid for the first time, the latter of which will bow in the U.S. at the upcoming Detroit auto show and will be sold next year in the U.S. market.

Mazda Motor Corp. took its “Zoom-Zoom” theme to Japan with the unveiling of its RX-8 rotary engine-powered 4-door sports car at the Tokyo show. The vehicle's design is more daring than either version of the RX-Evolv concept shown at the Tokyo show two years ago as well as the North American International Auto Show in January. We'll see it in early '03.

Mazda also showed — to generally approving crowds — its midsize sedan replacement, known as the Atenza in Japan and the 6 in other markets.

And Mazda acknowledges that Honda may be onto something with its destined-for-production Model X concept. The Mazda Secret Hideout concept, shown for the first time, also is a boxy, utilitarian crossover, targeted at the young hipster set.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. unveiled four concepts, all based on the automaker's forthcoming Z small-car platform.

The CZ2 4-door passenger car with a glass roof, bench seats and 1.3L I-4 and continuously variable transmission (CVT) is closest to the production model slated for Europe in 2004, albeit with a different look and powertrain than the Japanese model, says Rolf Eckrodt, executive vice president and chief operating officer. It also represents the first consolidated platform between Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler AG, which last year bought a controlling stake in the beleaguered automaker.

DC's Smart brand will build its first 4-seater on the same platform, although the two will not bear resemblance to one another, Mitsubishi officials assure. Mitsubishi's European version will share nearly 65% common parts with the Smart models derived from the same platform, but look markedly different to avoid cannibalization in Europe, says Mr. Eckrodt.

A North American version would be available in 2004 at the earliest. “We'll try. It's realistic,” says Mr. Eckrodt.

And Toyota Motor Corp., in conjunction with subsidiary and mini-vehicle maker Daihatsu Motor Co. Ltd., took the wraps off a host of concepts — virtually none of which are applicable to the U.S. market. The love-it-or-hate-it Pod, developed in conjunction with Sony Corp., captured the most attention. The vehicle is the driver's “partner,” picking up mood signals from the driver and not only reflecting that mood, but putting forth its best effort to improve the driver's psyche.

Many journalists and showgoers appear drawn to the intriguing “ist,” a smaller utility wagon-cum-SUV with genuinely handsome sheetmetal and proportions, although its compact dimensions make it a non-starter for the U.S.

We can only hope that's true for Toyota's ungainly and off-target FSX, a roadster packing the 4.3L Toyota/Lexus V-8 and a nose stolen right off the Batmobile. We hear some home-office suits were aghast at the final product, including some of which had approved the concept in the first place.

Ah, then there's Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. If there must be a “stole the show” category or vehicle, Nissan wins — first for the production-ready version of the 350Z sports car, then for a stable of convincing concepts.

The 350Z is coming to the U.S. next August at a price starting at less than $30,000 and a pony rating of at least 280 hp, promises Nissan President Carlos Ghosn, whose reign over the company's “revival” and new-product onslaught is assuming near-Homeric repute.

Close on the 350Z's heels is the GT-R concept. Although production is a few years away, apparently, Nissan chose to tease with this look at the next generation of the fabled Skyline GT-R supercar.

And Nissan also grabbed press-types with the curiously attractive mm — again too tiny for the U.S., but a close-in look at the Japan/Europe replacement for the popular Micra. The mm concept also showcased a new-age all-wheel-drive system sure to see production. Most observers found the Nails pickup concept nasty, though, and it probably was one of the show's most irksome designs.

The U.S. and European automakers largely left the show to the home-market favorites, making a few swipes at competitiveness, but nothing from them matched the Japanese level of bold — or bizarre.

Chrysler Group designer Trevor Creed says sketches of the hardtop Willys2 Jeep concept, unveiled in Tokyo, were done prior to the Detroit show in January where the open air variant made its debut. Adding a hardtop for Tokyo shows off the ability to carry a snowboard and other gear, while housing three round trademark spotlights. Mr. Creed says both concepts were culled from the parts bin and could easily go into production, but “they are purely concepts at this point.”

General Motors Corp. unveiled the Chevy Cruze for the Japanese market, a joint project with Suzuki Motor Corp. GM has high hopes for this vehicle to rejuvenate the Chevy brand. Cruze faithfully follows the “lifestyle box” idiom popular at this year's show.