Wide-ranging models are available
Popular mini truck models include the Suzuki Carry, Daihatsu (Toyota) Hijet, Honda Acty, Subaru Sambar, Mitsubishi Minicab, Nissan (Mitsubishi) Clipper and Mazda (Suzuki) Scrum. All models offer high-quality Japanese design and peppy performance for trails and transportation around town. But each model has its own special characteristics as presented in the following short descriptions of four major models. See our comparison tables for more details.
The Suzuki Carry is by far the most popular mini truck in Japan and you can easily find secondhand models in pristine condition. It also has the best parts support in the United States, partly because so many of its components are shared with later-model Carrys and other Suzuki vehicles like the Jimny. Lightweight and durable, the Carry is great for off-road work. 4WD is available at all speeds, letting you haul loads and travel fast over rough terrain. The highly reliable engine is centrally mounted beneath the front seats with a transmission geared low for hauling.
The Sambar engine is mounted just behind the rear axle, making the ride quieter and less tiring than in models with engines mounted under the seats. This explains why a major delivery company in Japan exclusively uses Sambars. The rear-heavy design is slightly noticed when cornering fast on wet or snowy roads, but the four-wheel independent suspension helps keep everything under control. The rear engine also contributes to solid off-road traction. When the going gets rough and you enter first gear, 550cc models conveniently enter 4WD mode without the need to press a button. They switch back to 2WD when you enter second gear.
The Honda Acty is quiet and comfortable to drive. It supplies more power than other mini trucks when traveling uphill at high speed thanks to basically the same reliable engine powering the Honda Beat sports car and Honda Today. As in the Sambar, a rear-mounted engine (just in front of the rear axle) contributes to a quieter ride, less cabin heat in the summer, higher stability when carrying heavy loads and very slight oversteer when cornering fast on roads covered with gravel, rain or snow. Parts from 660cc models are often compatible with 550cc models.
The Daihatsu Hijet is comfortable, durable and perfect for hauling loads. In comparison with the Suzuki Carry, it offers slightly more legroom in early to mid-1990s models and a higher sense of luxury overall. But the Hijet also tends to cost a little more. Its three-cylinder water-cooled engine is mounted beneath the front seats and delivers excellent acceleration. Hijet parts are easier to find in the United States than parts for any mini truck except the Suzuki Carry. Dump truck models are available.
Mitsubishi Mini Cab
The Mitsubishi Minicab came came into its own from the mid 80’s. Angular headlights became the defining feature of the Minicab’s styling, along with larger windows to improve visibility. A rear wiper, electronic locking rear gate and power brakes were adopted. Mitsubishi began to offer a wide variety of both FW and 4WD model variations. The next generation Minicab incorporated many class-leading features such as an automatic free wheel hubs adopted on all four-wheel drive models. The estate models featured the first sliding sunroof in their class. Mitsubishi also became the first manufacturer to offer a supercharged kei truck.
And What About Mini Truck Options?
Not only are there quite a number of mini truck models that you can import yourself directly from Japan, there are also many options for mini trucks. When we are talking about Japanese mini trucks and we say “options,” we don’t exactly mean the sort of options that you can get on a fancy road car, like a luxury sedan or a high end supercar; we’re not talking leather seats with massage and heat features, we’re not talking cruise control and lane assist, we’re not even talking power steering (although that is actually an option on mini trucks, they are not that rough of machines) and we’re not talking cup holders.
When you’re talking mini truck options you are looking at things like a scissors lift (like this one here) and options like the very popular dump bed, perfect for contractors, landscapers, and anybody who often needs to deliver a load of soil or gravel to a tight spot on a project site. You’re looking at four wheel drive, and diff locks and axle locks, which we talk about here on our Japan Car Direct blog. We also have a look at extended (jumbo) cabs and the 4-speed vs 5-speed vs automatic transmission question and the mini truck garden option in this post here.
Now you’re thinking: “A garden option for a Japanese mini truck?” These JCD guys are pulling my leg. No we’re not, we’re serious. Check it out in the link above, at the very end of the post, and click the link there, too. You’ll love it.
These are the kinds of things that we mean when we are talking about mini truck options and what is available at the used car auctions and the used car dealers here in Japan for direct import to the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, and other countries (regulations permitting, see elsewhere on our site here).
Alright, alright, I guess we’ve got to say something about cup holders. Actually, cup holders are kind of an issue in the mini truck fraternity and some of the best minds have been working on it, as you’ll see here, here, and here, over at Mini Truck Talk. One of the best sites, by the way, for people who own or who want to buy a Japanese mini truck.
This was my first time ever purchasing vehicles from Japan. Mathew was recommend to me by a friend and I would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone else. Besides... read more
Mathew was great to work with and everything went well through the auction and export process. He was very patient with all my questions since it was my first... read more
JCD was great to work with. Mathew was patient with me as I searched for my dream vehicle. He explained the process and helped me understand how to eliminate as... read more
Mathew was patient and professional from the start. Helped me understand the Japanese listings, arranged on-site inspections when I wanted a closer look. Vehicle was shipped without drama. Arrived safely.... read more
I live in Japan and buying a car can be a challenge but Yoshiro at Japan Car Direct really made this an easy process. His patience with me is worth... read more
Great experience working with Japan Car Direct. Very helpful, great communication and very patient with a first time mini truck buyer and importer.
Yesterday I took delivery of my 1995 Subaru Sambar (Kei or "Mini Truck" I could not be happier with the service provided by Japan Car Direct and with the vehicle... read more
Just awesome people to deal with...I started my search for a JZA80 Supra 2 years ago by just looking on JCD because I was really scared that I would go... read more
I worked with Mathew at JCD. I was apprehensive about trusting a company I was not familiar with my money, but Mathew was very patient. He remained professional, helpful, and... read more
Wouldn't recommend anyone else! I have been dealing with Taylor for over a month now and have imported multiple cars from Toyota aristo's, laurels and Spirit R RX7s. Taylor and... read more
Worked with Matthew, Taylor and Scott to find a particular Daihatsu Hijet to import into Australia. Not only did I find the right vehicle using thier platform, they then helped... read more
I can't recommend JCD enough. Mathew was a fantastic person to work with. As a newbie to the Japanese auctions, I was quite naïve and had far too many questions.... read more
IF YOU ARE OVERLY CAUTIOUS READ THISI am over the top and I am aware of it. Matthew probably should get an award for dealing with me. I dig into... read more
A big thanks to yoshiro at japan car direct who helped me source a nissan elgrand from auction. i found the whole experience simplified due to yoshiros patience and wealth... read more