Subaru Sambar Diaz
Sold and Exported
One of the absolute best used car purchases I even made here in Japan was my Sambar Diaz II. And here we are pleased to show you a nice, clean Sambar van that we at Japan Car Direct recently exported from Japan to the USA.
What was so great about my Sambar Diaz van? A lot. It was a brilliant design. It gave the maximum load capacity for the minimum exterior dimensions. We could put just masses of stuff in there and yet I could park in the smallest spots in town.
Space Efficient Layout
How does the Sambar van do it? First up, to make the best use of space, the engine is laid on its side and mounted transversely together with the transmission and differential at the extreme rear of the vehicle, under the floor. In most cars and vans this rear under floor space hosts the muffler and, well, a lot of space and maybe a spare wheel. That’s not really a space-efficient layout. And don’t think that having all those components together under the floor there makes the engine difficult to work on; not at all. Subaru solves that problem by having two routes of access for engine maintenance: The whole rear bumper folds down and out of the way giving you access to the plugs and components that are basically at the top (cylinder head) side of the engine. You can see that in our photos here. In addition, and what you can’t see in our pictures, is that the rear load bay carpet lifts up and under it you’ll find a big access panel that is part of the floor. Remove the four screws at the corners and lift the whole panel up and away for more access to the engine. Pretty good, huh? (Oh, just be careful not to pinch your fingers when you put the panel back, it’s strong and therefore heavy, so watch your little pinkies.)
Wonderful Little Engine and Excellent Gearing
And that engine? It’s Subaru’s delightful, free revving 660cc straight four, the legendary EN07 that is also found, although in a different state of tune, in the stunning Subaru Vivio RX-R Kei sports supercar which we talk about on our Japan Car Direct blog here. And have a look here to see one of the RX-Rs that we exported to America.)
In the Sambar van you can have the engine normally aspirated (NA) or supercharged. My Sambar Diaz was supercharged, and did he ever grunt from a standing start! The low first gear ratio of 25.219:1 didn’t hurt either. (In the NA Sambars first gear is lowered even more, to 26.585:1, so you can get going just as confidently from zero, even with a heavy load on.
And the EN07 engine has a fantastic exhaust note, by the way. Just to let you know.
Subaru does a very good job of choosing gear ratios to fit the real world, as you’ll also find with the 4WD Subaru Kei truck that we praise very highly on our blog here, where we talk about what are the best Kei trucks if you want to import one yourself from Japan. In fact, when most of our customers in the USA and Canada and the UK think “Sambar,” they think primarily of Sambar Kei trucks like this sweet little Sambar dump here that we scored for our very happy customer. This Kei truck is a 1991 and is a good example of the nice, clean 25-year-old used cars that are easy to export to the USA and Australia now.
Truly a Brilliant Design
A further good use of load space is provided by the two neat ways in which the rear seats fold. You can fold them down to give you a full, flat load area, or you can rotate them forward so that they rest against the back of the two front seats. This provides a strong bulwark against any cargo shifting forward against the driver and front passenger during an emergency stop, and it also lifts the center section of the floor up and away so that you get a lowered center floor to make loading of heavy objects easier. This lowered cargo floor also makes driving with heavy cargo a bit safer because it lowers the center of gravity of the whole loaded vehicle.
Now do you begin to see why I call the Sambar Van a brilliant design?
But there’s more. Look at the rear windows in the photos and you’ll see how the lower part of those windows extends downward from the window line of the front and center side windows. I found that those rear windows gave me very good rear three-quarter visibility when backing up.
And because you can see well to the rear (not the case with most vans) you can make good use of another excellent Sambar feature: The small wheelbase, only 1,885mm! At low speed the Sambar van (and Kei truck, too) has a very tight 3.9m turning circle. Even better than the Suzuki Every.
I could go on and on about what a great mini / micro van the Subaru Sambar Diaz is, but I’ll just mention two more points and then let you take your time with the photos, which will speak for themselves and show you what a good, clean, and well cared for used vehicle this Sambar Van is. First point: check out the roof. It’s Subaru’s “Sun Sun Roof.” The front part lifts up at the rear to allow in more air, and the center part slides back (powered by an electric motor) and gives you an open car. I loved driving with the Sun Sun Roof fully open. It gave a fine sense of freedom and it was just great to be driving along “open to the sky.”
Second point: My wife really liked our Sambar Diaz II Van. She, a tiny woman, found all controls (pedals, etc.) very easy to access and she found driving and maneuvering the van very easy. Few vans are comfortable for petite people to drive, but the Sambar is one of the few. She liked the steering feel and the gear shift feel. (Yes, Virginia, she does drive manual transmissions.). She liked the good visibility and good grunt in first gear. She liked everything about our Sambar and she’s still angry at me for selling it. (Actually, I regret selling it, too.) Now she’s pushing for us to pick up a used Sambar Classic Van like this nice one here that Japan Car Direct exported to the USA. “Not only is it a Sambar,” she says, “but it’s also cute!” (I can see where this is going….)
So if you are saying these days: “I want to import a used Kei van from Japan,” let the Subaru Sambar be at the top of your list. You’ll be happy with it, and I’ll bet that you won’t ever sell it.