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.
Great experience working with Japan Car Direct. Very helpful, great communication and very patient with a first time mini truck buyer and importer.
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. Mathew was kind, knowledgeable, and patient through the entire process. My Minicab arrived last week and I am quite pleased. I would not hesitate to work with Japan Car Direct again in the future. Thank you Mathew!! Jay A.
I purchased a suzuki carry from here.. They made the whole process so easy..fantastic communication,and I got what I wanted.. highly recommend using this company for your next purchase. 5 stars
IF YOU ARE OVERLY CAUTIOUS READ THIS I am over the top and I am aware of it. Matthew probably should get an award for dealing with me. I dig into everything and am used to fighting for fairness at auto auctions here in the USA - we own a small dealership. Early into my fist purchase (of many) Matthew earned my trust. He’s a rare breed: a true professional and exceptional at what he does. The world NEEDS more like him in every industry. Matthew is one of our most valued partners now, as we strive to bring JDM to Rochester and the Great Lakes. I’m a tough case, I openly admit, but he worked through my caution and I’m now very happy to purchase through him. Call me if you want, I’ll recommend Matthew to anyone. Drew
IF YOU ARE OVERLY CAUTIOUS READ THIS I am over the top and I am aware of it. Matthew probably should get an award for dealing with me. I dig into everything and am used to fighting not to get taken at local auctions (I own a dealership and believe strongly in integrity). Early into my fist purchase (of many) Matthew earned my trust. He’s a rare breed: a true professional and exceptional at what he does. The world NEEDS more like him in every industry. Matthew is one of our most valued partners now, as we strive to bring JDM to Rochester and the Great Lakes. I’m a tough case, I openly admit. Find me and call me if you want, I’ll recommend Matthew to anyone. Drew
I always wanted a Land Cruiser ! Mathew helped me find 2 beautiful trucks from the Japanese auction. Had them delivered to Freeport, TX last week. He was amazing to work with. Fast response time on bids, super easy to work with, he has a lot of experience and answered all questions promptly. Will be working with JCD more in the future to purchase more vehicles !
Very pleased with my experience with JCD. Mat helped me with my purchase of a Honda Beat and its shipping to the port of Baltimore. Everything was seamless and I would (and already have) recommended this company to several friends.
Thanks to JapanCarDirect for the opportunity, Yoshi took well care of my requests with a incomparable patience and fast follow up. Will definitely pass the word around !!! 👌🇨🇦🇯🇵
Fantastic service, helped me through the process of importing my JZX100 to the UK, Everything was clear and fees were low, worth every penny though, fantastic and couldn't have asked for more!
I just picked up my dream campervan from port and have to say that Japan car direct was with me the entire way. I felt so supported all my questions were answered and I could not imagine doing something like this without them. I highly recommend the whole team, trust them and would encourage anyone to use there services.
Mathew and all stuff JCD are best. I ordered 4 cars to UA. Support was 24H. The team did its best to solve my problems. They are really good. Now I can recommend them. Unique condition of the car. P.S. sorry but the photo was taken immediately upon arrival. Thank you again!
I just wanna thank Matthew and the whole team at Japan Car Direct, they always went above and beyond in making sure their clients are always happy and informed about the vehicles they are purchasing. I am still in the buying process but so far 5/5 definitely. I’ll keep everyone posted when I do find a car!
Do yourself a favor, call Mathew at Japan Car Direct. Let him take the worry about doing business over seas off your plate. Not knowing anything about importing vehicles from Japan, I spent countless hours studying and trying to figure it all out. The headaches were too much! After Mathew walked me through the process it was a piece of cake. We've already bought a couple and are now buying more with complete confidence. Thanks guys, much much appreciated.
Can not recommend these guys enough. I dealt with Matt, who was extremely helpful and patient with all of my stupid questions. The way they have the whole process is so convenient, especially with the live video translations of the auction sheets. I will absolutely be returning to them in the future.
Trustworthy group here! They made it easy from point a to b. So glad this was the first group I tried as I have heard horror stories about the import process. Highly recommended.