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.
I was totally clueless and was having a really hard time finding someone that I felt I could trust to help me with these auctions. A couple folks recommended Mathew over at JCD and I very reluctantly reached out. Yeah, I have trust issues. Dude put me at ease and really walked me through the whole process. After a couple months I didn’t end up buying a vehicle, but that’s on me. When I changed my direction, Mathew helped me wrap things up and wished me well. I have zero reservations about reaching out to these guys or recommending anyone else to do so. Very helpful, knowledgeable, prompt and everything I needed. You won’t be disappointed.
Ordered an Acty Van with these guys. five star service all the way. everything went perfect!!!. I was so afraid to import a car myself. JCD made it seamless. I would import wit them and only them again and again. Thanks guys!!
Discovered KEI vehicles about a year ago and spent many hours searching the internet in hopes of finding an affordable van state side, to no avail. That is until I sent a message to Mathew at JCD. He was quick to respond, answered way too many of my silly questions, and worked diligently to find the right van for me. He is thorough, clear, and timely. Made the process simple and enjoyable. I am more than excited to work with him again. I highly recommend the service these gentlemen provide.
Matt made importing a few mini trucks for our farm a breeze. Super easy to deal with and transparent with all the details involved in bidding and winning auctions, the import process, and everything in between.
My truck had been stolen and Matt was helping me bid on mini-trucks to replace it. Of course once we started bidding the truck was recovered, but Matt was upfront and very helpful both getting into and out of our auction based relationship. I would not hesitate to work with JCD again!
I worked with Mat and i believe i couldn't have done any better. This was my first time dealing with importing, Mat was so patient and helpful through this purchase. I also feel he got me the best deals, i have since the first purchase made two more and will continue to do business with Mat.
I purchased three vehicles from auction with Matt, he made it extremely easy and was available whenever I needed him throughout the entire importing process. This is not the last time I will be dealing with them. I plan to order more vehicles in the near future! If your looking for a trustworthy company to order vehicles through I highly recommend JCD!
Mathew was super helpful if helping me get more info and bid on cars I was interested in.
Mathew and the gang were great with helping me with the acquisition of my 1994 Subaru Sambar dump kei truck. I was so excited about getting a truck I was ready to buy just about anything. Matt put the breaks on that and used his experience and knowledge to weed out the potential problems. I use my truck almost daily around our farm moving things and as a work surface. It is great. Mathew and Japan Car Direct helped my sister get a kei truck as well and I have and will continue to recommend them to anyone who has expressed interest in my great little vehicle.
I purchased a 1994 4wd Suzuki Carry Kei truck through JCD. Yoshi helped me during the process and after nearly 3 months and over 100 emails back and forth between questions and translations of auction sheets I finally decided on a truck. I've now had it for nearly a month and couldn't be happier with the purchase. They are extremely promt with responses and answered all questions I had. Being completely new at the importing process I never felt uneasy with my decision. If I ever decide to import another vehicle I will definitely use them again.
Excellent service from beginning to end. I registered over the new year holidays and received an automatic out of office response and also still received personal response indicating when auctions resumed. The process takes doing your own due diligence to study the cars you want but the guys at JCD will assist where they can as well.
When I thought about importing a vehicle from Japan, I was a little apprehensive. I read some real horror stories. Once I got in contact with Yoshi, he put me at ease. The entire crew at Japan Car Direct made the process effortless. From translations, to inspections, to the auctions, I felt comfortable with the entire transaction. The hardest thing was waiting for the ship to arrive at port with my new truck. I highly recommend JCD to anyone considering a vehicle import from Japan.
The entire Team at Japan Car Direct has been incredible at making purchasing a vehicle from Japan quick and effortless. Matt and Yoshiro are extremely friendly, and have performed above and beyond my expectations from start to finish. No matter how many questions you may have, these guys will know all the right answers! If you’re looking for a vehicle from Japan then look no further than Japan Car Direct. 10/10 ⭐'s
After ordering my minivan from Mathew and the folks at JCD, I will definetely use them again. Took three months to get the van but I am on the other side of the world. Van arrived in better condition than I expected although battery was dead and gas was extremely low. Other than that, the documents were sent to me promptly and the process of registering was seamless with the supplied documents. Thank you Matt and team and I look forward to working with you in the future!
When starting my path of importing a JDM classic Land Cruiser, I spent weeks doing research before actually committing because I’d never imported anything before. I was fortunate to come across Japan Car Direct, and that’s where I met Mathew. Wow, where do I start with Mathew..... (Just kidding Chicago!) Mathew was fantastic, from spending time on Skype answering all my questions to teaching me everything I needed to know to successfully find the truck of my dreams. Well today in fact I picked up my truck at the port, and it was in even better condition than I could have seen in the pictures and from the reports provided. Guess what, just ordered another one! You are the Master Mathew. Go Hawks!