The Japanese automotive industry is among the largest in the world. Dominated by big names like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda, the land of the rising sun is responsible for some of the most reliable vehicles of all time. These cars have managed to hold their own even in foreign markets like the United States.
Japanese cars are characterized by unmatched efficiency. And while the industry has spread this reputation across all sectors, they have a strong presence in the SUV segment. Japan has some of the best SUVs, old and modern. That said, here are some of the best Japanese SUVs in history.
10 Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser is a lineup of four-wheel-drive vehicles. Its lineup consists of pickup trucks and SUVs. Thanks to its reputation for reliability, efficiency, and off-road capabilities, the Land Cruiser is one of the most popular large four-wheel-drive vehicles. These features have contributed significantly to making the Land cruiser one of the world's best-selling vehicles.
First launched in 1951, the Toyota Land Cruiser is the brand's longest-running series of vehicles. Since its inception, it has continually evolved in response to the changing world. And although the 2021 model year marked the end of the Land Cruiser in the United States, the vehicle will always be among the best vehicles the world has ever known.
9 Honda HR-V
The Honda HR-V has been in the market for three generations. The first model was introduced in 1999, and after a short break between 2006 and 2013, Honda reintroduced the brand based on the third-generation Honda Fit. Production started in 2013 for the Japanese market and 2015 in North America.
Today, the HR-V is one of the best SUVs money can buy. It has excellent cargo-hauling capabilities and an exterior styling that shouts practicality. The vehicle has a sensible interior, and its second-row seats fold flat to give room for giant items, items that larger crossovers may struggle to fit.
8 Nissan Patrol
The Nissan Patrol has lived a long, proud life. The legendary off-roader started life in 1951, the same year the Land Cruiser started production. Early models were called the 4W series and looked pretty similar to Jeep Willys. The first of these to feature the Patrol badge was the 1958 4W65/4W66 variants. In 2012, the company celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first vehicular crossing of the Simpson Desert. The 1962 crossing was done by Reg Sprigg, a famous geologist who drove a G60 Patrol across the desert with his wife and kids on board.
The modern Patrol is one of the most capable off-road SUVs. It features a sleek new appearance and an array of the company's Intelligent Mobility safety technologies. The SUV is capable and stylish. And with a potent 5.6-liter V8 under its hood and the enhanced suspension and excellent off-road monitoring systems, the Nissan Patrol comes ready to take on any terrain.
7 Toyota RAV4
The name RAV4 is an abbreviation for Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive. First launched in 1994 in Japan and Europe and 1995 for the 1996 model year in North America, the Toyota RAV4 is applauded for being the pioneer of the compact crossover SUV segment. Toyota developed this vehicle specifically for buyers looking for the full benefits of an SUV, such as increased cargo space, enhanced visibility, full-time four-wheel drive with the handling and fuel efficiency of a compact car.
It's 2022, and the SUV still maintains its unmatched efficiency, now with the added advantage of practicality. The base model is the most affordable, but also quite essential. For the full benefits of the RAV4, the Mid-Range models are the best. They come with many features that any family man and an executive office guy will appreciate. The vehicles are offered standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic and front-wheel drive. Upscale models come with luxury components, including faux-leather upholstery and heated seats.
6 Subaru Forester
The Subaru Forester compact crossover has been in the market since 1997, and it shares its underpinnings with the Subaru Impreza. The Forester was launched in November 1995 at the Tokyo Motor Show as the Streega concept, and went on sale in the United States in 1997 for the model year 1998.
When launched, the SUV came equipped with the 2.5-liter DOHC EJ25D four-cylinder boxer engine used in the Subaru Outback. The engine produced 165 horsepower and 162 lb-ft. Today, the Subaru Forester remains one of the most successful off-road vehicles. Its excellent combination of the brand's outdoorsy image and the practicality of a compact vehicle has kept the Forester running all these years. The 2022 Forester is redesigned to offer a truck-like appearance, but the comfort and luxury remain as perfect as ever.
5 Toyota 4Runner
The Toyota 4Runner is a one-of-a-kind vehicle, first introduced in 1984. In Japan, the vehicle was known as Toyota Hilux Surf which was axed from the market in 2009. The original offering was a compact SUV – a little more than a Toyota pickup truck, with a fiberglass body over the bed. Since then, the 4Runner has gone through several development stages into a cross between a compact and a mid-size SUV.
For 2022, Toyota included the smart key system with push-button as a standard feature across all trims. There was also the addition of a new trim, the TRD Sport, which received the same bumper, 20" wheels, and the X-REAS suspension on the 4Runner Limited. The trim also includes parts unique to the TRD offerings, such as TRD hood with scoop, TRD shifter, and Softex seats with TRD lettering. With excellent safety and driver-assist features, the Toyota 4Runner is one of the safest SUVs.
4 Mazda CX-3
The Mazda CX-3, not to be confused with the CX-30, is a subcompact SUV based on the Mazda2. The vehicle was first introduced to the public in November 2014 and displayed a couple of days later at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a 2016 model.
Across the lineup, the CX-3 is offered with a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G engine updated in 2018 to offer 146 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. The car is equipped with a six-speed auto gearbox that can be connected to an optional AWD system. The base model CX-3, the Touring, and Grand Touring feature excellent components, including cruise control and a 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Although Mazda discontinued the CX-3 for the United States and the European markets to pave the way for the CX-30, the CX-3 is still one of the best Japanese SUVs the market offers.
3 Mitsubishi Outlander
The Mitsubishi Outlander was introduced in Japan in 2001 as the Mitsubishi Airtrek. It was built to explore the unexplored in ways no other vehicle could. The second-generation Outlander was introduced in 2006 based on the brand's GS platform and powered by various engine layouts developed by Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, and PSA Peugeot Citroën.
As part of the third generation, Mitsubishi introduced a Plug-in hybrid model, the Outlander PHEV, in January 2013. With global sales totaling over 300,000 as of January 2022, the Outlander PHEV has been the world's all-time best-selling plug-in hybrid since 2018. The fourth-generation Outlander was launched in 2021, and following the company's entry into the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, the vehicle is based on the Nissan Rogue/X-Trail.
2 Suzuki Jimny
Starting life in 1970 as a four-wheel drive off-road mini SUV, the Suzuki Jimny is a light commercial vehicle with uncompromising features that define it as a serious off-road vehicle. The car has a rugged ladder frame, a 3-link rigid axle suspension with coil springs, and ALLGRIP Pro 4WD with low-range transfer gear. Powered by a 1.5-liter engine, the Jimny is designed to take adventurers everywhere they want with unrivaled agility and potent torque.
Despite its body size, the Jimny is designed with the ability to adapt to every situation. It has a part-time four-wheel-drive system with low transfer gear. When the going gets rough and tough, drivers shift the lever to the 4L mode – Four-Wheel-Drive Low Gear, for maximum torque and enhanced traction on rough terrain and steep slopes.
1 Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
The Mitsubishi Pajero Evo is a road-legal Dakar raider that's pretty affordable and vastly underappreciated. The SUV's main goal was to allow the brand to enter Dakar rally raids, but the end goal was to dominate the raids. Built between 1997 and 1999 and based on the second-generation Pajero, Mitsubishi built 2500 units of the Pajero Evolution.
The SUV was powered by a beefed-up version of the 6G74 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 with MiVEC, Gasoline Direct Injection, and dual plenum variable intake. The engine was paired with a modified five-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode (manual shifting) to produce 276 horsepower and 256 pound-feet of torque. Power was sent to either the rear or all wheels through locking differentials.