Since you're here at MiniTruckDepot.com it's pretty clear you have some level of knowledge about Japanese mini trucks, even if it's simply from having seen on drive by in the street, or from taking a ride in one belonging to a friend.
Well, whether you're a complete newbie, or a seasoned kei truck expert, I'm going to assume you're not that familiar with these off-road vehicles and give you 10 reasons why you should be paying attention to Japanese mini trucks ... especially if you're looking to replace that bone-shaking UTV that's jarring your back every time you take it out. And if this resonates with you, go and take a look at some of the amazing UTV-replacement mini trucks for sale you can find on our site.
1. Japanese Mini Trucks Ride So Much More Comfortably
Just because you want to go off-road, just because you need to get work done around your ranch or farm, doesn't mean you have to torture yourself while you do it. One of the top reasons that people trade up from a UTV side-by-side to a mini truck is because they're just fed up at spending time and money with the chiropractor from being jolted around by the unforgiving suspension on these UTVs. Maybe a UTV could be a fun toy when you're younger. But for really getting things done, and doing so in comfort, the mini truck is by far the better choice.
I mean, first of all, just look at the difference in construction between the two vehicles. The mini truck has a full automotive grade frame with independent shocks all round on some models, or shocks at the front and leaf springs at the rear on others. Yes, it's like someone took your F-150 or whatever pickup you drive, put it into some mad inventor's gizmo and made it mini sized. Compared to this the steel tube sub-frame and rudimentary suspension in a UTV looks like its from another century.
Then there's the seats. Sure, if you want more of a race-car look, then the UTV seating may fit the bill. But, once again, if you're looking for a tool, not a toy, then its the Japanese mini truck seats with their adjustability and the way they make it easy to get in and out (which you're doing all the time on the ranch) that really fit the bill.
2. Mini Truck Comfort's About More Than Just The Ride
So you're back's not getting sore from being jolted around by your UTV, nor is it getting twisted in weird ways every time you try to get in and out. But having a good day out in the fields isn't just about keeping yourself from getting injured. If it's cold, you want to keep warm. If it's blazing summer heat, you want a cool refuge. After all, this is your "office" where you spend many hours of your life.
Japanese mini trucks like the popular Daihatsu Hijets and Suzuki Carrys our independent dealers have for sale don't just have fully-weatherproof cabs with properly rubber-sealed doors, but they also come with AC and heat as standard. (That's right, no messing around having to add things like AC -- or even doors -- as options as you do have to do with many UTVs!) Just as you would expect of vehicles from a country where the summer highs get to over 100 degrees and the winter lows well below freezing, mini truck AC and heating systems are more than powerful enough to handle both the desert heat of California and the raging winter snow of Minnesota.
And then there's those little things that just make life better -- the things which you would expect in your regular pickup truck, but often would be hard-pressed to find on a side-by-side: Need some company while you're out on your own in the fields? Turn on the Bluetooth radio and stream some tunes from your phone. Sun getting low in the evening? Pull down a sun visor and keep the glare out. Bringing some piping hot coffee along to wake you up on a cold, dark morning? Park it in a handy cup holder. It's these kinds of details that make the mini truck a much friendlier, more welcoming environment.
3. Forget The Comfort! I Just Wanna Go Off-Road
Okaaay. I don't see why you need to trade one for the other, but anyway here we go -- do mini trucks have what it takes when it comes to that crucial question, "But can it really go off-road? I mean, really into the wilds?" And I get what you're saying. After all, it's not just farmers and ranchers that these Japanese mini trucks are aimed at. What about hunters and other outdoorsmen (outdoorspeople?) who want to head off into the wilderness knowing their vehicle's really got their back.
Wherever you're going, you need to know that the vehicle taking you there has the power to do so, and it's not going to pass out wheezing climbing a gentle hill. The mini truck does not disappoint with it's 660cc engine making it larger than most UTV engines, but with around twice as much power. But power's not much good if it's having to drag around a load of excess weight. Not a problem for the mini truck, though: At 1,400 lbs your typical mini truck is right at the low end of the UTV weight spectrum -- and certainly a lot less than something like a 1,775lb Kubota. More power, pulling less weight. A great combination.
But how's that power getting to the wheels? Well, first of all, every Japanese mini truck sold here is 4x4, and while the UTV brigade are stuck with just CVT and VHT (Variable Hydro Transmission), mini trucks give you a plethora of options: There's the regular 5-speed manual transmission, then there's 5-speed manual transmission with switchable hi/lo range, but there's also 3-speed autos, and finally there's CVT as well. Pass that power through the locking rear diff on some manual transmission models and on all new CVT Hijets, and you can see how these vehicles are going to be able to climb with the best of them.
And although mini trucks in Japan almost always run on street tires, at Mini Truck Depot you'll find that our independent dealers have modified almost all of them with two or three inch body lifts so that they can run exceptionally grippy knobbly 23 or 25 inch tires. The extra body lift helps with ground clearance as well, with the center of the underside getting between 10 and 12 inches of clearance depending on the tires and lift. More than enough to clear most obstacles.
4. Mini Trucks Tow & Haul With The Best Of Them
"All right. I'm convinced. Sure these mini trucks can take me off-road in comfort. But I don't just cruise around my ranch playing tunes on the radio. I need to haul stuff. I've gotta move feed, hay bales, fence posts, tools and whatnot. You say these mini trucks are tools not toys, but can they haul? Can they tow?"
Great question. And here's the answer. First of all, take a look at the bed in this Daihatsu Hijet. That's a good, long bed. 6 feet 8 inches in fact. Or, to put it another way, a lot longer than the bed in the Chevy Silverado EV pickup. And, of course, that's way longer than you will find on a UTV.
Now, check out its party trick. (Not so much as a trick, as a great feature which will save your back if you're loading and offloading all day long).
See that? Yep, the sides flip down and there's even no lip to get in the way of you lifting stuff in and out. Do all three at once. Or just drop the side you need. No more reaching in and stretching from the back when you can just go around the side.
So, you're all loaded up. You're sitting up there in the cab, AC cooling you, your favorite brew ready in the cupholder, radio playing. Turn on the ignition. Get it in gear. And ... will it haul?
The engine revs.
The transmission engages.
And away it pulls!
Not really surprising when you pair a much more powerful engine than a UTV engine with a light vehicle. You know, in Japan these are legally capped at a max 770lb load. But that's just their law, and it could be something to do with mini trucks being allowed to drive up to 60 miles per hour on their street. But the fact is that you can keep going up to around 1700lbs and these scrappy little fighters will just suck it up and haul it. With UTVs managing between just 1300 and 1500lbs, the mini trucks have a considerable advantage.
No surprises here. With a tow bar fitted at the rear, a mini truck will tow around 1500lbs -- right at the upper limits for a UTV. (Although, obviously it's not going to tow 1500lbs while also hauling a 1700lb load at the same time. These guys are tough, but not Superman!)
5. So, Mini Trucks Tow, They Haul ... But Can The Dump?
You see, that's something else that's great about these Japanese mini trucks -- all the different configurations of model you can get them in. We'll get into this in another point later, but let's just stick with the dump mini trucks for now. A fixed bed's good, but a dump's even better. And even then, there are different types of dump and bed. (Including the rare and notorious scissor dump -- stay tuned for that one.)
First the dump beds: You've got your basic standard bed, just like you find on the regular cab models, but with the dumping mechanism. That's your Low Dump. Then there's the HD dump. Yep, that's Heavy Duty, which means thicker steel, greater strengthening, and protection at the front to stop spillages hitting the back of the cab. And here's something cool -- both of these dump beds still have that three-way opening functionality of the fixed beds. So regular loading and off-loading is just as easy, but you can dump as well. What isn't there to like?
But how do you tip that load? Again Japanese mini trucks give you options -- there's no one-size-fits-all here. There's electro-hydraulic mechanism or the PTO (Power Take Off). Two different ways to tip, depending on what you want to do. For absolute power, the PTO is your go to. For flexibility, the electro-hydraulic wins. What does "flexibility" mean? Well, unlike the PTO, you can operate the electro-hydraulic one when driving. So, you want to spread some feed out in the field? Load it up on the electro-hydraulic dump, drive slowly across the field and gradually raise it. On the other hand, say you need to haul gravel, well the PTO is probably going to be the best tool.
Okay, you have been patient. And you really want to know what this "scissor dump" thing is all about. Well let me show you. Now, bear in mind, this particular mini truck is pretty rare, but get this: It doesn't just dump. It can also raise the bed up horizontally on a scissor mechanism. Like this:
6. Mini Trucks Are Real Off-Roaders
Sure, they've got 4WD, but aren't they designed and used as on-road vehicles in Japan? How good could they really be when it comes to real off-roading?
Well, even in Japan with their skinny on-road tires and no lifts, these Japanese mini trucks are well known for their up-and-at-em go-anywhere ability. Japan itself has a mountainous spine running the length of the country, so any work vehicle like these doesn't cut it if it can't handle snowy inclines or rough forest tracks. The manual Farming models with their hi/lo range and locking rear diffs, or even the CVT models with locking rear diffs are especially well suited to these environment. These certainly aren't city slickers.
But most of the mini trucks for sale here aren't sold in the original Japan spec. With 25" grippy tires and a 3" lift fitted, you end up with a vehicle that looks like this:
They're so light that when you add these wider tires you get a vehicle that really very rarely gets bogged down. Then you've got up to 12 inches of clearance under the center of the truck (more than a UTV) plus the low-mounted engine which gives a low center of gravity. Overall, it's hard to conceive of a better design for a vehicle that can take you anywhere.
And, speaking of a lower center of gravity, let's move on to the next reason to get a Japanese mini truck -- safety.
7. Japanese Mini Trucks Are Safe
Right, so that center of gravity thing we were just looking at? Great for off-road stability. But it's not just about prowess climbing up and down ravines. Driving around your property, you're going to appreciate it because it makes it much less likely that it's going to fall over, causing you injury.
But there's much more to mini truck safety than just not being top-heavy. Remember that these are built to Japanese on-road specifications. Now, that doesn't mean they meet the same tests that the DOT uses for on-road use in the US, but they're definitely far ahead of any UTV.
For example, which UTV has a full steel safety shell shielding the passengers? When you're having to pay extra just to get windows and doors on at UTV, you know that protection of the occupants isn't a top priority. The mini truck's full steel protective safety shell is engineered to Japanese crash-protection standards, plus there's the safety glass you would expect from a regular vehicle to shield you as well.
So that's the basic structure, but on top of this, you get all this safety equipment as well -- airbags, seat belts, ABS brakes, as well as collision avoidance on some models. This is in addition to other standard equipment, such as powerful headlights, windshield wipers, wide field-of-view door mirrors, brake lights and more which also help you and those around you to stay safe.
8. Japanese Mini Trucks Have So Many Body Styles
Your traditional UTVs tend to follow a well-trodden, familiar pattern when it come to the body styles available. Not so with mini trucks. Let's take a look at your options when you're buying a Japanese mini truck. Since modern mini trucks are either Daihatsu Hijets, Suzuki Carrys, or rebadges of these models for other OEMs, we're just going to focus on those two brands.
So, first of all, there's your regular-size cab pickup mini trucks (and check out that amazing metallic orange paint job!)
Then there's the pickup style with the larger cabs. The Daihatsu Hijet version is called the Hijet Jumbo. Suzuki calls theirs the Super Carry. The Hijet Jumbo is more popular in the US and certainly has the better looks, but the Super Carry is a good alternative too.
You've already seen a couple of Daihatsu Hijet Jumbos earlier, but here's a great side shot of a silver one so you can see how it has that extra space at the rear of the cab as compared to that orange regular cab pickup model.
You can see how the Super Carry is different with its sharper profile and further-extended cab. It's not a looker, but its a great alternative to the Hijet Jumbo if you need more space in the main cab.
But Japanese mini trucks are available in more than just pickup body styles. If you want to move people as well as stuff, these next body types are great alternatives. Each can carry four passengers in comfort -- even going so far as to have seat belts for the rear seats as well.
So, first let's look at the Deck Van. This is a Daihatsu model, but it is also sold as an OEM rebadge under other manufacturer names. As you can see, it has a very practical, deep rear bed, as well as easily accessible rear seats. Here's that deep rear load area (and see how the gate flips down nicely for easy access):
And imagine how easy it is to bring kids, grand kids, or even your dogs with you when you go off-road around the farm when climbing on board is so easy through these wide-opening sliding rear doors.
So the Deck Van is a really flexible off-road vehicle with a mixture of that open load bed as well as the enclosed cab. But let's say you want an off-road vehicle for something like a college campus or hospital complex. Maybe it would make more sense to have a completely enclosed rear load area. What you need is full the van-style body of the Daihatsu Hijet Cargo. Check out all the space you get with the seats down:
And with them up, you can carry 4 in comfort, still hauling a bunch of equipment, while keeping everything and everybody protected from the elements.
Really, whatever job you've got that needs doing, or if you're looking for an off-road vehicle that combines both comfort and genuine wilderness-wandering chops for hunting or just plain fun, you can see there's at least one model and body style that's going to fit the bill -- maybe more.
Not sure what's going to work for your particular needs? Tell us where you are and what you're interested in, and we'll get one of our independent mini truck dealers in your area to get on the phone with you and figure it out.
9. These Japanese Kei (Mini) Trucks Are Miserly Fuel Sippers
You think gas prices are high? Gas prices in Japan are 60% higher. Let that sink in a moment. Not 5%. Not 10%. But a whole 60% more than what you're paying at the pump.
Not good news for the Japanese. But great news for you.
How so? Well, with gas prices so high, you don't want to use a whole lot of gas, right? If you're a farmer out in the sticks and you're driving around a lot of the day to get your work done, you don't want the gas bill for your vehicle to be your biggest monthly expense.
Japanese mini truck manufacturers, like Daihatsu and Suzuki, know this too. It's not like a V8's going to squeeze into a mini truck anyway, but one thing they know for sure -- the working people that are their customers in Japan don't have the luxury of wasting any extra Yen on gas.
So, they've built these mini trucks to be frugal. Real gas sippers. And they're getting better all the time. A case in point is the 11th generation Daihatsu Hijet that was launched right at the end of 2021, which (in CVT format) gets 25% better fuel economy than the previous model. Not that the 10th generation model was a greedy gas guzzling pig by any means. Absolutely not. That 10th gen model can easily get 35 to 40 MPG in typical use.
How does this compare? Well, you've really got two main options -- the UTV side-by-side, or a regular truck. You see where this is going, I guess. The UTV? About 20 MPG. The pickup, maybe 10 MPG. Sure, you're not going to be doing any long road trips in your mini truck, but those numbers are wildly different. (Particularly when you stack up the mini truck against a regular truck.) And those wildly different numbers are going to make a big difference to your bottom like of at least hundreds, and maybe even thousands of dollars per year.
Want to go off-road and save lots of cash on gas? The mini truck has no real competition.
10. Japanese Mini Trucks Make You Mr. / Ms. Popular
You seriously won't believe how much (good) attention these Japanese mini trucks will get you. You'll find friends "just happening" to drop round (while going 20 miles out of their way) to see and ride in ("Please let me take it out for a spin!") your mini truck. What's just a new workhorse for the farm from your point of view is something dropped from a UFO onto planet earth from their point of view.
You see, in a world that's been told that you've got just 2 ways to go -- the UTV or the regular pickup truck -- the realization that there could be a better alternative is just mind-blowing. If you hadn't been warned right here right now on Mini Truck Depot, you would surely be surprised at the attention and interest you're going to get when your own mini truck arrives.
How long will this last? It's hard to say. The hardcore UTV guys will still keep on buying UTVs, presumably. At some point, some of those friends who come to give your mini truck the once-over are going to want to get one for themselves. (Send them here as we have the biggest selection across all our dealers in the US.) Mini trucks are sure to become more common at some point. But for the moment, you can live in the limelight and enjoy the friendly curiosity, happy to know that you're ahead of the curve with a Japanese mini truck that has at least 10 reasons it's the best off-road vehicle choice in America.