Japanese mini trucks have such an incredible array of standard equipment compared to any UTV on the market, you’re sure to be pleasantly surprised. In fact, even if you check every box on that UTV option list — pushing it’s price way higher than the price of an equivalent mini truck — you still can’t match all the features. That’s how far ahead mini trucks are.

So, let’s take a look at the features and standard equipment you can find on Japanese mini trucks sold by dealers in our independent dealer group. But, before we dive in, let’s be clear that not every model they have for sale literally has every single one of these features. Certainly, the newest models will have a lot, but if you’re not sure, or if there’s a particular feature you really cannot do without, then of course ask before you buy. But be reassured, when it comes to the basic equipment everyone wants — 4WD and AC + heat — you can stop worrying right now, as these are standard on all our mini trucks.

Engine and transmission

Japanese mini trucks are sold as on-road vehicles in Japan (although not in the USA) which means that their engines and transmissions are designed and built to meet the stringent noise and refinement requirements of on-road vehicles. Noisy, rattling engines and clanking gears definitely would not hit the mark, which is why the are powered by sophisticated 3-cylinder, 12-valve engines with electronic fuel injection. In fact, they are so quiet that mini truck users that drive them around animals like horses, that have a reputation for being a little skittish, report that they don’t spook the animals at all.

Japanese mini truck automatic transmission gear shift
Automatic transmissions on some models

This is sophistication is a double-bonus because it doesn’t just give you a nice, quiet ride — it also means you achieve much better fuel economy of 35 to 40 miles per gallon, as compared to about 20 miles per gallon, which is all you will see from an equivalent UTV. (And obviously streets ahead of a regular road-going pickup truck.) The newest Daihatsu Hijets even incorporate start-stop technology so that the engine turns rather than being left to idle under certain conditions, again reducing noise and boosting your gas mileage even further.

So you have this much more mechanically sophisticated engine, paired with a similarly sophisticated transmission. Again, remember that these are properly NVH insulated transmissions designed for on-road as well as off-road use. They’re built to be smooth, quiet and user-friendly, so that they are just at home being operated by a little Japanese grandma driving to her local store, as they are climbing up a steep mountain pass in a snow storm.

Depending on the model and year, you will find your mini truck will have one of these four different kinds of transmission:

  1. 5-speed manual transmission
  2. 5-speed manual transmission + ultra-low range selector + rear locking differential (this is the “Farming Package”)
  3. Regular automatic transmission
  4. CVT automatic transmission + rear locking differential

In case your head is spinning a little, the difference between those final two types of automatic transmission is that the “regular” automatic transmission is so called because it’s what you are probably most used to having on your own car or truck — an automatic shifter that selects the ratio for you. In the case of a typical mini truck, this will usually be 4 forward gears plus reverse.

Now, the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) transmission is a little different, in that it doesn’t have distinct separate gears. Instead, as the name suggests, it has an infinite range of ratios, so that it can always be in the right one to make best use of the engine’s power and torque while accelerating smoothly, without the step changes of traditional auto gearboxes. Either way, if you just want to focus on the driving and don’t want to think about shifting, then either of these automatic transmissions will work well for you.

If you’ve already had a look at the different mini trucks for sale at our various independent dealers, you may well have spotted that the Farming Package 5-speed manual is the most popular of the two manual options. When it comes to the autos, if you can stretch to getting a 2022 or younger model, then the CVT is definitely the pick of the automatic transmission choices, but it is only available on 2022 and onwards mini trucks, and then only on Daihatsu Hijets or their OEM rebadge versions, such as the Subaru Sambar or Toyota Pixis Truck.

Whichever transmission option you choose, you’re going to find that it’s so quiet, smooth and sophisticated as compared to what you may be used to in a UTV side-by-side. You have a great selection of choices, so it’s really up to you to decide which is going to work best with your personal driving style and how you plan on using your mini truck.

Bonus: The engine and transmission on your mini truck will be covered by either a 12-month / 12,000 mile or 6-month / 6,000 mile warranty, depending on whether it’s classified as “new” or “used”.

Suspension, wheels and tires

Japanese mini truck under carriage and suspension
Mini truck under carriage and suspension

Again, there’s going to be a lot of variation here, with different suspension setups, as well as different rims and tires depending on exactly which model you’re buying, in addition to how your mini truck dealer has set it up. What you can be sure of is that you’ll find that whichever setup is on your particular mini truck, the suspension, wheels and tires will have been optimized for that particular vehicle.

Take a look at our dealers’ mini trucks for sale, and you’ll see that typical mini trucks come fitted with a 2 or 3-inch body lift and run on rugged 23″ tires made by well-known names like Maxxis. Then, if you take a step up to one of our Xtreme modified mini trucks … you’ll actually very literally be taking a step up, as they come fitted with 4″ lifts, adjustable coil overs, along with 26 inch mud tires to make what is the ultimate expression of the off-roading mini truck.

With one of the regular lifted mini trucks, this is going to give you around 10 inches of ground clearance, but the Xtreme (being extreme) takes that ground clearance to a lofty 14 inches, making them comparable with the top UTVs.

Of course if, like many colleges or businesses operating large campuses, you are looking for fleet vehicles for which “off-roading” involves driving around the private roads on the campus, rather than getting down-n-dirty in the mud, you may well want to have the original Japan OEM skinny tires and smaller wheels left on your mini trucks. Even with these narrower road-biased tires, these mini trucks still handle difficult weather conditions with alacrity, but the advantage of not replacing them with bigger, chunkier full off-road mud tires is largely going to be the extra fuel efficiency you can achieve with the lower rolling resistance. Anyway, speak with your dealer if you think this will work best for you.

4WD system

Japanese mini truck lifted independent suspension
Lifted independent suspension for off-road prowess

Fundamentally, these Japanese mini trucks have been designed and built from the ground up for agricultural and other real working jobs — and Japanese working people have relied on millions of them for generations. So it goes without saying that all the mini trucks sold by our independent dealers come with 4WD as standard.

Now, these 4WD systems have varying degrees of sophistication: For example, remember the Farming Package and the latest Daihatsu Hijet CVT transmission models? Those mini trucks also have a locking rear diff to complement the basic 4WD package and to make it even harder to get your mini truck stuck in muddy trouble.

To save fuel, you will find the older mini trucks have a push-button 4WD selector, so that you only run in full 4WD mode when you really need it. If you’re just cruising along in the sun on a private road on a college campus, a quick tap of the button saves you an extra few MPG as the mini truck switches seamlessly into 2WD mode. The latest Daihatsu Hijets are even smarter: Their 4WD systems make this decision for you, and only deploy the full 4WD when they sense conditions really require it.

Body and cab

Line up a mini truck and a UTV next to each other, and you can quickly see how the mini truck is a complete evolutionary step-change: No flimsy, or even non-existent, doors. No gaping holes for windows or windshield. No over-priced thin plastic roof. I mean, just check out this solid Jumbo:

Daihatsu Hijet Jumbo Xtreme from right side
Daihatsu Hijet Jumbo Xtreme from right side

No, whichever Japanese mini truck you choose — whether it’s a Daihatsu, Toyota, Suzuki, Subaru, or whatever — it will have a strong, proper steel, fully weather-proof cab. And the (literally) underlying reason is that these Japanese mini trucks are constructed in a completely different manner to a UTV: rather than a steel tube chassis with panels attached to it, mini trucks have an automotive-grade welded steel shell.

There are many reasons why you won’t find any on-road vehicles built like your average UTV: You see, the steel shell approach of the mini truck is standard in the automotive world because it’s safer, it’s much more effective in keeping the weather out (whether that’s wind, rain, snow, or whatever), it creates a stiffer structure, and it keeps the passengers insulated from noise and vibration. To flip that around and make it about you — well, riding in the mini truck happens to be safer, more comfortable, and less tiring than riding in a UTV side-by-side.

The galvanized steel used in the bodies and cabs of these mini trucks isn’t just strong. It’s also undergone special treatment to maximize rust-resistance so that your mini truck doesn’t just keep on looking good, but also keeps on running for many years of hard off-roading work.

All this is under the surface. But what you will notice immediately about any mini truck when you look at it is that it’s fully painted, and available in a wide range of different colors. Precisely which colors are available is going to depend on the maker, model and year, but browse the mini trucks for sale, or mini trucks sold here at Mini Truck Depot, and you’ll see a whole spectrum of colors — from sky blue metallic, khaki (olive) green metallic, gun metal silver, black, orange, navy blue, white and more. A color for every taste!

Interior and comfort

It’s not just the cab’s construction that’s night and day compared with the UTV. There are just so many things you’ll notice as you climb inside (and even before) that will surprise and please you if you’re trading up to a mini truck.

Japanese mini truck comfortable, adjustable seats
Comfortable, hard-wearing adjustable seats with water-proof fabric

What will surprise you before you even get in? Well, most newer mini trucks come with remote door unlocking — or even key-free entry — as standard. You may have to work out in the fields when it’s raining, but you don’t need to get wetter than necessary as you fiddle to unlock doors with an old-fashioned metal key as you try to get in.

Once inside and out of the weather, you close the door behind you (noting the satisfying thud, rather than the rattle that you’re more used to with your UTV) and take a look around the cabin. Your first impression? Just how car-like it is. It reminds you of your regular truck much more than any off-road UTV you’ve ever been in. After all, you have a regular steering wheel with stalks to activate windshield wipers, headlights, and turn signals. Behind the wheel there’s an instrument display that could be straight out of a Corolla or Civic with all the dials and warning lights you’re familiar with.

Not wanting to spill your coffee, you secure it in one of the cup holders. You find your hand falls very naturally to the center console with it’s AC controls, stereo controls, as well as buttons for 4WD, differential lock and more. As you set the AC / heat to a comfortable temperature you notice the myriad of adjustable vents to aim the airflow just how you want it, and you set it to blow on the windshield to stop it fogging up. Maybe it’s not as cold as you thought, so you decide to turn off the heat and wind down the windows instead. Of course, you don’t actually wind them — you just push the master switches and the windows on both sides of the cab retract quietly.

Your wife must have been using the mini truck last, but no problem — the seats are easy to adjust. They move forwards, backwards and recline, so settling in and finding a comfortable driving position is never a problem. In fact, you’re pleasantly surprised at just how roomy the cab is (even for over 6-footers) even despite the external dimensions. Getting ready to move off, you reach up, pull on the safety belt and strap in. No need to turn a key in this model — just push the starter button and you’re ready to go. The shifter is on the left, but it’s easy in this CVT model — the accelerator and brake are in the usual places, so you just slot it into “Drive”, point, push and go.

The visibility is excellent out of the proper safety glass windshield, and if there’s any rain, snow, or dirt, the standard wipers with their windshield washers make quick work of it. And it’s not just the forward-facing visibility that you appreciate: With the wide interior rear view mirror, and large side mirrors, you get a great view of what’s going on behind you, which is particularly useful when you’re reversing to hook up your trailer.

Did you notice just how many convenience and comfort features we just name-checked? And that’s not all. We could have talked about the hard-wearing water-resistant seat covers, the storage spaces and glove box, the sun visors (sometimes even with vanity mirrors), the rugged floor mats and carpet, interior lighting and more.

Now, obviously, with all the different models and ages of mini truck our dealers are selling, not every one will have exactly the same combination of equipment, but what you’ll find is that every Japanese mini truck you can buy from one of these dealers is going to be loaded down with equipment and convenience to a level that’s streets ahead of the most option-specced UTV. Plus, the bonus is that with the mini truck, all these options are standard and included in the price, whereas with the UTV you’ll find the extra box-checking pushes the price up well beyond what you would pay for the mini truck.

Load bed

Japanese mini truck load beds are noticeably different from those of typical UTVs in that they are usually considerably longer. Of course, we’re focusing on the pickup-type models in this case. (The Daihatsu Hijet Deck Van model is a 4-seater vehicle, so it has a load bed that’s more comparable in length to what you will find on a UTV, although it’s cargo areas is also a lot deeper.) Anyway, let’s keep our attention primarily on these pickup-style mini trucks, such as the Daihatsu Hijet Truck, Dump and Jumbo models, and the Suzuki Carry and Suzuki Super Carry models.

Daihatsu Hijet Dump load bed with side flipped down
Daihatsu Hijet Dump load bed with side flipped down

So, yes, you get very long cargo bed: In the case of the regular cab mini truck models, this is around 78 inches in length. Far in excess of what you see on a UTV. The Daihatsu Jumbo shaves of a few of those inches with it’s slight rearwards cab extension, and the Suzuki Super Carry has such a much larger cab that it takes a more significant bite out of the load bed, leaving only 58 inches. But, overall, the exact balance of how much cab you want v. how much space you need for the bed is going to rest on your plans for your mini truck — what you will be using it for — so it’s really up to you to choose which model has the right set up for your individual needs.

It’s not just about the size of objects you can load into your mini truck cargo area, it’s the weight as well. Now, although you’ll see stickers telling you the maximum weight capacity is 350kg (770lbs), this is really just a warning about how much the Japanese government will allow to be loaded if you were driving on the road in Japan. But you’re mini truck isn’t going to be on the road in Japan, and so you’ll soon discover (like many mini truck owners have before you) that your mini truck can handle significantly more than this arbitrary number. Just don’t let any Japanese police officers see you do it, okay?

Now, here’s a feature you won’t see on a UTV that’s standard on these Japanese mini trucks and which makes using that space so much easier — three-way opening. What’s that mean? Well, take a look at the photo above. No more having to hoist gear up high to get it over the sides of the cargo bed. Just pop the cotter pins and flip down the side you need to access, et voila! And that could be on the left, right, or at the rear, so whatever you need to get at back there, you can put within comfortable reach. This feature is on the regular bed mini trucks as well as on the tipping bed ones. On- and off-loading has never been easier — not just on your muscles, but on your back, too.

Then, if you really need to move a lot of stuff quickly, obviously the Dump models are for you, with their powerful electro-hydraulic or PTO-powered mechanisms. You get the size of the fixed beds plus the convenience of the three-way opening and then, on top of that, you have this hugely powerful dumping mechanism. You can read more about Dump mini trucks here but, suffice to say, there’s a good reason we call them the Swiss Army Knives of the Japanese mini truck world.

Equipment master list

With all the different models and years of Japanese mini trucks available from a range of different manufacturers, like Daihatsu, Suzuki, Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Mazda, it’s pretty much impossible to create a completely definitive list of all the different items of equipment for each individual model. At the end of the day, be sure to speak with your mini truck dealer about what equipment is on the particular mini truck you are looking to purchase. That being said, here is as close as we can get to a definitive list of equipment that you can find on Japanese mini trucks.

  • AC & heat
  • Starter button
  • Power windows
  • Power steering
  • Proper seats
  • Cup holders
  • Remote unlocking
  • Power door locks
  • Sun visors
  • Switchable 4WD
  • Start-stop technology
  • Tail lights
  • Automotive-grade frame
  • Tipping dump beds (some models)
  • Locking diff
  • ABS
  • Airbags
  • Weather proof cab
  • Collision avoidance
  • Rear collision warning sensors
  • Windshield wipers
  • Headlights
  • Power outlet
  • Glove box
  • Central door locking
  • Adjustable AC vents
  • Door mirrors
  • Powered door mirrors
  • Grab handles
  • Door pockets
  • Ceiling shelf
  • Load bed lighting
  • Rear sliding doors
  • 3-way opening bed
  • Interior lighting
  • Cigarette lighter
  • Bluetooth stereo
  • Window rain visors
  • Key-free entry
  • Windshield demister
  • Rugged off-road tires
  • Frugal, quiet engine

More of a visual person? Here are some mini truck equipment highlights: