Unlike when you get a new car, safety isn’t usually the first thing you consider when shopping for an off-road vehicle. But although you won’t meet as much traffic around the farm or out hunting, that doesn’t mean safety isn’t important — especially with more states allowing UTVs on the road in some limited way. So let’s take a look at how Japanese mini trucks like the Daihatsu Hijets or Suzuki Carrys for sale at our independent dealers look after you.

Seat belts

Picture this — your mini truck is basically your truck, just mini-sized. It’s as if some has taken a regular pickup truck and shrunk it down. So, when it comes to safety features, your mini truck has a level of safety equipment that is much closer to a proper road-going vehicle than you will be used to with a UTV.

Japanese mini truck full 3-point safety belts
Full 3-point safety belts with tensioners.

Seat belts are a good example. While UTVs often have lap belts or 4-point harnesses, our Japanese mini trucks have the kind of 3-point inertia reel seat belts you will find in a car. They’re easy to take on and off. They feel comfortable and “right” because that’s what you’re used to in your regular truck. Plus the inertia reel mechanism means you can easily move in your seat, or reach for something behind the passenger seat, for example, without the seat belt locking. In other words, normal use is free and comfortable, but then they lock right away to hold you in place if there’s ever an impact or hard braking. The best of both worlds.

Headlights, turn signals and tail lights

Whether you’re going out into the fields early in the morning and need powerful headlights so you can find your way, or if you’re traveling between fields along a country road, and need the extra reassurance of having proper brake lights and turn signals, your Japanese mini truck has all of these features as standard to keep you well-lit and safe.

Japanese mini truck headlights with turn signals
Headlights with integrated turn signals

ABS (Anti-lock braking system)

Stability under braking is just as important off-road as it is on the street. Sure, you won’t have kids leaping out from between parked cars in a school zone, as could happen when you’re driving your car, but there will be times when you need to brake hard on muddy, icy or snowy surfaces when the reduced stopping distance and greater control ABS gives you could be the difference between making it back home in one piece, and a nasty impact with a tree.

While there are some UTV models that do come with ABS, in the UTV world the term “ABS” more often describes the type of plastic used for the doors or mirrors, rather than this safety feature. On the mini trucks? ABS brakes are a standard feature, as you would expect for Japanese vehicles that were originally created for on-road use in Japan.

Driver’s & passenger side airbags

Airbags are safety features that you just cannot get for your UTV. In fact, the only time you’ll hear about airbags in the context of a UTV side-by-side is when someone has uprated the suspension with airbags to make the ride smoother. But let’s be clear, the airbags we are talking about here are nothing to do with uprated suspension — their sole purpose is to protect you and your passenger in the event of an accident. And these airbags are standard on all modern Japanese mini trucks for the driver and front seat passenger.

Japanese mini truck steering wheel with airbag
Comfortable steering wheel with power steering and airbag

You may be wondering why you would need airbags when the chances of an accident with another vehicle are very low when you’re our working around your ranch. That’s true, but even off-road, there’s still a lot of things you can hit — and trees or walls are even more unforgiving than the crumple zone of another vehicle. Plus going off-road means that you are likely to be driving in more slippery or difficult conditions more regularly than when you’re driving your car. Of course, the ABS system and grippy tires will do their best to help you avoid disaster, but in the final reckoning, you know there still may be times when an impact is inevitable. That’s when you and your passenger will be glad to be in a mini truck, cushioned from the harsh realities of kinetic physics by the standard-issue airbags and not in a UTV.

Hardened steel safety shell

Yet again, we have the Japanese mini truck’s on-road origins to thank for this safety feature — a full, hardened steel safety shell. Now, most people think in terms of how this creates a sealed weather-proof cab that keeps the elements and dirt at bay much better than anything you’ll find on a UTV. But there’s more to it than comfort. The underlying welded steel structure also creates a rigid, protected shell to keep riders safe in the event of an accident.

Pull up alongside a UTV, and you’ll see right away that there’s just no comparison. The UTV has a steel frame, overlayered with insubstantial plastic panels that form the body. It’s not only structurally weaker, but those panels also give much less protection from intruding objects than the mini truck’s steel enclosure.

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

Japanese mini trucks may not meet the US on-road crash test requirements, but they are designed to pass on-road crash certifications in Japan, which is a lot more than can be said of any UTV, which doesn’t have to meet any crash safety requirements anywhere. No one wants to have an accident, but you’ll want to be sure you’re in a mini truck if you do.