Small But Mighty: A Subaru Sambar Truck Review

Last Updated on 3月 23, 2023 by Carusedjp

Mini trucks are the perfect blend of practicality and affordability.

These small trucks are incredibly popular throughout Asia as they can effortlessly transport goods in dense cities and towns. The Subaru Sambar is a kei truck, a distinctive class of practical pickup trucks in Japan.

When the Subaru Sambar came out, Subaru marketed the vehicle as the first ever kei vehicle. This meant that the vehicle managed to pass the strict Keitora vehicle requirements in Japan. While this made the mini truck instantly popular, it was its practicality that allowed it to become one of the best-selling mini trucks in Asia.

Interested in learning more about the Subaru Sambar? You’re in the right place. Here’s a complete Subaru Sambar review.

What Is a Kei Truck?

Japan has very strict rules and regulations when it comes to manufacturing and producing vehicles. While all countries in the world have strong safety regulations, Japan also introduces class regulations to help categorize the various kinds of vehicles on the road.

A kei vehicle is one of these categories. This category refers to a light automobile that passes specific requirements to be practical and safe to drive in the city. This is a very important metric in Japan as many of their major metropolitan cities are incredibly dense.

Because of this, vehicles should be both safe and compact. This is a growing trend in other major cities around the world as there is simply not enough space to park massive SUVs on the road. A kei truck takes this same concept and extends it into the trucking segment.

In this way, a kei truck is a compact truck that offers the practicality and utility of a flatbed truck but in a smaller form factor. The smaller form factor is what allows it to be perfect for city driving. This means that people can use kei trucks to deliver and pick up items in major cities without the hassle of having to block off roads in the process.

While kei vehicles have been around for a while, the Subaru Sambar was noted by Subaru to be the very first pickup to meet the kei regulations. Subaru was aware of this beforehand and invested heavily into creating a vehicle for this exact purpose.

History of the Subaru Sambar Truck

Known as a cab over truck or a microvan, the Subaru Sambar was the first official kei truck in Japan. This mini truck came with the looks and practicality to be the perfect truck for inner-city logistics. This is why the Subaru Sambar became an instant hit in Japan from the very first model.

The first generation of the Subaru Sambar was released in 1961 with a rear engine. The first models also came with rear-wheel-drive and an air-cooled engine. This engine and many engine components came from the Subaru 360, allowing Subaru to save on development costs.

This was an important aspect of the development process as Subaru did not just want to create the most practical mini pickup, they also wanted to keep it affordable. In this way, Subaru knew its market and wanted to build the best vehicle for inner city transportation.

The First Generation Subaru Sambar

The first generation of the Subaru Sambar was released in 1961, with production running until 1966. This first model was released at the 1960 Tokyo Motor Show in the passenger and commercial vehicles section. The Sambar included a few impressive features that managed to catch the public’s eye immediately.

The Subaru Sambar was introduced with individual-wheel suspension, rear-wheel-drive, and a one-box design that was based on the Subaru 360 platform. As stated above, the Sambar shared many internal components with the Subaru 360, allowing the company to focus on the practicality and design of the vehicle.

Subaru Sambar Specs

The first generation of the Subaru Sambar came with an 18 HP engine that was paired with a 3-speed manual transmission. The Sambar did come with a bit of power since the entire vehicle only weighed around 871 lbs.

The Eighth Generation Subaru Sambar Truck

The best way to understand the popularity of the Subaru Sambar is to look at how it has evolved over the decades. Subaru updated the Sambar in 1996 with a 20 HP model before giving the brand another upgrade in 1973 with a 28 HP engine.

Subaru kept much of the design the same but made major strides within the interior of the vehicle. The Japanese automaker developed modern engines that managed to produce even more power while remaining efficient. They also introduced automatic gearboxes to make driving the kei truck easier in cities.

The latest version of the Sambar is the eighth generation. This model was released in 2014 and came with a modified front end along with a few minor upgrades under the hood.

The eighth generation of the Sambar was introduced in September 2014 and was refreshed in 2022 with a facelift. While this is listed as the eighth generation of the Sambar, the vehicle is a rebranded tenth-generation Daihatsu Hijet Truck.

Subaru Sambar Specs

This new model came with the latest safety features in mind, making it the most efficient and reliable Sambars ever made. These vehicles were efficiently made and sold under the Daihatsu brand, known as the Daihatsu Hijet Truck Extra.

These vehicles come with a CVT gearbox and rear-wheel drive. This allows the vehicle to achieve incredible efficiency figures while remaining smooth on the road. However, if you want an all-wheel-drive system, you can choose that option when configuring your mini truck.

Subaru Sambar Features

The biggest new features of the eighth generation Sambar are in the safety department. Subaru and Daihatsu went all out to create the most comfortable and safe mini truck in the world, and they managed to pull it off.

The latest model comes with crash-avoidance braking. The car is fitted with several sensors to keep a safe distance from the car in front. These sensors also enable a wide range of comfort driving features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and lane-departure warnings.

The new model also comes with a smart rear-view mirror. This mirror can double as a screen that displays whatever is captured from the rear camera. This way, you can have a clear view of whatever is behind you no matter how full your payload is.

The mini truck also includes the latest Daihatsu Connect features. This allows you to connect your phone to the infotainment system to have a seamless experience. The system also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making it one of the most advanced systems on the market.

There are tons of different models of the Subaru Sambar available today. If you’re looking for the details for a specific model, you can get model information here.

Kei Trucks Around The World

Kei vehicles are still incredibly popular in Japan and across Asia. However, these vehicles are slowly growing in popularity around the world. Japanese brands are consistently increasing their production numbers every year to ship these vehicles to major cities in Europe, Canada, and even the United States of America.

In some countries, manufacturers have developed their own version of the kei truck. These are known as mini pickups or utility pickups. Manufacturers like Ford, Opel, and Chevrolet have all produced models for the African and Australian markets.

However, Japanese kei trucks are still the more popular options. This is due to the practicality and affordability of these vehicles. The Japanese models are significantly more affordable than the other options on the market.

Where To Find Used Mini Trucks For Sale

As mentioned above, mini trucks have grown in popularity around the world. This is true for several Japanese cars from various manufacturers as well. The best way to find a mini truck for sale is to go directly to a trusted dealership.

It’s incredibly important that you work with a trusted dealership because these cars may need to be imported into the country specifically for you. Importing vehicles can get complicated, and you don’t want to make a mistake during the process. Luckily, platforms like are there to make your life easier.

Mini Trucks In Japan

Mini trucks provide you with the same practicality but in a smaller and more affordable form factor. These trucks are incredibly popular in Japan but are increasing in popularity around the United States as well. The Subaru Sambar may have been the first kind of vehicle in its class, but it has still managed to remain one of the most popular mini trucks in Japan.

Thinking about getting a Subaru Sambar? Check out our website for the latest mini trucks we have available.

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