Daihatsu Taft, Suzuki Hustler, and Suzuki Jimny: Comparing Three Japanese ‘Kei’ Off-Roaders

Compact off-roaders in a size of a ‘kei’ are becoming popular in Japan. And with the recent launch of the Taft from Daihatsu, the market has seen a rise in popularity. So what are the differences between its rivals? Let’s find out.

Daihatsu Taft vs. Suzuki’s rivals

Daihatsu launched its new compact crossover, the Taft, on June 10, 2020. Including reservations made prior to launch, Daihatsu has received more than 8,000 orders in its first month. Considering that Daihatsu set the monthly sales target to 4,000 units a month, it seems to be experiencing a good start.

On the other hand, Suzuki’s Hustler, another compact crossover, also seems to be selling well. Customers need to wait about half a year to get theirs delivered.

The three compact off-roaders from Japan, the Taft, Hustler, and Jimny
The three compact off-roaders from Japan, the Taft, Hustler, and Jimny

Daihatsu says that its rival is not the Hustler, but is set to be the Jimny series, another best-selling model from Suzuki.

And yes, some users might think that both cars are completely different. To be honest, that’s quite understandable. Looking at the exteriors, you can see Daihatsu had a Hustler in mind, rather than a Jimny. Its characteristics are also close and there is no doubt that its planning was done to compete against Suzuki’s Hustler.

However, when you get your hands on it, you are able to get a glimpse of how the engineers designed the car.

First of all, I’m sure you will be amazed at its quality. Although the car is under the “kei” regulation (max length 11.2 ft, max width 4.9 ft, max height 6.6 ft, max displacement 660 cc), its quality is not inferior to that of the Rocky, a “5 number” (max length 15.5 ft, max width 5.7 ft, max height 6.6 ft, max displacement 2,000 cc) compact crossover also from Daihatsu. Moreover, it looks luxurious and high quality than the Rocky.

The details, like the black plastic fenders, door guards, lights, are all well done, having a different level of quality when compared to the Hustler.

Inside, the Taft has its interior decorated with orange panels to give a rugged style. Its shape and quality are also beautifully finished, and when you hold them to open it, you can feel a higher grade touch even you are in a compact crossover.

The instrumental panels are also very stylish. All things like the font of the gauges, the design of the air conditioner controls, and the placement of the air outlets are all overwhelmingly different compared to the Hustler.

Let’s look at the storage. The interior is full of space including two cup holders for each passenger, which is well suited to modern lifestyles. Although the quality of plastic upholsteries could be a bit cheap, the great design itself lets you ignore that part.

But when you fold the rear seats down, the Hustler might be slightly larger in its cargo volume. The exact number is unknown, but judging by the body sizes, Taft for 80.7 in. x 51.3 in. x 50.0 in., Hustler for 87.2 in. x 52.3 in. x 50.0 in., you can see that the Hustler has a larger body size.

In addition, the driver’s seat you can find in the Taft doesn’t have enough space as you might expect. The distance between the dashboard and the seats makes you feel surrounded at best and oppressed at worst.

One of the main features of the Taft is the Sky Feel Top, a big sunroof that covers the entire ceiling. This is standard equipment on all grades and lets the passenger feel an open space. But be careful, this must make the cabin super hot in the summer if you keep the sunshade off.

On the other hand, the current Hustler, which marks its second generation, has a more heavy-duty taste than its predecessor, especially in the instrument panel with rugged decorative panels.

The exterior is also reminiscent of the Jeep Wrangler with the use of two-tone colors and square rear lights.

As soon as you get into the car, you will feel the impact of the instrument panel, with the three meters, center panel, and storage boxes all coming together to make a strong impression on its driver.

If you drive it for a long time, you may feel that it is a little too annoying. However, even though the dashboard is quite high, there is still space in its interior comparing to Daihatsu’s Taft. You can see the difference when both cars are compared for their overhead area. This is one thing Suzuki is good at.

There is also a difference in the rear seats between the two. While the Hustler’s seats can slide and recline, the Taft’s seat only folds forward like a commercial van.

This is because the front seats of the Taft are named “crew space,” a space that is easy for the driver to handle with its open design and easy-to-use storage. On the other hand, the rear seats and the cargo area are called “flexible space”. When the rear seats are folded forward, completely flat space is created with no difference in level from the cargo area.

What gives the Hustler a big advantage over the Taft is that the car is capable of making its seat layout completely flat, creating comfortable space to lay down. Its Daihatsu rival, on the other hand, cannot. Even if you fold down the front seats, it just does not create enough space.

NEXT PAGE So how are the Taft and Suzuki’s rivals different when driving?


Three Japanese ‘Kei’ Off-roaders!