Home » The Indonesian Toyota Kijang May Be The Most Awkward Car In The World, But It’s An Absolute Tank

The Indonesian Toyota Kijang May Be The Most Awkward Car In The World, But It’s An Absolute Tank

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I’m currently sitting in Bali, Indonesia, preparing to fly home to LA after attending my brother’s wedding (and honeymoon — yeah, I know that sounds weird). The cars here are incredible, but one stands above all the rest just because it looks so awkward.  It’s the Toyota Kijang, and I’m obsessed with it. Here’s why you should be, too.

The Kijang isn’t the ugliest car in the world; that title belongs to the SssangYong Actyon Sports:

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Or just the regular Actyon SUV — it’s a draw in my eyes:

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But to be the most awkward car in the world has more to do with proportions than outright styling, and on the out-of-whack-proportion front, it’s hard to beat this:

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It’s Indonesia’s own Toyota Kijang, a strange SUVish, van-ish thing with the nose of a small sedan. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how to categorize this thing; the wheels and nose look like they come from an economy car, and yet the body is so long and ridiculously tall — the whole thing like the anteater of automobiles.

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I managed to find this incredible video about the Kijang, and though I can’t understand Indonesian, there’s still some gold to be mined from this:

Check out what are apparently the third-gen Kijang’s early design drawings. Oftentimes, a car ends up awkward because a designer’s early sketches get watered down by purchasing and engineering-related realities (read the story of the Pontiac Aztek), but it appears that the Toyota Kijang’s designers actually wanted the vehicle to look this awkward:

Screen Shot 2023 12 18 At 11.05.32 Pm
Screenshot: Motomobi/YouTube

The video above also includes this amazing body-in-white image. Notice how the rear door is offset to the right side (part of me wonders if this is somehow using the same stamping as the rear side doors, which have a cutout for the rear wheel openings):

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Screenshot: Motomobi/YouTube

This awkward machine is actually the third-generation of the Kijang, with the first-gen looking like this:

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Image: Toyota

Here’s’s a bit of info on the vehicle known as the “Kijang Buaya” (Buaya means crocodile; it’s how the vehicle looks with the giant hood open) via Indonesian news site iNews:

The launch of the first generation Toyota Kijang (production code KF10) was carried out at the Jakarta Fair (PTJ) in 1975, witnessed by the 2nd President of the Republic of Indonesia, Soeharto, and the Governor of DKI Jakarta, Ali Sadikin. The first generation Toyota Kijang implemented a pick-up concept with a basic box shape. This model is often nicknamed “Kijang Buaya”; because the engine hood can be opened to the side. This first generation Kijang was produced in the period June 1977 to June 1981.

And here are a few technical details via Indonesian automotive marketplace Moladin:

The first generation of Toyota Kijang was equipped with a petrol engine with a capacity of 1,200 cc. The engine is channeled through a 4-speed manual transmission.

As charming as the original Kijang is, the second-gen is even more lovable in my view. I mean, just look at this thing!:

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Image: Toyota

And the SUV is even more adorable. Hot damn this thing is incredible:

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Image: Toyota

Toyota describes the second-gen Kijang thusly:

The second generation of Toyota’s Kijang was launched in 1981.
While retaining the pick-up concept and box design, this generation
saw improved performance to support commercial needs.

iNews gets into a bit more detail on the second-gen Kijang, writing:

The second generation Toyota Kijang (production code KF20) went on sale in June 1981. The shape and model are not much different from the previous generation. Some of the changes include increasing the engine cylinder capacity to 1,300 cc (up 100 cc). This capacity was then increased again to 1,500 cc (up 200 cc). This generation of car is also known as Kijang Doyok. Doors are cuter by being equipped with glass with hinges no longer similar to house door hinges and equipped with locks. This car uses a….engine with a capacity of 1,300 cc, the transmission is still 4 speed. The suspension is still double wishbone with leaf springs at the front and under axle leaf springs (under the axle) at the rear of the car.

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Image: Toyota

The third-generation that I saw, though, was the real game-changer, achieving huge sales and cementing the model as a mainstay in Indonesia, with iNews writing:

At the end of 1986, the third generation Toyota Kijang model was launched on the market. This generation of Kijang has a more curved shape so it looks more modern. This model is still widely used on Indonesian roads even though it is no longer produced.

In this generation, the concept of the Kijang as a transport vehicle began to shift as a passenger vehicle even though many previous generations of Kijang were also modified as passenger vehicles. In this generation, there is also a pick-up variant, although it is no longer the main concept of the Toyota Kijang like the previous generation.

This period can be said to be the generation of the Kijang’s glory as a passenger car, especially before many imported built-up passenger cars enlivened the vehicle market in Indonesia, as well as the peak of Toyota’s dominance over powerful models such as the Mitsubishi Colt L300 and other bonnetless minibuses, such as the Suzuki Carry and Daihatsu. Zebra.

Toyota says this generation was even exported from Indonesia. From the brand:

The Toyota Kijang third generation was launched in 1986
to the automotive market. The improved shape
saw more giving it a modern look, and the localization rate
of parts and components on this model reached 44%.

This generation of Kijang was the first to be exported
abroad by Toyota Indonesia.

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So as bizarre as it may look, the fact is: It’s been out of production since 1996, and it’s still on the roads today, offering lots of interior space, excellent visibility, and a tough suspension (but only rear-wheel drive!) to handle treacherous roads. And don’t think the one above is the only one I saw — these things are everywhere.

Carrying families, sometimes being used to haul heavy loads, awkwardly trying to maneuver their strangely large bodies through the tight streets of Bali. I’m amazed that the little 1.5 and 1.8-liter inline-four engines mated to four and five-speed manuals somehow haul this giant SUV-ish thing around while remaining extremely reliable. Diesels sold in other countries (where the vehicle goes by other names like Tamaraw FX) are also known to be bulletproof.

So you can expect one of the most awkward cars on earth to continue making folks feel uncomfortable for many years to come.

UPDATE from a reader named Joe:

Anyways, “kijang” means “deer” in English, but it’s also an abbreviation for “Kerjasama Indonesia JepANG” which literally translates to “cooperation between Indonesia and Japan”

At that time the Indonesian government wants to creatie domestically produced commercial vehicles at affordable prices so that many people can buy them as a means of transportation and distribution of goods.

That’s where Toyota comes in and provides the technology and experience, that’s also why the president of Indonesia attended the car’s launch.

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Hunter F
Hunter F
3 months ago

Great discovery on the awesomeness of the Toyota Kijang. It’s definitely a pride among Indonesians and is widely regarded as their national car but one qualm about the name Kijang that was cited in the article.

While it is widely believed that Kijang stands for “Kerjasama Indonesia Jepang” or Indonesian-Japanese collaboration, it is a mere coincidence. Toyota intended to name it the Kancil which is the Indonesian name for the small mouse-deer but Toyota’s Indonesian stakeholders were against it because of negative connotations.

So, Toyota made an internal discussion on a new name that would be based on an animal. Kijang which stands for deer in Indonesian is selected almost unanimously because it fit the image of the car better.

More are explained in this article here which is from Malaysia where the Kijang was only sold during its final generation:
https://www.wapcar.my/news/the-innovas-predecessor-was-nearly-called-the-toyota-kancil-and-its-not-a-typo-58073

Also here’s a photo of the ‘kancil’. Good thing Toyota decided to call it the Kijang instead.
https://curioustimes.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Untitled-design-12.png

Joshua Christian
Joshua Christian
3 months ago

These were some of the first Toyotas sold in India, sold there as the Toyota Qualis. Apparently the Indian version was remarkably good to drive, with very ‘sedan-like’ handling. They were very popular as Taxis and are still seen somewhat often.

Mike B
Mike B
3 months ago

Not gonna lie, I actually like it. It’d be cool if it was 4wd, a bet a mild suspension lift and some small mud tires would totally transform the look, in the same way a Lada Niva looks so cool.

Frederick Tanujaya
Frederick Tanujaya
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike B

You know what? The fifth generation shared the platform with the hilux, now called the Kijang Innova and is only available as an MPV, can be swapped to a Hilux chassis, look!

https://otoseken.gridoto.com/read/342334183/toyota-kijang-innova-salah-gaul-pakai-4×4-hilux-jadi-jago-off-road

Frederick Tanujaya
Frederick Tanujaya
3 months ago

YEEEEAAAAAH, INDONESIA, FINALLLYYYY, YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

Ps, ask me all about indonesian cars, i know a shit ton of em and their quirks!

El Jefe de Barbacoa
El Jefe de Barbacoa
3 months ago

How’s the modding community? Do you ever see these Kijangs with a lift kit and some bigger wheels? Any other common cosmetic treatments?

Frederick Tanujaya
Frederick Tanujaya
3 months ago

Oh boy…take a look

https://otoseken.gridoto.com/read/342334183/toyota-kijang-innova-salah-gaul-pakai-4×4-hilux-jadi-jago-off-road

As the base of the Kijang Innova and the Hilux is almost the same, there are a few who had done this

Ford_Timelord
Ford_Timelord
3 months ago

That second gen especially looks like poorly prompted AI

Beceen
Beceen
3 months ago

Second gen reminds me of Polish Tarpan (name is a kind of horse), which was supposed to be a farmer’s truck: https://magazynauto.pl/testy/fsr-tarpan-1972-1994-kon-roboczy,aid,3455

Yung
Yung
3 months ago

Indonesian often called it “mobil sejuta umat” which roughly means “car for millions people” because how ubiquitous it is in Indonesia. Tbh, I’m bit surprised when you say it has awkward design because it so common and i’m so used to it that i find it normal
The nearest competitor i think is Isuzu Panther if you are interested

Frederick Tanujaya
Frederick Tanujaya
3 months ago
Reply to  Yung

Are you also an Indonesian? If yes, Salam Kenal 🙂

Yung
Yung
3 months ago

Salam kenal juga

Yung
Yung
3 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Thats because when i grew up, the only passenger car you would see that has “nose” (engine in the front) are either this or Isuzu Panther. Other passenger car would be cab over van (“flat”).

Fun fact, back then a lot of passenger car in Indonesia were actually a small pick-up truck (not “small American pick-up truck”) that were modified by coachbuilder (we called it “karoseri” so guess where we get that name) to a van. IIRC, the third gen Kijang is the first Kijang that was officially offered with SUV(?) body by Toyota

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago

What’s the Toyota sedan behind it?

Yung
Yung
3 months ago

Corolla KE70, quite common in Indonesia

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Yung

Thank you kindly

Ron888
Ron888
3 months ago

Some years ago i saw one of these with a galvanized body.To this day i still dont know what was going on!Did toyota offer such a version?
In that country at the time hand built bodies were a thing,so till now i’ve assumed that’s what it was

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

I like to say I’m all about function over form, but, da-yum!

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
3 months ago

Since the third generation Kijang dates from the mid 80s the asymmetric rear door was just the fashion of the time like the Isuzu Trooper and some versions of the Nissan Patrol

Joe
Joe
3 months ago

Indonesian here, a Kijang article without the meaning of the word “Kijang”, come on David!

Anyways, “kijang” means “deer” in English, but it’s also an abbreviation for “Kerjasama Indonesia JepANG” which literally translates to “cooperation between Indonesia and Japan”

At that time the Indonesian government wants to creatie domestically produced commercial vehicles at affordable prices so that many people can buy them as a means of transportation and distribution of goods.

That’s where Toyota comes in and provides the technology and experience, that’s also why the president of Indonesia attended the car’s launch.

Loudsx .
Loudsx .
3 months ago

only way you could call the ssangyong Actyon as the uglist car ever is if you were not aware of the Ssangyong Rodius first

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
3 months ago
Reply to  Loudsx .

I wasn’t around during the debate in Slack between DT and MH, or else I would have thrown the Rodius in there for sure!

I think I’ve mentioned before that there’s a couple of them still running in Dubbo, somehow.

Paul Magno
Paul Magno
3 months ago

We had a first gen one (called the Tamaraw in the Philippines) and it was awesome. Ours looked like this one. The back didn’t have windows so we had to roll down this clear plastic thing so we didn’t get wet when it rained.

https://www.favcars.com/photos-toyota-tamaraw-1977-80-187721.htm

Aron9000
Aron9000
3 months ago

So what year/generation is that red one??? Im guessing these are basically a hilux with a weird wagon body.

The steel wheels/tires on the blue one look like the same 14″ style/size as a 2wd usdm “pickup” from either the 84-88 gen or the 89-94 gen The grill/headlights/cornering lights Im certain are the same as the 84-88 usdm trucks.

Also those 2nd gen models look like real life lego cars I made chucking together random bricks as a kid.

Schrödinger's Catbox
Schrödinger's Catbox
3 months ago

The Ssangyong illustrations spell out pretty clearly why that company has struggled so much.

So strong. And, so hideous.

Last edited 3 months ago by Schrödinger's Catbox
JDE
JDE
3 months ago

This definitely made me think of the Aztek upon first glance

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