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!:

Screen Shot 2023 12 18 At 11.30.04 Pm
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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Rapgomi
Rapgomi
5 months ago

These make me think of the William Towns Hustler series!

Drad
Drad
5 months ago

The other really bizarre (but not quite as awesome) is the Toyota Avanza/Daihatsu Xenia. Its a body on frame, rear wheel drive compact MPV. I swear one I rode in had a choke! These things came out in like 2004!!!!

Camp Fire
Camp Fire
5 months ago

I’m getting 90s 4-Runner vibes. Kinda like Toyota knocked off their own design by changing up the proportions.

https://www.edmunds.com/toyota/4runner/1994/

B3n
B3n
5 months ago

And now the IMV 0 (Hilux Champ) makes way more sense, it’s the successor of the first gen Kijang trucks.
Fun fact, Southeast Asia market Toyotas often don’t have a cabin heater, I bet the Kijang doesn’t have that either.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
5 months ago

Is this where the designer of the new USPS mail van got their ideas?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
5 months ago

This kind of looks like Spiny Norman.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago

Dave you have lost your roots. None of these are even a tenth as ugly as a CT. They really don’t look different from earlier model vehicles. I myself dig that 1/4 3/4 rear door looks like a Dodge Raider which is cool. Now these are mini so it looks like 70s Japanese micro cars. You used to know this.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
5 months ago

“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:”

Ahem, FIAT Multipla would like a word…

Sledgehammer
Sledgehammer
5 months ago

Massive Isuzu trooper vibes.

10001010
10001010
5 months ago

So you bought one and are shipping it to the states in time for Moab?

Chronometric
Chronometric
5 months ago

This thing is “Your daughter has great taste in underwear” awkward.

Thomas The Tank Engine
Thomas The Tank Engine
5 months ago
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
5 months ago

Seriously what’s in the water at SsangYong’s studios?

DONALD FOLEY
DONALD FOLEY
5 months ago

In 2015 the 1st generation Rodius became one of the most popular vehicles on the Banger racing circuit due to its high centre of gravity and high strength in a collision, eventually leading to a ban from the sport in 2017, the second vehicle to be banned from Banger racing after the Chrysler Imperial in 2016.

Harmon20
Harmon20
5 months ago

That thing looks like the love child of a 1st gen Trooper, 2nd gen Hilux, and 3rd gen Club Wagon.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
5 months ago
Reply to  Harmon20

With plenty of room to make more strange love children cars.

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
5 months ago
Reply to  Harmon20

First thing I though when I saw the first pic was “what did they do to a Ford van. Glad I’m not crazy.

Or at least not the only crazy one.

R53forfun
R53forfun
5 months ago
Reply to  Harmon20

And a Volvo 850/960.

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
5 months ago
Reply to  R53forfun

If there’s Volvo in there, then…

Well, I’ve always thought that stylistically, in profile and from the rear, a Volvo 740/760/940/960/original V90 is an XJ Cherokee of roughly the same year stretched to a wider, lower aspect ratio (and vice versa).

(Fun trivia: Straight-six models [excluding diesel Volvos] even use the same Aisin transmission.)

So it has some old-school Jeepy spirit in there, too.

R53forfun
R53forfun
5 months ago
Reply to  FuzzyPlushroom

Not gonna disagree with any of that!

For me, there was just something about the fender side profile of this rig in David’s pic (inclusive of the headlight housing and wheel design, and how angular it all is) that made me think Volvo.

But yeah, def Jeepy too. I can see that now :).

Last edited 5 months ago by R53forfun
Norman Ramos
Norman Ramos
5 months ago

When I visited the Philippines as a kid, these were sold Philippines as the Toyota Tamaraw FX. This was pretty much your standard people movers in the PI.

Gee See
Gee See
5 months ago

I guess Toyota is doing what VW is doing with their products in South America, tailor to local tastes / regulations and raid the common corporate parts bin? No small overlap crash tests and no large 1/2 ton+ pick ups to crash against, you can make the windows that big. Do those things even have air bags / ABS?

Last edited 5 months ago by Gee See
Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
5 months ago
Reply to  Gee See

Air bags and ABS, in a low tech, basic, rugged utility vehicle, in Indonesia, in 1986-1996? I think we both know the answer to that question

Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
5 months ago

Wasn’t Kijang one of the sounds spelled out in old comic books? Like when a henchman took a swing at Batman with a pipe?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
5 months ago

Or Captain America’s shield ricochets off some baddie’s noggin.

“When Captain America throws his mighty shield, all those who choose to oppose his shield must yield. If he’s led to a fight and a duel is due, then the red and the white and the blue’ll come through. When Captain America throws his mighty shield.”

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
5 months ago

Low hood, high beltline, extra tall windows = crazy awkward
Great find David!

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
5 months ago

The visibility out of this thing must be amazing.

DysLexus
DysLexus
5 months ago

Yep just like swimming in a motorized aquarium.

I drive a boring SUV
I drive a boring SUV
5 months ago

Give the Actyon SUV some credit, it’s the vehicle that inspired the BMW X6

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
5 months ago

Cowl forward: 80s Nissan Sentra
Cowl back: 3/4 scale Econoline.

The Grouch
The Grouch
5 months ago

That looks like a 70 series Landcruiser body. The windshield and the rear door are almost perfect match. Not 100% but damn close.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
5 months ago
Reply to  The Grouch

Its definitely got the vibes. Its too skinny to be a troopy body and too long to be a wagon. There is probably some parts sharing though.

bomberoKevino
bomberoKevino
5 months ago

This is what every CUV/SUV would look like if we went into the design brief and replaced “Provides emotional support to help the driver deal with an uncertain and scary world” with “Driver is able to see outside.”

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
5 months ago

Check out the Kijang Innova, the replacement for the Kijang
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Innova#/media/File:2017_Toyota_Kijang_Innova_2.0_G_wagon_(TGN140R;_01-19-2019),_South_Tangerang.jpg
It looks like a highlander or minivan, but its based on the hilux chassis. Wild.
https://autocatalogarchive.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Toyota-Kijang-Innova-2008-ID.pdf

Last edited 5 months ago by Pat Rich
DadBod
DadBod
5 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

wow that’s not nearly as awesome, it shares the same sad fate as a Pathfinder

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
5 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

Yeah, sadly the latest gen moves it to TNGA GA-C making it basically just another tall Corolla.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
5 months ago

Toyota needs to sell the Kijang over here

Skurdnee
Skurdnee
5 months ago

oh man I want one of these real bad

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