Home » Today I Learned Suzuki Builds A Kei Class Jimny Without Flares To Fit Japanese Regulations

Today I Learned Suzuki Builds A Kei Class Jimny Without Flares To Fit Japanese Regulations

Suzuki Jimny Japanese Flares Ts
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The Suzuki Jimny is a highly desirable thing, perhaps all the moreso because it’s forbidden fruit for so many of us. It’s a capable off-roader with a proper 4WD drivetrain and a rugged, no-nonsense design. Its compact dimensions are offset by its tough, pumped wheel arches, which give it the general stance and demeanor of a feisty little chihuahua. But did you know there’s a cuter little Jimny sans flares, built especially for the Japanese market? It gives the pint-sized off-roader an altogether more wholesome, friendly look.

As you might expect, it all comes down to the Japanese domestic market and the regulations for kei class cars. The Suzuki Jimny actually started out as a kei class vehicle all the way back in 1970, with a diminutive build and a 359cc engine good for just 25 horsepower. The new tiny off-road model filled a niche and quickly grew in popularity. As the model’s stature grew, Suzuki realized an opportunity existed to take this model into other markets. However, many other jurisdictions preferred more powerful vehicles, and didn’t have the same kei class tax incentives as Japan. Thus, the Jimny began to be offered with larger dimensions and engines, both at home and abroad, while the company continued to build the kei-sized versions for Japan.

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The kei class, or Keijidōsha (light vehicle) regulations in Japan specify maximum dimensions for a vehicle to be eligible for insurance and tax benefits. Since the last major revision in 1998, a kei car can be no more than 11.2 feet long, 4.9 feet wide, and 6.6 feet high. The maximum engine size allowed is 660 cc and power is capped at 63 hp.

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In Japan, the Suzuki Jimny (code JB64) goes without the flared wheel arches, and tucks in its bumpers to fit inside the envelope. With those changes, it measures 11.14 feet long and 4.84 feet wide to sneak in under the line, and it rocks a little turbo 660cc engine good for 63 hp. The global Jimny, which is sold in Japan as the Jimny Sierra (code JB74), measures 11.9 feet long and 5.4 feet wide. Its 1.5-liter engine is naturally aspirated, and good for 100 hp. As for the new five-door model, that’s got no hope of being a kei car, thanks to its comparatively gargantuan 13-foot length.

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There’s no kei version of the five-door Jimny because it’s just too dang long.

The Jimny cuts a different form as a kei class vehicle. It’s more happy go lucky, and less jacked. By comparison, the larger export Sierra model has more of a pumped look. If anything, it’s like it comes from the factory with all the basic “rugged” aesthetic mods you’d fit yourself if you were doing an off-road build. Of course, the Jimny looks great with a good lift, some bullbars, and all the other usual outback kit, but it’s also nice to see its more humble side.

Screenshot 2023 12 06 At 11.32.46 Pm

Screenshot 2023 12 06 At 11.32.25 Pm
They are brothers.

Overall though, for many of us, this is all kind of moot. The Suzuki Jimny is sort of like that sweetie you met on summer camp. Cute and capable, you learned all about them and you wanted them in your life. That wasn’t to be though, because they weren’t available in your home region. Even if you’re lucky to live somewhere like Australia, where the Jimny is actually on sale, getting one is nigh-on impossible because they’re sold out everywhere you look. Ultimately, Suzuki has built a great vehicle in two forms that most of us will sadly never get to own. Funny how that goes.

Image credits: Suzuki

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Scott
Scott
2 months ago

I think I actually like it even better w/o the flares, though a couple extra inches of bumper in the corners on the non-kei version would lend me an extra sliver of peace-of-mind, even if there’s probably zero difference in a fender bender.

Two door, steel wheels, manual trans, AC please, in an actual bright/interesting color. That’s what I’d like. And cheap of course. And for sale in America.

All a fantasy. 🙁

McLovin
McLovin
2 months ago

My Jimny (Damd Little G) is a kei version. Best city car ever.

Ron888
Ron888
2 months ago

Random question: Do any Kei vehicles have slow revving engines yet still have the maximum allowed HP?
Obviously there are lots of high revving Kei engines and of course turbo versions, but i’m pretty sure they all revved quite high.
Has anyone made one with a big enough turbo/supercharger that it doesnt need to rev?

Dcpdx
Dcpdx
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron888

There is a displacement cap (660cc) in addition to an HP cap (63hp) so probably not.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron888

Probably not since it takes a lot of boost, a lot of rpm, or some of both to get 67hp from 660cc.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago

So, is this the loophole for Georgia, Maine, et al? Don’t want to register keis? Well, bolt on some aftermarket fender flares – boom, no longer qualifies as a kei.

Unless these states are enforcing some sort of minimum engine displacement and minimum curb weight, which, if they are, is going to have a chilling effect on future R&D in range extended EVs and lightweight composites.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Actually I understand they have no definition whatsoever for kei cars and so far have been refusing registration to any vehicle with a longer Japanese VIN.

Myk El
Myk El
2 months ago

I love those things. It makes zero sense for my life and I wouldn’t buy one barring a fairly significant change in my income, but I am so glad they exist.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
2 months ago

How timely. My brother bought a Freshly imported Jimny Sierra yesterday. it’s the most hilariously cute thing I’ve ever seen.

The radio has a Japanese talking lady inside and there’s a card chip reader in the dash with antennas in the glass for toll roads. It’s awesome.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
2 months ago

I lied. it’s not a Sierra, it’s the Kei class version. oop.

Phuzz
Phuzz
2 months ago

That’s even cooler in some ways. Also, can I thank your brother for improving the lives of all the people he passes on the street. I love seeing Jimnys around the place, they’re just such a cute size 🙂

Last edited 2 months ago by Phuzz
Parsko
Parsko
2 months ago

It’s gonna be a looooong 25 years.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

Even longer if you live in Georgia, Maine, or any of those other hypocritical states.

Parsko
Parsko
2 months ago

ROFL!!!

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

You can buy a Jimmy that’s already 25 years old, they have made these since the 70s. You can even buy a US market LHD one, since a Suzuki Samurai is just a US market Jimny.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago

This looks O Kei.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago

All the Jimny kids with their pumped arches, you better run better run, faster than my kei truck…

Just out of curiosity, if some newer kei trucks can be brought over stateside as utility vehicles with a lockout plate blocking the higher gears to ensure low speed use, could these Jimnys be brought over with a similar lockout plate and the rear seats removed for “utility” low speed around town and off-road use?

Silent But Deadly
Silent But Deadly
2 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

There’s a few farming properties around my place in Oz that have bought both this and previous generations of Jimny for on-farm use only. Primarily because they were similarly priced or even cheaper and had more carrying capacity that a Polaris et al. UTV.

One I’ve seen recently even had the roof chopped off and the rear door chopped down. The Jimny was less than six months old with only a couple of thousand kilometres on it…

Phuzz
Phuzz
2 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

In Europe, they don’t meet emissions regulations for passenger vehicles*, so they’re imported as ‘commercial’ vehicles with no rear seats etc.

*they used to, up until 2021

Space
Space
2 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

Depending on jurisdiction almost anything can be used off road/private land.

Alexk98
Alexk98
2 months ago

What I’m really curious about, but have no clue how to start to research, is how many if any even remotely modern JDM vehicles have both Kei and Non-Kei variants. Most if not all Kei class cars I’ve seen or heard of are built exclusively for the Japanese Domestic Market to meet Kei regs, and therefore are so design constrained as to not have alternate body styles larger than what fits that small Kei Box. The closest I can think of are the van/truck Kei cars such as the Acty which are multiple body styles, but both still fit the Kei regulations.

Mercedes mentioned below that Smart used to do this in Japan by shrinking the rear fenders and track, which is actually extremely funny to me that Smarts were too big to be Kei cars, but I can’t think of anything outside a Jimny that would meet that weird loophole.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

I know there are some developing countries where “kei” vehicles are sold with larger engines, making them no longer kei as there is no kei class in said country, but they’re still cheap small vehicles and thus have a market. So they wouldn’t have non-kei variants in Japan, but they do elsewhere.

Ron888
Ron888
2 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

Yep.Some even sold here in australia,most with bigger (but still tiny) engines.
I actually got to tell people i had the big block version (850cc) XD

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
2 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

I know someone with a Domingo that looks like a Kei van, but is in fact a non-Kei variant, with bigger bumpers and I think a bigger engine, too. I believe he got it from Japan.

KA467
KA467
2 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

There’s also the Suzuki Wagon R-Wide, Mitsubishi Pajero Junior, Mitsubishi Town Box Wide, Mitsubishi Toppo BJ Wide, and I’m sure there’s many others

Last edited 2 months ago by KA467
Alexk98
Alexk98
2 months ago
Reply to  KA467

Aha this is exactly what I was looking for! I was completely unaware of the Wagon-R and Toppo Wide versions! Also did some googling, appears that the Pajero Mini is a true kei car (Minica based!) and the Jr is exactly the same deal as the Jimny, added flares, over 1L engine, and some slight body tweaks & Wider track to make it non-kei but still kei based, which is pretty neat.

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago

I hate flares on road vehicles. They add unnecessary drag for the sake of dishonest aesthetics. One of the only times they make sense is when a stock vehicle is being modified for a wider track, in which case the flares can reduce the amount of drag increase that the wider track would entail by covering the exposed tires/wheel to the front airflow. For an offroad vehicle, they can help keep the dirt/mud from being thrown in places you don’t want it.

I think the Jimny is a better on-road vehicle without them.

Last edited 2 months ago by Toecutter
Church
Church
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I agree, but I would also add a caveat that depending on the scenario, flares can be really nice for keeping mud and other stuff off the side of the vehicle. I drive mostly in town and I don’t care about the drag at 35mph, but keeping crap off the side windows is nice.

David Frisby
David Frisby
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

The ‘rest of the world Jimny’ does have the wider track, and after living with one (previous gen model) for a week recently, it needs the wider track too… Fun to drive in a terrible way though

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago
Reply to  David Frisby

If this weren’t an offroad vehicle, I’d say the vehicle should be further widened to fit the track, but in the case of a vehicle that is going to go through wooded areas and backroads with narrow passes, the more narrow body with the flared fenders does make sense.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

This is kind of a silly point to make. The Jimny IS an off-road vehicle. It is a terrible road vehicle by design, because it was never meant to be one. Its road legality is only for the sake of getting to trails. Of course it has flares, that makes it a better off-roader, removing flares for the sake of fuel economy and road manners is kind of overlooking the fact that it’s also tall and has the aerodynamics of a filing cabinet.

If we’re talking fender flares on a Geo Metro or a Prius, then yeah that’s an impractical feature worth pointing out, but like… this is not that, it’s a different vehicle type with a different purpose.

Last edited 2 months ago by Austin Vail
Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

My pet peeve regarding flares is when they’re factory built on vehicles that aren’t intended to go off-road and simply added for looks, or on vehicles whose tracks have been deliberately widened from stock unnecessarily(I hate seeing them on Miatas and 911s). They completely ruin the aero.

With the Jimny, the aero wasn’t really a concern.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

In the defense of widebody Miatas and 911s, it’s arguably for handling, or at least can be. Wider track = more stability, and particularly in the case of autocross/time attack purposes, sacrificing aero is worth the extra stability.

And for the show cars with widebodies that never see track width, well… they never cared about practicality in the first place.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Somehow I doubt aerodynamics was of particular interest to the folks who designed the Jimny to have the same general shape as a brick.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

My f150 and my Jeep j10 are both 80″ wide flare to flare. Since the f150 has small flares and the j10 has wide flares, the body and frontal area of the j10 are significantly narrower.

Remind me why making the whole body wider instead of flares would be aerodynamically advantageous?

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The airflow can be kept flush and more attached with a non-flared body, allowing a lower Cd. This is one of the reasons pontoon body styles are advantageous, typically offsetting the frontal area increase entailed.

Fender flares will cause the airflow to become turbulent aft of the flare, UNLESS it is shaped properly to reduce wake.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Yeah I’m sure the flares are not aerodynamically ideal, but Cd isn’t everything. The increase in frontal area that you’d get from making the entire height of the body like 2.5″ wider on each side is considerable.

Jacob Rippey
Jacob Rippey
2 months ago

I wish that an OEM in the US would rebadge the Jimney and sell it here.

D-dub
D-dub
2 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

They could call it the Gimme.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
2 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

I keep believing that this is exactly how Jeep makes waves in the compact market. Slight front end modifications to make it look more Jeep-ey, but otherwise left alone aesthetically. Crud they could probably sell both versions, just sell the beefy one as a higher trim.

MrLM002
MrLM002
2 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

Jeep “CJ”. Jeep could develop an open top body for it along with different tops, a “heavy duty” 4×4 variant with a solid axle in the front and dual lockers, and both would work on making a BEV variant.

In this collaboration Jeep would get a cheap, small 4×4 that they can sell exclusively in the US market and maybe in Canada as well. Suzuki gets a ton of “free” R&D as well as insights into making various cab tops (which considering Ford’s issues with the Bronco hardtops is apparently valuable information).

Now that I think about it I think that really any of the Japanese automakers could sell and maintain them through their dealer network in the US and they’d sell a ton of them…

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

You’ve just invented captive imports.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

Suzuki rebadged the Jimny as a Samurai and sold it here in the US.

Jacob Rippey
Jacob Rippey
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Well, yeah, but they don’t have a dealer network anymore in the US now. If Suzuki teamed up with, say, Toyota to sell these things in the US, they’d be everywhere… especially if they upsized the engine a hair for the US market.

Tbird
Tbird
2 months ago

I like the cleaner, lighter look. Reminds me of the old Samurai here in the States. Want.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Tbird

A Samurai is a Jimny.

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
2 months ago

Smart did a similar thing to sell its City Coupe as a Kei car in Japan. Back then, Smarts had 598cc turbo engines that already met regulations. Dimensions were almost on point, with just the vehicle’s rear quarters a bit too wide to meet regulations. So, Smart shaved the quarters (plastic, so no big deal) and reduced the rear track slightly. Viola, you got what Smart called the “Smart K,” which was just for Japan.

Yep, in every other situation, a Smart is actually too big to be classified as Kei. 🙂

Last edited 2 months ago by Mercedes Streeter
Lightning
Lightning
2 months ago

Wide bodies are overdone, and I especially don’t like tacked on flares. I generally prefer narrow bodies, like the Ruf Yellowbird over wide-fendered 911s, Legacys/Libertys over Outbacks, original Countach over later ones, old cars vs wider new cars, etc. Narrower fits better on normal roads and allows more in-lane carving on twisty roads. Make narrow cars cool again!

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
2 months ago

I think that we Autopians should start the long project of lobbying congress and pestering our lawmakers to adopt the Kei car standards or something similar for minicars here in the US.

There are a lot of good uses for these, and competent adults should be allowed to take the risks they’re willing to insure themselves for.

I could see a “no drivers under 21” rule to go with the relaxed safety standards, and maybe even a “no interstate highway use” rule.

But we really should converge and start a proposal that we can all get behind.

VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago

…I’m confused. “no interstate highway use” feels like a nonstarter in a huge swath of the U.S. At that point it’s closer to the “offroad use only” of unregistered/untitled cars than actual usability.

V10omous
V10omous
2 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

It would be a nonstarter for sure.

At that point, there would be virtually no advantage to a Jimny over a UTV with enclosed cab.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
2 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

It’s a nonstarter for huge swaths of empty land that have… …rural roads criss-crossing all over the place. And US and State highways like Route 66 that aren’t divided interstates.

Just because they wouldn’t be useful everywhere doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be useful.

Citrus
Citrus
2 months ago

Yeah, no. The Interstate system is so engrained into United States infrastructure that a car that can’t use it is dead in the water. It’s a very hard sell when you’re paying around $20k for something you can’t use in common travel situations.

Last edited 2 months ago by Citrus
VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago
Reply to  Citrus

The only generous use case I can think of is so that your elderly grandmother can still drive to the hairdresser in town, but that at that point (if you’re not having bigger discussions about her having a license at all) why is she using anything but the most basic, safest, more modern transportation? Not specifically seeking a niche-ish vehicle like a Jimny

Citrus
Citrus
2 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

In that scenario do we actually need something smaller and cheaper than a Kia Soul?

VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago
Reply to  Citrus

Exactly. I came up with a use case for a vehicle banned from highways…which also doesn’t require the specificity of a Jimny.

alwaysbroke
alwaysbroke
2 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Maybe i’m rare in this regard, but I regularly take long trips where I avoid interstates altogether. With rare exception, you can pretty much get from anywhere to anywhere without ever getting on an interstate if you want. Just takes longer.

VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago
Reply to  alwaysbroke

That’s fair, I suppose…for me, I tend to get sleepy if I drive more than ~1.5 hours at a time, and while I’m no stranger to napping on the side of the road, I much prefer to get them done in one go than need those naps in the first place.

Most of my close friends and family are a 1.5 hour drive away by highway, and those routes balloon to 2.5+ hours if I tell Maps to avoid highways.

I value my time enough to take highways (albeit not enough to drive above the speed limit on them, for fuel economy’s sake).

Last edited 2 months ago by VanGuy
alwaysbroke
alwaysbroke
2 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

I’ll certainly still take interstates when time is important, but when I have the time I try to avoid them. It probably doesn’t help that the ones I take most often are overcrowded particualrly with truckers and not in good shape. I find state highways add about 20% to my travel time, unacceptable to some, but most of the time not a big deal to me, and I’m far more relaxed when I get where I’m going

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
2 months ago
Reply to  alwaysbroke

I’ve been doing this ever since my navigation mapped a trip from Brighton (UK) to Bath all on motorways (M23>M25>M4), a massive diversion from the direct route almost directly west (OK, WNW). Instead, we drove on A and B roads through beautiful countryside, found some charming little towns and villages that we have revisited since, drove across Salisbury Plain right past Stonehenge and through “tank country”.
Now, like @alwaysbroke, I have learned my lesson and prefer to take the extra time and arrive much more relaxed and fresh from “driving” rather than “controlling” the car, stopping off whenever we feel like it or see something interesting, discovering new places, and talking about our surroundings rather than bitching about all the other drivers.

Last edited 2 months ago by SonOfLP500
Citrus
Citrus
2 months ago
Reply to  alwaysbroke

I think you are pretty rare, and people like yourself aren’t a large enough market to justify making a suite of regulations and importing and marketing a range of vehicles. And even then there’s a “well I generally don’t use interstates but what if I have to?” question that a lot of people will have.

alwaysbroke
alwaysbroke
2 months ago
Reply to  Citrus

Your probably right, and to be fair I have little intertest in a Jimny even if it was avaialble. My assumption would be anyone buying a Jimny would have either a second vehicle or a spouses vehicle for longer trips, and/or would have to accept the fact that taking a Jimny on a long trip would mean longer travel time. I never driven one but I can’t imagine it would be very enjoyable on interstates anyway

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
2 months ago

Kei cars do perfectly well on expressways in Japan, and this argument revolves back to the usual paradox: if motorcycles and ancient rattletraps are OK on interstates, why not kei cars?

Last edited 2 months ago by SonOfLP500
Aprtur
Aprtur
2 months ago

There is legislation in place akin to this – look up LSVs (low speed vehicle). The key point of change would be including any model year kei vehicles as being eligible for LSV registration and classification.

ElectricOffRoaders .com
ElectricOffRoaders .com
2 months ago

Turn signals on mirrors.

I’m out.

VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago

…what’s wrong with those? They supplement the front ones, not replace them. Visibility is a good thing, isn’t it? It lets people beside you see that intention to turn too, not just people behind or in front.

ElectricOffRoaders .com
ElectricOffRoaders .com
2 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

This is funny. Sorry. I didn’t answer with a complete sentence. I was just responding to the prompt in the lead image that says, “spot the difference.”

The first difference I saw was the turn signals on the mirrors. I didn’t notice the fender flares until after I skimmed the article. I just said “I’m out” because I was short on time and felt at the time that I won the speed contest to identify the difference, and thus… dropped the mic.

Apologies for the confusion. I’m fine with – and even like – turn signals on mirrors. Glad we’re all (mostly) pro-mirror-turn-signal people.

VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago

Ha! Funny. Good thing tone is easily conveyed on the internet or that could’ve ended badly.

Parsko
Parsko
2 months ago

LOL! I feel like you win COTD for some reason for this.

Tbird
Tbird
2 months ago

???? Had one car with these and really liked them. Seems a strange hill to die on.

Citrus
Citrus
2 months ago

Is there a car on the market today that doesn’t have turn signals on the mirrors?

David Frisby
David Frisby
2 months ago

On vans I am with you, here in the UK with narrow roads, Transit’s and Sprinter’s always have smashed indicators in the mirrors. Merc give a delete option but Ford don’t.
On the Jimny it looks like it also has some kind of blindspot camera underneath the mirror.

Citrus
Citrus
2 months ago

I also just noticed that one of the models pictured doesn’t have turn signals on the mirrors, so it’s likely an option depending on the model you pick.

Back in?

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