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Is Subaru Sambar Mini Truck the Best Mini Truck for Off Road in 2024?

Subaru sambar mini truck is the best mini truck for off road


When it comes to off-road adventures, the choice of a kei truck can make all the difference. Among the contenders, the Subaru Sambar mini truck has carved a niche for itself.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of the Subaru Sambar mini truck, exploring its capabilities, and answering the burning question: Is the Subaru Sambar truly the best mini truck for off road enthusiasts?

Understanding the Kei Truck Phenomenon

To kick things off, let’s unravel the essence of the kei truck. Kei trucks are a unique category of small, lightweight vehicles originating in Japan. Designed for efficiency and maneuverability, these trucks navigate through tight spaces with ease, making them a popular choice in urban areas.

Introduction to Subaru Sambar mini truck

The Subaru Sambar is a tiny but mighty kei truck that’s perfect for off-roading adventures. This micro-sized pickup has been zooming around Japan since 1961 and offers an awesome combination of durability, versatility, and fun.


The Subaru Sambar mini truck comes with your choice of a 0.7L or 0.8L engine and either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, so you can pick the combination that suits your needs. With its lightweight body and short wheelbase, the Sambar navigates tight, winding roads with ease.

Moreover, these kei trucks are so reliable and durable that even 20-30 years old models like1994 Subaru sambar and 1997 subaru sambar trucks continue to captivate kei truck enthusiasts in 2023.

Subaru Sambar mini truck Specifications

Subaru sambar mini truck 2012

Engine and Transmission

The Sambar comes equipped with a 0.7-liter, 2-cylinder engine that provides up to 64 horsepower. While that may not seem like much, in a truck that weighs only 1,500 pounds, it translates to a ton of zippy performance!

The engine is paired with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. The manual gives you more control for off-roading, while the automatic is ideal for casual driving.

Subaru Sambar Supercharged

One of the most exciting variants of the Subaru Sambar mini truck is the supercharged version. The addition of a supercharger to the engine provides a significant boost in power, transforming the Sambar into an even more capable off-road machine.

The supercharged variant is particularly popular among those who demand superior performance in challenging terrains.

Technical Specifications of the Supercharged Model

  • Increased Horsepower: The supercharged Subaru Sambar boasts a notable increase in horsepower, providing the driver with the extra thrust needed for demanding off-road situations.
  • Torque Enhancement: The supercharger contributes to a substantial increase in torque, ensuring optimal performance when climbing steep inclines or navigating through rough terrain.
  • Improved Acceleration: The enhanced power delivery from the supercharged engine results in improved acceleration, a crucial factor when tackling off-road obstacles that require quick bursts of speed.

Top Speed

Don’t let the Sambar’s small size fool you—this little truck can move! Its top speed is between 75 to 85 miles per hour, depending on the model year and transmission.

The Sambar GL with a manual transmission tops out around 80 mph, while the automatic transmission model can reach up to 85 mph. Not too shabby for a kei truck!

Fuel Economy

Another benefit of the Sambar’s small but spunky engine is awesome gas mileage. You can expect to get 35 to 45 mpg in the city and up to 55 mpg on the highway. The exact mpg will depend on factors like transmission, model year, and driving conditions.

But overall, the Sambar is a highly fuel-efficient truck that’s perfect for the environmentally-conscious off-roader.

Design and Build

Crafted with precision, the Subaru Sambar mini truck boasts a compact design that belies its off-road capabilities. The robust build, featuring a reinforced chassis and durable materials, contributes to its off-road prowess.

The truck’s ground clearance is engineered to tackle challenging terrains with ease, making it a formidable companion for off-road enthusiasts.

Off-Road Features that Matter

subaru sambar is the best mini truck for off road

4WD Capability

One of the defining features that propels the Subaru Sambar to off-road stardom is its four-wheel-drive (4WD) capability. Whether traversing rocky terrains or navigating through muddy trails, the 4WD system provides enhanced traction and stability, ensuring a smooth off-road experience.

Suspension System

Off-road adventures demand a suspension system that can absorb shocks and undulations seamlessly. The Subaru Sambar delivers on this front, with a well-tuned suspension system that maximizes comfort and stability.

This becomes particularly evident when tackling uneven surfaces, proving the truck’s mettle in the realm of off-road escapades.


To boost your Sambar’s off-road prowess, consider some custom upgrades. Add bigger all-terrain tires, a lift kit for more ground clearance, rock sliders, a roof rack, winch, and off-road lights. With some mods, the Sambar becomes an absolute beast ready to tackle any terrain!

Customizing Your Subaru Sambar for Off-Road Use

Are you ready to take your Subaru Sambar to the next level and tackle some serious off-roading? There are so many ways to transform this mighty mini truck into an off-road beast. Let’s get customizing!

Lift Kit

A lift kit will raise your Sambar’s suspension, allowing for bigger tires and more ground clearance. With a lift kit installed, you’ll be able to cruise over rocks and logs without worrying about scraping the underside of your truck. A 2 to 3 inch lift is a great place to start for most off-roading.

Lift kit installation on sambar

Off-Road Tires

No off-road build is complete without aggressive tires. Once you’ve installed your lift kit, you can fit tires up to 31 inches in diameter. Look for tires with a rugged tread pattern, designed for all-terrain or mud terrain use. These tires will grip rocky trails, slog through mud and snow, and get you anywhere you want to go.

Skid Plates

Skid plates protect your undercarriage from damage by shielding vital components like the oil pan, transmission, and differential. When you’re bouncing over rough terrain, skid plates give you peace of mind that your truck’s guts will remain intact.

Roll Bar

A roll bar adds protection in the event of a rollover, which is a real possibility when rock crawling or mudding. Choose a bar that’s specifically designed for your model year Sambar. A roll bar is a must-have safety feature for any serious off-road build.


Auxiliary Lighting

Extra lights help increase your visibility on dark trails and illuminate hazards that your stock headlights can’t. Consider mounting a light bar on your roof rack or bull bar, or add spotlights, floodlights or cube lights. No matter the type, auxiliary lights are essential gear for nighttime off-road adventures.

With the right combination of these mods, your Subaru Sambar will become an absolute beast ready to tackle the toughest trails. Get out there and put your custom off-road machine to the test! The open road (or trail) awaits!

Can Sambar handle it?

Comparing the Subaru Sambar: A Technical Breakdown

Compared to other kei trucks like the Honda Acty, Suzuki Carry or Daihatsu Hijet, the Subaru Sambar mini truck really stands out when it comes to off-road performance. This feisty little truck is built for adventure with its standard all-wheel drive and higher ground clearance!

  • The Sambar comes standard with Subaru’s renowned Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. This means all four wheels are providing power all the time, so you get maximum traction on rough, loose or slippery surfaces. This is perfect for tackling dirt roads, gravel, snow or sand without getting stuck. No other kei truck offers all-wheel drive, so the Sambar is truly in a class by itself here.
  • With up to 7.4 inches of ground clearance, the Sambar rides higher than other kei trucks which typically have around 6 inches. This extra height means you can climb over larger rocks and obstacles without damaging the undercarriage. The Sambar’s approach and departure angles are also steeper so you won’t bottom out as easily on hilly terrain.
  • Four-wheel disk brakes provide strong stopping power for a truck this size. Anti-lock brakes are also standard for stable braking on loose surfaces. This superior brake system gives you more confidence when driving off-road.
  • A variety of engines are offered, including a turbocharged option. The most powerful engine produces 64 horsepower, giving the Sambar excellent power-to-weight ratio so it can scramble up steep hills with ease. Fuel economy is still over 40 mpg, since it’s a tiny truck!

The Subaru Sambar is one of the most capable kei trucks for off-road adventure. If you have an active lifestyle and want a mini truck that can handle dirt, mud, snow or whatever you throw at it, the Sambar should be at the top of your list.

Driving in snow?

Where to Buy a Subaru Sambar Mini Truck

So you’ve decided you want to buy your very own Subaru Sambar kei truck—congratulations! This plucky little truck will provide you with years of adventure and fun. Here’s what you need to know to find and purchase the Subaru Sambar of your dreams.

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Where Can I Buy a Subaru Sambar?

The best places to look for a Subaru Sambar are:

  • Japanese car importers and exporters. These companies specialize in importing JDM (Japanese domestic market) vehicles like the Sambar to countries outside of Japan. They can source trucks from Japan and handle all the necessary importation paperwork for you. Popular sites include BE FORWARD, Japancardirect and Duncan Imports.
  • Local classifieds. Check sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and specialty JDM car forums for Subaru Sambars for sale near you. You may be able to find a great deal buying directly from a private owner. Make sure you thoroughly inspect the vehicle and consider bringing a trusted mechanic with you.
  • Car auctions. Some importers and private owners buy vehicles from Japanese car auctions and then resell them for a profit. You may be able to get a Subaru Sambar for a lower price by buying directly from an auction yourself, but you do take on more risk and hassle. Use a buying service to bid on and purchase the vehicle for you.
  • Dealerships. A few specialty import dealers in the US, Canada, UK and Australia regularly import and sell Subaru Sambar trucks. You’ll likely pay a premium over the other options but get the peace of mind of buying from an established dealer.

Once you find a Subaru Sambar that catches your eye, be sure to check the model year, features, mileage and overall condition to determine if the asking price is fair.

FAQs on Subaru Sambar mini trucks

You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers! Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the mighty Subaru Sambar kei truck.

How much is a Subaru Sambar mini truck?

A Subaru Sambar mini truck will cost roughly $5,500 on average if you are buying them directly from Japanese auction sites. However, the price can vary depending on the vehicle’s condition, model year, and other considerations.

How fast can a Subaru Sambar mini truck go?

While the Sambar won’t win any drag races, its peppy engine can reach up to 75-80 mph on the highway. The 660cc engine provides plenty of power for cruising around town or exploring off-road. For a little extra zip, consider a turbocharged model which can hit 90 mph.

What kind of gas mileage does a Subaru Sambar get?

One of the best things about a kei truck like the Sambar is its incredible fuel efficiency. You can expect 35-45 mpg in the city and up to 55 mpg on the highway. The Sambar sips fuel thanks to its tiny engine, lightweight body, and aerodynamic shape.

Is it the best mini truck for off road?

Yes, Subaru Sambar’s robust build and incredible customization potential gives a slight edge over the other kei truck competitors when it comes to tackling some of the most challenging terrains.

How reliable are Subaru Sambars?

Subaru is known for building very reliable and long-lasting vehicles, and the Sambar is no exception. Properly maintained Sambars can easily last over 200,000 miles and, interestingly, the older models like 1994 Subaru sambar and the Subaru sambar 1997 have been the most popular Subaru sambar mini truck in the recent years.

Are parts available for Subaru Sambars?

Yes, both new and used parts are readily available for Sambar trucks. Subaru still produces OEM parts to support models going back 30 years or more. There is also an active market for used and aftermarket parts.

Between salvage yards, eBay, specialty retailers and Subaru dealerships, you should be able to find any part you need to repair or modify your Sambar. These trucks were built to last, so keep your Sambar running for years to come!


The Subaru Sambar is simply the most capable kei truck for off-road adventure. If you have an active lifestyle and want a mini truck that can handle dirt, mud, snow or whatever you throw at it, the Sambar should be at the top of your list. Its standard all-wheel drive, higher ground clearance and powerful brakes will get you to all those hard-to-reach places other kei trucks can’t!

You’ve now learned everything you need to know about the incredible Subaru Sambar kei truck. Whether conquering rocky trails or zipping around the city, the Sambar delivers. Now it’s time for you to get behind the wheel of this mighty mini machine and experience the thrill of the open road – or open trail!

With stylish looks, impressive capability and Subaru’s signature reliability and value, the Sambar is ready to take you on your next big adventure.

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