5 Most Iconic Japanese Cars of All Time

Published On By Akshay Luke Peters for Toyota Land Cruiser 200 at CarBay

Despite their clear dominance over the automotive market across the globe, the Japanese automakers are still overlooked when compared to premium brands such as Aston Martin, Bentley and Jaguar etc. Although the Japanese car makers are famous all across the globe for their highly driver friendly, fuel-economic and luxurious cars, they are still criminally underrated when it comes to delivering some iconic models that would become fan favourites. Being the masters of steel since their days of the samurai, there are plenty of classic looking Japanese cars that have served the auto geeks since their introduction and have pretty much stood the test of time. No, we’re not talking about a Hello Kitty inspired car (although it will become an icon nonetheless), but models that were equally famous for their design and technology as the big names such as Bentley and Maserati etc. If you’ve been having trouble finding such models, then check the list below and choose your favourite.

Skyline GTR

1. Nissan Skyline GTR 1973

The GTR Grand Tourer made its official debut back in 1969 and was put on a long hiatus after 1973. While the Ford Mustang was one of the most iconic muscle car, 1973 model for the Skyline GTR was also a close successor that became instantly famous for its robust body and is often referred to as the best car in the world. The 1973 model was powered by a 2.0-litre engine and a 5-speed manual gearbox that delivered all its power to the rear wheels. Following their iconic take with the American styled muscle, the GTR line was discontinued following the fuel crisis in 70’s.

MX5 Miata

2. Mazda MX-5 Miata

The first-gen MX-5 roadster made its debut back in 1989 and soon became Japan’s answer to the Italian rivals such as Alfa Romeo and Fiat. Although the vehicle remained as one of the most famous convertibles among the Japanese, the 2016 model is instantly recognisable for its old-school design that made it an instant classic. Built as a classic 2-seater roadster, the latest MX5 Miata is underpinned by a SkyActiv G 2.0-litre engine that is available with both 6-speed manual and automatic transmission. The vehicle has also won several awards and accolades along with the Guinness record for the highest selling 2-seater convertible across the globe with more than 900,000 units already sold by the manufacturers.

Civic Hatchback

3. Honda Civic

Although most know the Honda Civic for its sedan body avatar that is also famous across the globe, their most iconic model till date is the small hatchback model that remained in production between 1979 and 1983. The vehicle’s design closely followed the leads from the similar looking Accord, with smaller dimensions. The vehicle featured a 2-door hatchback in favour of a sedan styled body, which was also presented in a station wagon variant that remained popular among larger families. The vehicle was powered by a 1.3-litre and a 1.5-litre engine. Both of which were mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. The model was soon replaced by the sedan variant but maintained a highly iconic position due to its highly muscular design despite the smaller size.

Classic Land Cruiser

4. Toyota Land Cruiser

The Off-roading monster created by Toyota Motors is surely one of the most famous SUV models by the Japanese manufacturers. While the American brand Jeep was the one who pioneered the vehicular segment, it was Toyota Motors that popularised it among the automotive lovers across the globe. The first generation of Land Cruiser closely resembled the military grade off-roader design by Jeep with some distinctive additions that made it stand apart. But the concept of a true luxury SUV was realized in 1960 with the launch of the J40 series of Land Cruiser. It was made available in a variety of body styles including a hardtop, soft-top, station wagon and pickup truck and a 4-wheel drive layout as optional.

Impreza-WRX STI

5. Subaru WRX STI

Last but not the least, if there’s any Japanese automaker that is known for its iconic imagery it could be none other than Subaru. Their famous compact car model the Subaru Impreza made its first debut back in 1992 and became an instant hit due to its signature ‘Boxer engine’ drivetrain. But its true iconic status was only reached after the WRX STI model made its appearance. The version was also provided with a special Dual-range 6-speed manual gearbox and a 5-speed automatic for Asia-Pacific region, which also added to its increased demand in the region.

Yes, it is quite easy to point your finger at a Ferrari or a Mustang when talking about iconic cars, but that doesn’t mean the Japanese are any less. The abovementioned models not only look as good as the famous models but are most likely to become the icons for future generations of automobile fans.

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