On test: Daihatsu’s lightweight, high-spec Hijet 4×4

The success of modified Suzuki Jimnys at providing an alternative to costly UTVs has paved the way for another quirky method of off-road transport – compact Japanese pickups.

Slotting into their homeland’s so-called “kei car” category, these diminutive vehicles sit at less than 1.5m wide, 3.4m long, and have to be powered by an engine with a capacity of no more than 660cc.

See also: First impressions: Go-anywhere £8k Suzuki Quadtruck

This makes them light and agile, so throw in a four-wheel drive system and you’ve got a potential off-roading virtuoso on your hands.

Added to that the fact that Japan makes it difficult to buy and run used cars means there’s a rich pool of tidy, second-hand models waiting for a new home.

We’ve already featured the Suzuki Quadtruck sold by Worcestershire dealer Abbey Commercials in Farmers Weekly, and now we’ve got our mitts on the latest Daihatsu Hijet Jumbo Trek.

Brought into the UK by London importer Motoyama, it marries a 55hp petrol engine with a five-speed manual transmission, high/low transfer box and switchable four-wheel drive system.

All of which is slotted into a petite ladder chassis with forward-control pickup body, not dissimilar in looks to the old Bedford Rascal. That might not seem like much of a compliment, but the Hijet has plenty going for it.

Unladen weight is in the same ballpark as a UTV at just 900kg. It has a huge 1.9m-long load bed and Motoyama fits the Trek version with a 4in lift kit and underbody protection so that it can skip across rough terrain.

It also comes as standard with 14in wheels shod with all-terrain or mud tyres, which gives it decent traction in sticky conditions.

Oh, and it costs less than many fully-loaded UTVs. It comes in at £20,645, with buyers able to save another £5,000 or so by opting for a lightly used two-year-old model that’s clocked about 5,000 miles.

Comfortable cabin

In-cab creature comforts are where the Hijet really sets itself apart from a UTV.

A heater, air-conditioning and radio are all standard fitments, and many come with keyless entry, a screen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, as well as electric windows.

Seats are comfortable too, and it’s pleasingly quiet. However, legroom is a bit tight for taller drivers, even though most of the models coming to the UK are Jumbo versions with an extended cab.

While we’re being picky, it’s also worth noting that it’s considerably more awkward to hop in and out of than a UTV, due largely to the fact that the door is directly over the front wheel.

Having a 4in lift only adds to the challenge, creating the real risk of adding skid marks on your trousers as you slide over a muddy wheel arch.

Interior of Daihatsu Hijet 4x4 pickup

© James Andrews

Off-road ability

Thanks to its low weight, lift kit and four-wheel drive system with locking rear differential, the Hijet takes most off-roading in its stride.

High range is a bit too leggy for driving around a farm, but slot it into low and it transforms into a nippy little runabout.

It also helps make the most of the game three-cylinder engine, which rewards those with a heavy right foot.

Longer-travel shocks offer a relatively supple ride, although the rear leaf springs mean it’s never going to be as smooth or track the ground as well as a John Deere Gator or Polaris Ranger.

The fact that it runs on fairly narrow tyres also means it cuts into wet ground a little more than a UTV.

Fitting some larger ATV-style rubber – which some owners have done – would help it achieve a little more levitation though.

A particularly tight turning circle means it can spin around on a sixpence, which makes it easy to manoeuvre, particularly in tight spaces.

What does take a bit of getting used to is the featherweight clutch. Combine this with the small engine and the only way to pull away on rough or soft ground without stalling is to give it a boot full of revs.

As a result, those piloting the Hijet off-road will have to work hard to earn any compliments for smooth driving. It is possible to do away with the clutch and opt for a belt-drive CVT, but this does sap more power.

Stability is another consideration, as the narrow wheelbase and lifted stance make it look as though a stiff breeze would topple it onto its side.

However, it feels surprisingly stable from behind the wheel as most of the weight is hunkered down low in the chassis.

Even so, it’s probably not going to be the first choice for anyone that’s regularly traversing Welsh mountains.

Daihatsu Hijet 4x4 pickup tyres

© James Andrews

Load lugger

Plonking the driver’s seat on top of the front wheel has made space for a huge load bed that’s 1.5m wide and almost 2m long.

Officially, it’s only rated to carry 375kg, but buyers will no doubt be tempted to push that a little further.

There’s also plenty of scope for customisation, with the option of tipper bodies, box vans and a frame, as fitted in the pictured test model.

It might look like a piece of home gym equipment, but it could prove handy for lashing bulky items in place or carrying long lengths of timber or steel above the roof.

Trailers weighing up to 400kg can be pulled when an optional tow bar is fitted, although the size of the load area means there’s plenty of carrying capacity without.

As the Hijet is ostensibly a car, it segues easily from turf to tarmac. The lack of power means it’s a rather steady performer, but it can reach speeds of up to 70mph if presented with a long enough stretch of road.

It’s quiet and comfortable too, so it’s no hardship driving reasonable distances, and it’s frugal, achieving about 50mpg on a decent run.

4x4 pickup truck

© James Andrews


There’s plenty to like about the chipper Hijet, with its luxurious cabin – by UTV standards at least – acres of load space and decent off-road ability.

It’s also competitively priced against a UTV and the fact that it’s been bolted together in a slick Japanese factory means it likely to stand the test of time.

Motoyama keeps a stock of spare parts too, and most consumables can be sourced from a decent motor factor.

The only downsides are the slightly awkward cabin access and that it can’t quite match an ATV or UTV in tough off-road conditions.

Likes and gripes


  • Comfortable cabin
  • Good off-road ability
  • Large load area
  • Faster than a diesel UTV


  • Engine is easy to stall
  • Awkward cabin access
  • A little underpowered
  • Can’t quite match a UTV off-road

Daihatsu Hijet Jumbo 4×4 Trek specs

Engine 658cc, three-cylinder Daihatsu

Power/torque 55hp/64Nm

Transmission Five-speed manual with high and low range (also belt CVT option)

Four-wheel drive system Switchable with locking rear differential

Load bed capacity 375kg (tipper and box van available)

Towing capacity 400kg

Fuel economy 53mpg

Unladen weight 900kg

Turning circle 7.2m

Suspension Front coil overs and rear leaf springs – 4in lift

Options Electric windows, parking sensors, stereo/Car Play, stop-start, keyless entry, keyless start

Price as tested £20,645 – nearly new with delivery miles

Starting price £14,895 – two years old on 5,000 miles with no lift kit

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