QotW: What’s the best Japanese car name?

Nissan Skyline KPGC10 GT-R Hakosuka subscription model emblem

Yes, we all know about the Suzuki Every Joy Pop and the Hino Dolphin Dump, but we’re not talking about “oh look how weird and crazy those Japanese are” type car names today. We’re talking cool names that instantly evokes a tree-lined mountain road or sea breezes wafting through open windows. Something you’d be proud to have on your trunklid.

What’s the best Japanese car name?

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “Which JNC was the one that got away?” 

shusei nagaoka mitsubishi starion gsr-x

Holy crap, you guys have some tearjerker stories! Perhaps the worst ones are those that end with the words “crushed.” We encourage you to read them all, and perhaps learn some lessons for navigating the Craiglist jungle. The winner this week was MainstreaM, who missed his chance to get a Sirius-DASH Starion:

I had a line on a genuine Starion GSR-V. The flatside with widebody underpinnings and a unique three valve 4g63 engine. The second intake valve chimed in above 2500 RPM. It was known as the Sirius DASH, Dual Action Super Head. Those silly Japanese and their crazy acronyms. The car was located in Western Australia. I had even went so far as to have made arrangements for importing to the states. Shortly before time, like a couple weeks away, I found out I would be getting a divorce. The money to be spent on a keen and clean example of such a rare version went to lawyers instead. When the taken for granted normality of life returned a couple of years later, the car had already moved on to a new owner. Cars and women, both can be a whole lot of trouble, sometimes more than they are worth.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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42 Responses to QotW: What’s the best Japanese car name?

  1. JovaTecH says:

    I believe the Starion

  2. bert says:

    The Supra. Simply translated means “Super” which is how one feels when driving one!

  3. Ant says:

    With the best one taken above – Skyline – it’s actually quite difficult to think of one. Japanese manufacturers seem uniquely poor at picking a name that doesn’t sound a little daft to English-speaking countries – thanks to the choice of vaguely English names that mean as little in Japanese (and are therefore fine in the country of origin) as the worldwide-appropriate monikers affixed to most modern cars.

    But Nissan Cedrics and Silvias, Toyota Caldinas and Crowns and similar, all sound a little odd.

    Perhaps the best I can think of is the Honda Integra. There’s a sense of implied strength (“integral”) and as a jumble of letters it has something vaguely technical about it, which is entirely appropriate to a car that has become known for its application of technology for performance ends.

    “Honda City” is satisfying too, if only for being about as fit-for-purpose as “Mazda MPV” but a great deal more cosmopolitan. Bonus points for using Madness in the City’s advertising campaign.

  4. Lupus says:

    Nissan’s Skyline and Z are undoubtly super cool car names. As well as NSX and Legacy. But for me the absolutley best ones are the nemes of Toyota’s sedans.
    In that order. Just spelling them give’s me goose bumps. Elegant, powerfull, simple. These badges alone are status symbols, even without the car ateched to them. Like names of envoys of some mystic force.

  5. Bryan says:

    Although not a specific car name, mention “Datsun” to just anyone in the Western Hemisphere and instantly trigger nostalgia.

  6. alvin says:


    Sure it’s a bit emasculating for US folks, but I can’t think of a more thoughtful, beauty-evoking name for a company’s line of sports cars.

  7. Andrij Mishalow says:

    LEVIN – 5 letters. Short but to the point. Enough said 🙂

  8. Ian G. says:

    The best Japanese car name belongs to the best car. The Mazda Miata MX5 or “Eunos Roadster” as it is known in Japan. Miata is always the answer to many automotive questions. Or Eunos in Japan. It quite cleverly answers every automotive question:

    What’s a low buck reliable sports car?
    Can you race it?
    Can you rally it?
    Can you drift it?
    Can it be a daily driver?
    Will it put a smile on your face?
    Will it carry groceries from Costco on the passenger seat?
    Can I fit 4 people if I get two of them?

    The answer to all the above and many more questions like it?

    “Oh Eunos it!” 🙂

  9. Riley Apon says:

    I thought that this was a cool Japanese car name growing up!

  10. daniel says:

    maybe daihatsu move ? or Daihatsu Charade ? perhaps daihatsu wide?
    movement or mockery ?

    particularly ” wide” in a kei pick up is contradictory

  11. Greg says:

    Datsun Lil Hustler

  12. Johnny says:


    I mean GT-R. Nothing inspires fear and awe in just three letters better.

  13. Bob says:

    I’ll go a little off on this one, but I think one of the greatest named Japanese cars, to my English ears, is the Mitsubishi Debonair. Debonair is defined, via quick search, as “confident, stylish, and charming.” As far as envoking a strong image for a vehicle, you can’t do much better than that. Compare that to the competition- “Crown” and President sound too stuffy, uptight. Debonair sounds younger, smoother, more precise. Debonair wastes no time with unneccesary small talk. Debonair knows what it wants and it knows how to get it.

    It’s just such a good name. Not like Camaro. WTF is a Camaro? Nobody wants to be Camaro. I want to be Debonair.

  14. Jon says:

    Isuzu Faster
    Daihatsu Naked Turbo

  15. Nathan says:

    Skyline. Yes, it’s the obvious answer, but the fact that it’s the first thing you thought of says it all. Do not lie. You know that’s the first name we all thought of. “Skyline” evokes not only a legend, but the imagery of the car driving its namesake roads, which is the whole point.

    Think of it this way. The car isn’t named for a scenic vista or a locale, but a type of road. What other car can make such a claim yet still retain a dignified name? None! The skylines of Japan are very special roads and the mere word “skyline” conjures an image of grand touring through beautiful scenery, the very thing Prince (and later Nissan) was going for. If a company stateside tried to do this, the car would have a name such as “Route” or “Highway”. Neither of those names has the sexy ring to it that Skyline does.

    The trim levels include the letters “GT”, for “Grand Touring”. That says it all. A Skyline is a car meant for grand touring some of Japan’s greatest roads, plain and simple.

    There will be Chasers of Crowns and all the rest, but in the end they must all drive… the Skyline!

    • Yoda says:

      “Parkway” is the closest analogue to a Japanese skyline drive. IIRC it was used on a Studebaker station wagon in the ’50s.

  16. Seiko The Neko says:

    I think Toyota’s “Celica” is a beautiful and seductive yet simple name. When translated to English, it means Celestial, which is exactly what the car is. The name just flows along smoothly even with all the different trim levels that were released (i.e. GT, GT-S, GT-V, Celica Supra).

  17. Beans says:

    No long winded speil.. The name is SAVANNA.

  18. Robin says:

    Cherry Car…



    I win, give me stickers

  19. Robin says:

    Or Daily Car


    I win again, more stickers

    how many times can i enter? okay i stop now. I have enough stickers haha

  20. Robin says:

    I like the name Ferio… and Sunny haha. Actually i love all the damn quirky names .

    and i like the sub names even more like super-saloon, Grande, xe_saloon, super exceed,

    What about Toyota Vitz… what is vitz even

    Or what about Honda Fit, this is awesome.
    if i fits i sits, sorry my GF always says this and now its stuck in me.

    Clearly by me posting three times lets you know how much I’m fascinated by Japanese car names. I wanted to be a car designer and one thing i did was name my silly designs/ sketches when i was younger and I found myself looking at Japanese car names and thinking who on earth came up with this and why?

    Who sat at the round table and said Lets call it an Orthia. Now a quick google says Orthia is a girls name or meaning straight. Could it be station wagon/wagon and the common names were just that? and being longer looking and therefore straighter it was called “straight”?

    Or lets call it a Prairie Liberty… i can only imagine the guys at car manufacturers going: “who cares what it means… we make many cars and we cant lose sleep over the names we give it”. And then it becomes awesome, not sure if we just love it so much that even if they name a car Nissan Poop we be like damn that is amazing… I want a ride in a poop. Nismo Poop S-tune… hehe.
    * Nissan call me if you want cool names.

    And lets not forget Suzuki Cappuccino… decaf or not?

    Apart from all the BS i just typed and let people around the world read… will regret this tomorrow for typing nonsense… my favourite Japanese car name has to be the Honda Today.

    because it would still be a Fit-ting car for the over crowded City’s of Today.

  21. Jim Daniels says:

    I will keep it simple here, as well, it is that simple. After all others have been discussed this one comes at the end of the alphabet and is the final, simple, and pure -Z, nothing else to be said.

  22. Javal says:

    From a JNC perspective, Toyotas of the 70’s and 80’s definitely take the etymology cake.

    Corolla? Latin. Means a ‘little crown’. Refers to the ring of petals on a flower.
    Corona? Latin. Means ‘crown’. Refers to the ring of light around the sun.
    Camry? From Japanese ‘kanmuri’. Refers to a crown.
    Crown? Means ‘crown. Refers to a crown.

    Well played.

  23. Wayne Thomas says:

    Daihatsu Naked

  24. Lacerati says:

    Cosmo Sport, invoking both space travel and driving fast here on Earth.

  25. jivecom says:

    I’m partial to literal names myself. Toyota Pickup, Toyota/Nissan Van, Mazda Roadster
    Not every car needs to waft about with loaded images and allegory. Some just need to do what it says on the tin

  26. Gary says:

    It’s gotta be Sprinter.

    Used from the get go with the E10 generation Corolla.
    Helped create the ’86’ legend.
    Later ‘stolen’ by Mercedes-Benz!

    I don’t think any other Japanese car name has been so good that it got lifted by a Euro manufacturer…

  27. Han says:

    Nissan Homy Super Long… XD

  28. Justin says:

    I always liked Honda’s Kei car names.

    Z Act

    They just seemed to convey a sense of; “I’ll get you there”.

  29. Andrew says:

    I like the name Soarer. Maybe a bit awkward to English ears, but it’s one of the few words whose actual sound evokes very similar meanings in both languages:

    ソアラ (soara) is really similar sounding to 空 (sora), which means the sky or heavens.

    I just like that this sound means very similar things in such different languages. And we can all find common ground when it comes to RWD GT cars with turbo straight sixes, right?

  30. Raymond says:

    I like Celica, Diamante, Cedric, Fairlady, Cosmo, Compagno, Starion, Supra, Bluebird and others. But I don´t like Nissan Moco ( Sitcky substance coming out the nose ), Mazda Laputa ( The Lady who sells her body to strangers ) and Mitsubishi Pajero ( Somebody who likes to enjoy his own self, but it is the term is applied to “loosers” ).

  31. kalle says:

    sukairain Skyline one of the best names ever…rolls off the tongue, also very evocative! I should know, I have one, and will never sell it. FYI ex alfa and hi-po Holden guy…

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