QotW: What’s the best Japanese car not made in Japan?

On this day in 1980, Honda announced it would become the first Japanese automaker to build a factory in the US. In 1982, the first car to emerge from the completed Ohio  plant would be a second-gen Accord sedan, a car that could dodge trade tariffs, shipping costs, and UAW outrage all at the same time. It opened the floodgates for other carmakers, and today we have marques whose lineups barely have any Japan-built cars in them — and thus a wide variety of non-Japanese built Japanese cars to choose from. For the purposes of this question, feel free to answer according to your own country.

What’s the best Japanese car not made in Japan?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your favorite JNC from 1996?  

There were lots of good answers this week, showing a wide range of tastes from our readers. You couldn’t get any more different than Cobalt Fire‘s suggestion of a JDM Integra Type R and Negishi no Keibajo‘s pick of a Hino 500 Dakar race truck. Wagons were also popular, with last week’s reigning champion Land Ark‘s nominating a Mitsubishi Legnum VR-4 and Lupus choosing a Nissan Stagea. We also loved oddball JDM options like Banpei‘s Toyota Starlet Glanza V, but in the end Ian won the week because he talked himself into wanting the car he put forth (and also because it might just be the most endangered), the facelift S14 Nissan Silvia:

The angry looking S14 Nissan Silvia/240 SX
What a timeless design. Plus with that face, it was badass face with a classy proper coupe body. It was so 90’s yet so timeless. I want one now.

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

JNC Decal smash


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28 Responses to QotW: What’s the best Japanese car not made in Japan?

  1. Lupus says:

    Subaru Legacy 3 / Outback 2 / Baja made in Subaru’s Indiana plant. That’s it.

  2. Banpei says:

    I would say the best in Europe was the Nissan Primera P10. It was manufactured in the Nissan UK plant (which was building Bluebirds before the Primera) and top of the range featured an indestructible SR20DE engine. Many of these cars are still chugging along and it won’t take long before the ZX/ZXe/eGT models will become popular classics.

    The European P10 was slightly wider than the Japanese variant: 1,747 mm (68.8 in) versus 1,695 mm (66.7 in). This was meant to keep the Japanese variant within the compact class tax bracket. As the Infiniti G20 was a rebranded Japanese Primera it meant the G20 was also slightly thinner than the European variant.

  3. CycoPablo says:

    In Australia, I’d nominate the Mazda 323 that was masquerading as the 1981-89 Ford Laser hatch and Meteor sedan.
    They were initially (always?) assembled at the Homebush, Sydney facility. My mother bought a brand new 1982 Meteor with the sport pack that included twin-carbs, 14″ alloys, side stripes and unique seat trim.
    On one freeway trip, she reported an indicated 185km/h (115mph) which surprised me on a few levels…

  4. BlitzPig says:

    Without doubt the Honda Accord. Perennially on the Car and Driver 10 Best list, it proved that American workers could build a quality automobile, at a time when the Detroit offerings were a collective bunch of slap dash rattle traps that drove like a hippo and looked no better than one.

    It’s the car that Detroit still wishes it could make.

  5. エーイダン says:

    The EK9 Honda Civic Si springs immediately to mind but so does the Type R Civic (EP3-present models) The Si being made in East Liberty, Ohio and the Type R hails from Swindon, England. Both of which are cool cars but get the enthusiasts together and it’s like putting a bunch of Manchester United Fans in with a handful of Celtic fans and then adding in free ale and whiskey. It’ll get…spicy….

  6. harshith says:

    toyota qualis from india

  7. Hector says:

    I would say most of the Diamond star cars (DSM’s) of the 80’s and 90’s which brought the Plymouth Laser, Eagle Talons, Dodge Stealth’s and plenty of other Mitsubishi variants for US enthusiasts to play with.

  8. Lee L says:

    This is an easy one for me.

    The Toyota Voltz!

    The Toyota version of the Pontiac version of the Toyota Matrix. It was built in California with the Matrix and Vibe, then badged as the Toyota Voltz and shipped to Japan to be sold alongside the Matrix.

    My wife bought a 2005 Vibe brand new and it died with 280k miles on the ODO, but only because it was rear-ended by a 4-Runner.

    I would love to have a Voltz because the double-rebadging is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of and I love the look of the vibe over the matrix.

  9. fuel10922 says:

    Honda Civic sedan …..EM-1. One of the original cars to kick off the tuner craze.

  10. Long Beach Mike says:

    Um…Current NSX. Not just built in the U.S. but designed and engineered there as well.

  11. Alexander says:

    Honda Civic type R EP3 and prestnt, and the Autrailian limited made toyota aurion TRD is cool as well 😉

  12. Daniel says:

    Isuzu rodeo and the cousin honda passport.

    Why? A timeless design.
    And also because I got an Isuzu pickup and the design was made in USA and manufacture in Japan.



    • Negishi no Keibajo says:

      I really like the 1988+ Isuzu Spacecab with the big rear side window. They too have a timeless look; simple, no flashy curves, looks good stock, lowered or lifted.

  13. Daniel says:

    Isuzu rodeo and the cousin honda passport.

    Why? A timeless design.
    And also because I got an Isuzu pickup and the design was made in USA and manufacture in Japan. Take a look



  14. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    The Suzuki Samurai, aka…

    Chevrolet Samurai
    Holden Drover
    Maruti Gypsy
    Santana Samurai
    Suzuki Caribian
    Suzuki Katana
    Suzuki Potohar
    Suzuki SJ410/413
    Suzuki Samurai
    Suzuki Santana
    Suzuki Sierra
    Suzuki Fox (Iceland)

    made in…

    Iwata, Japan
    Karachi, Pakistan
    Gurgaon, India
    Bekasi, Indonesia
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Bogotá, Colombia (GM Colombia)
    Linares, Spain (Santana Motor)

  15. Vitor David says:

    Toyota in Ovar Portugal builds the land cruiser.
    Nothing speacial right?
    well its the j70 version ith v6 petrol and V diesel engines only for african markets
    The same company that builds the j200 still produces the j70

  16. TheJWT says:

    I nominate my first car, the B13 Nissan Sentra SE-R, made in Smyrna, Tennessee. Even my rusted-out 215,000 mile example was a poor man’s Integra Type-R

  17. mel says:

    The Accord is a great car and the Eclipse is another great entry, but there can only be one the roomiest and that is the Australian built Magna/Diamante Wagon.

  18. Kieron says:

    We made some cool cars for Japan.

    The EP3 Honda Civic Type R must be the best. FD2, FK2 and the FK8 were also UK built cars but not my cuppa.

  19. My_fairlady_ZFG says:

    My favorite Japanese car made outside of Japan is my 1973 Datsun 240Z. Sure it was manufactured in Japan, but it is being modified and rebuilt outside of Japan. In my parents backyard no less. So it’s local production. Gotta flex that hometown pride. I would go so far as to even call it the best Japanese car built (or rather, rebuilt) outside of Japan. Why? Because it’s mine. And any other car won’t do me much good.

  20. Shaiyan Hossain says:

    The Honda Accord
    consistently a favorite of your parents, but also driving journalists, something many cars fail to achieve
    the current Accords are pretty US specific but still display the engineering values that Honda is celebrated for, and they’re built here too!

    • Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking the time and actual effort to produce a good article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.

  21. Mark F Newton-John says:

    Haters will totally hate, the Supra, made in Graz, Austria by Magna Steyr.
    Despite what the trolls say, the car is as different from a BMW, as the 955 Porsche Cayenne was from a Volkswagen Toureg and the Audi Q7.

  22. CobaltFire says:

    I’m going to go with the (deep breath):

    Autech Zagato Stelvio AZ1

    A car that has no business existing in any rational world, and a design to match that sentiment. Zagato cars always looked like they were glimpses of an alternate reality even when new; as a classic they are something completely alien to the modern world. In this I think they are one of the best JNC’s: they grab attention, give a glimpse of a time long past.

    Final assembly seems to have been in Japan, but the bodies were hand-made in Italy to the best of my knowledge.

  23. Greyfox says:

    Back when Australia actually made cars, Nissan Australia created its own unique ‘Hot Hatch’, the Pulsar ET Turbo

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