Get a Daihatsu Terios Now if You Want To Beat the Next JDM Import Hype Train

In Japan, you might recognize this as the Toyota Cami.

We’re starting to see more JDM cars in America as sought-after Skylines and kei cars from the ’90s are becoming import-legal. Everyone wants a Beat or a Pao or a Figaro, but c’mon, be creative! What about an off-roader that isn’t a jacked-up Mitsubishi Delica or Suzuki Jimny?

I propose to you: get down with the Toyota Cami. Or, technically, the Daihatsu Terios. The Terios is a compact SUV from the 1990s, first introduced in 1997. We’ve still got a year to go before it hits that all-important 25-year import rule, but if you want to be ahead of the inevitable Cami-craze, start sniffing around for an importer hookup right now!

Get a Daihatsu Terios Now if You Want To Beat the Next JDM Import Hype Train
Image: Daihatsu

OK obviously I’m kind of kidding, but kind of not completely. The Terios is an honest-to-goodness legit off-roader. Behind that tiny face is a 1.3-liter four-cylinder, powering the rear wheels or all four. The Terios has a solid rear axle, and it’s four-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive, so no fragile center diff here. The whole car is similar in concept to the Suzuki Sidekick or Geo Tracker, both of which were often confused as “soft-roaders” similar to the car-based CR-V or RAV4. And all of those cute utes, in their early iterations, seem kind of rugged and awesome today.

Get a Daihatsu Terios Now if You Want To Beat the Next JDM Import Hype Train
Image: Daihatsu

The Terios was too big to be a kei car, but Daihatsu did make a slimmer and shorter version called the “Terios Kid.” Obviously, the 1.3-liter engine was swapped out for a turbo 660cc unit to make the Kid satisfy kei displacement requirements. Still, the Terios Kid retained the solid rear axle and four-wheel drive setup of the full-sized Terios. The result was a pint-sized off-roader with articulation that must have rivaled that of a billy goat.

Get a Daihatsu Terios Now if You Want To Beat the Next JDM Import Hype Train
Image: Daihatsu

The Terios got a few names besides Toyota Cami. In Japan, the ‘Yota emblem was on the grille. Malaysia got a version of it, built and sold as the Perodua Kembara. Chinese brand Zoyte tried to sell a clone of it sometime in the early 2010s. Because it was sold under a few names, and it’s got that solid axle and four-wheel drive, there’s quite a bit of aftermarket support for the Terios and its relatives. 

I mean, look at those tiny overhangs, I’m amazed at that superb approach and departure angle. This thing was made for scrambling up rocks!

As I said, they’re not quite ripe for importing just yet but from what I’ve seen on some Japanese auction sites, used Terioses can go for as little as $500 USD (before shipping) for a well-used model. A nicer Terios looks like it may touch around $3,000ish. This car was also sold in western Europe, so prices may be a bit more reasonable if you’re exporting from, say, the UK or Germany. These things are super cute, an unpretentious off-road vehicle, the likes of which we don’t really see anymore.

Anyways, it’s nearly eligible for importing next year. Part of me regrets writing this article, as I know y’all are going to bid up and elevate the value of these mini SUVs. Oh well, if it means I get to see one of these skittering between Escalades and Suburbans on American roads, I’ll be happy.

Kevin Williams
Kevin Williams

Kevin's been into cars his entire life, anything from the tiny kei cars in Japan, to the maybe not-so-good American barges of the 1980s. He's flipped more than 25 cars, only lost money twice, and has known how to make his dollar stretch as far as it can. If he ain't talking about cars, he's probably snacking on something sweet and cakey. Contact the author here.