If You’re Looking For a Capable Off-Roader, Don’t Write Off the 1987 Suzuki Samurai [Video]

It may not have the tough and tumble character of some hardcore off-roaders, but don’t let that fool you.

One of our newest long-term buys, a 1987 Suzuki Samurai, was actually designed with off-roading in mind. In fact, as it’s small and nimble with four-wheel drive and a low-speed transfer case, it’s a more capable off-roader than you might think. The Suzuki Samurai – known as the Jimny in global markets – has been around since 1970. Since then, it’s shown the world an alternative to the sort of earth-conquering off-roaders built elsewhere.

Suzuki Samurai

This second-generation Suzuki Samurai, also known as the SJ-Series, rolled off production lines between 1981 and 1998. It was originally built to meet Japanese “kei car” regulations, meaning it had to be small with an engine no larger than 660cc (0.6 liters). When Suzuki introduced the model in the North American market, they realized they needed a bigger engine. To that end, they shoehorned a massive 1.3-liter unit under the hood. After that, power figures shot up to a whopping 63 horsepower. That’s on par with our 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle.

So the Suzuki Samurai doesn’t have speed on its side. However, it does have an advantage as an off-roader by weight. Since this car tips the scales at 2,059 pounds, it’s significantly lighter than the equivalent Jeep. It’s not bad on fuel economy either, with it’s 1.3-liter engine managing up to 27 mpg on the highway. Compare that to a Jeep Wrangler YJ of the period, which struggled to crack 20 mpg, according to EPA figures.

While we don’t get the modern-day Suzuki Samurai in the U.S., it still hasn’t deviated much from this formula. TFL’s Tommy Mica walks through just how simple this tiny off-roader is. Check out the video above to find out more! Subscribe to TFLcar and TFLnow for more Samurai news, views and real-world reviews.

Zach Butler
Zach is a writer and Managing Editor for TFLcar. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in hot hatchbacks and off-road rigs. Born and raised in Colorado, Zach holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Colorado State University, and is based in Boulder, Colorado.