The Mitsuoka Buddy Is A Funky, Retro-Styled Toyota RAV4

Mitsuoka turns a humble RAV4 into this American-esque SUV you see here. 

It is pretty much a universally accepted truth that the new Toyota RAV4 SUV is pretty handsome SUV. Its chunky, square design gives it the muscular aesthetic that is seemingly missing from the increasingly shapely and rounded crossover market these day. Nevertheless, ever wondered what would happen if a Toyota RAV4 was made to look like a retro American SUV?

No, neither did anyone else really. That said, Mitsuoka has finally come up with the answer to this question that no one really asked in the form of its latest creation, the Mitsuoka Buddy.

The quirky Japanese automaker of course is no stranger to the weird and wonderful world of car design. Its Orochi supercar is testament to that. Mitsuoka too seems to be going through an Americana phase. Having first debut the Rock Star a couple of years ago, which was essentially a Mazda MX-5 ND made to look like a C2 Corvette. 

So it should come as no surprise then that when it came time for the company to build something as quintessentially American as an SUV, they went the full 10 yards on the RAV4 base they acquired and thus, came up with what you see here. 

Looking at it squarely from the front, you’d probably be forgiven to think that the Buddy isn’t some  reimagination by Chevrolet about one of its cars from its back catalogue. That is because the resemblance of this Mitsuoka to the iconic Chevrolet K5 Blazer from the 80s is uncanny, with perhaps only the lack of a yellow bow tie in the centre that gives the game away.

Featuring the same boxy front profile as on the iconic 80s American 4×4, Mitsuoka has managed to massage in a full-width and highly chromed front grill onto the front of what used to be a RAV4, complete with twin-stacked LED lights on either side. A thick classic-style chrome bumper together with its chrome overriders adds to the classic American aesthetic of the Buddy, while thin LED light strips bring with it a touch of modernity to the front end. 

Moving down the side, parts of the RAV4 will inevitably be more apparent. This is due to Mitsuoka not being able to touch those monocoque chassis of the Toyota during the reskinning process for it to still pass safety regulations. That said, the scalpel was still wielded quite liberally on the parts that could alter. 

To that end, although the doors, pillars, roof and even side mirrors are still very much Toyota, the front fender which leads on from that classic Blazer-esque front end still continues the boxy American SUV aesthetic Mitsuoka was aiming for. It even features a chrome side vent just to drive the point across. However, perhaps the more American thing down the side of the Buddy will be the slot mag alloys wrapped in BF Goodrich all-terrain tires, because what screams Americana more than the wheels that were ubiquitous with hot rodding. 

Finally coming round the back, Mitsuoka was once again able to let loose on the tailgate design. Perhaps drawing inspiration from the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, the Buddy not only borrowed the Jeep’s vertical tail lights and chrome rear bumper design cues, but also its signature wood panelling that now prominently features chromed Mitsuoka lettering too. Hence, ending up with what is quite a striking looking rear end. 

Thus far, there has been no word yet on the interior modifications, though liberal lashings of wood and chrome is a reasonable expectation atop the RAV4 interior. Continuing on the topic of the RAV4, the Buddy will also feature the same powertrain options that are available on the Toyota. Meaning that instead of a burbly V8, either a 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder or a 2.5 litre hybrid powertrain is to be found under its long hood instead. 

Mitsuoka’s first SUV will be available to order in Japan from the 26th of November. While we might not be able to see one locally, there is a high chance that it will probably be available to our neighbours across the causeway, as believe it or not there is actually (still) a Mitsuoka dealership in Singapore. 

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button