Japanese cars have become the standard of the world for many, but underneath that solid competence there's a very specific and subtle national character. These are Jalopnik readers' picks for the ten most quintessentially Japanese cars.

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Photo Credit: Toyota


10.) Subaru XT

Suggested By: JackTrade

Why it's so Japanese: From the folks who revolutionized sci-fi, comics, and robotic technology comes this slightly gawky but never boring Subaru coupe. Supremely tech-heavy and with one of the most far-out interiors ever designed, the XTs may have played a part in reinforcing a particular stereotype, but they also made it a lot more interesting in the process.


Photo Credit: Subaru

9.) 1976 Honda Accord

Suggested By: dean_acheson

Why it's so Japanese: This is where the Japanese really staked their claim on the world stage, especially in America. The first Accord was everything the American compacts should have been, except it was far better than the Big Three mentalities at the time could have possibly conceived. Easy to use and live with, utterly rational, completely thought out: this is what Japanese cars became in people's heads in the years to follow.


Photo Credit: Jeff

8.) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

Suggested By: evoCS

Why it's so Japanese: Competition-as-proving ground has proven naturally attractive to Japanese companies. Rallying has been especially popular with many of the big names. Along with archrival Subaru, Mitsubishi was once one of the dominant players to great effect both for product purposes and as an image-builder.


Photo Credit: Hadrián Fernández

7.) Honda CRX

Suggested By: DukeofBirnam

Why it's so Japanese: Before the Miata, the CRX took the classic Brit sportster concept (if not layout) and remade it in its own contemporary way: normal-car mechanicals in a minimalist body set up for maximum fun. A brilliant refutation to the outdated gripe that Japanese products lack "soul."


Photo Credit: Grant C

6.) Nissan Pao

Suggested By: 87CE 95PV Type Я PROUD OF clean BOXERS

Why it's so Japanese: An island packed full of people with a conformist mentality is sure to bring out the iconoclast and individualist in some folks. For those who wanted self-expression without going full bosozoku, Nissan's Pike project was salvation in the late Eighties and early Nineties. The Pao set the tone, mixing retro influences with modern components to charm everyone silly.


Photo Credit: Christian Payne

5.) Honda/Acura NSX

Suggested By: Renescent

Why it's so Japanese: Sports car as Zen art. The suspension is composed of unspeakably gorgeous aluminum forgings, the engine honors an agreement among fellow manufacturers to limit output, and the entire car is finished to a degree that verges on supernatural. It deserved to found a dynasty; it retains its sense of drama and dignity long after production ended.


Photo Credit: John P.

4.) Toyota 2000GT

Suggested By: DasWauto - Stupid electronics, I like mechanical things

Why it's so Japanese: The original Japanese supercar, and the one that made everyone start to understand that Toyota and its comrades were not content with making little metal boxes. Somewhat unsuccessful as a model, but indisputably influential for generations to come. The 240Z in particular would not exist without it.


Photo Credit: Paul

3.) Toyota Prius

Suggested By: JonZeke

Why it's so Japanese: Take the constraints and compromises of modern Japanese city living, a serious dose of ecological sensitivity, and an abiding love of progressive tech together in one package and you understand where the Prius comes from. It's a new and slightly uncomfortable direction for some, but it makes a tremendous amount of sense in its environment.


Photo Credit: Toyota UK

2.) Nissan Skyline GT-R family

Suggested By: Ravey Mayvey Slurpee: MANUAL EXTREMIST

Why it's so Japanese: For generations the GT-Rs have been the standing representative of state-of-the-art high-performance Japanese automotive technology. The current model may have bulked up a bit when compared to its lithe predecessors, but any of them stands as a perfect representative of the Japanese interpretation of the GT car: restrained design, extraordinary power and speed, superior controllability.


Photo Credit: Andy Jones

1.) Suzuki Wagon R

Suggested By: I Can be Stig?

Why it's so Japanese: Really, the truest Japanese car is the one most at home in Japan: a kei car. These gemlike engineering creations are nothing less than individualistic solutions to a major design and regulatory puzzle. Some are turbocharged streetfighters, some are wonderfully weird, but the Wagon R is the best-selling of them all and deserves to stand as the representative: boxy, upright, ridiculously practical, a triumph of thought and design over conditions.


Photo Credit: Robert Cutts