The 9 best Japanese cars to buy in 2024

26th March 2024
Russell Campbell

Japan has been enriching our motoring landscape for years now. Be it in the form of cars like the Nissan GT-R, cultural nuances like drifting or the manga-like extravagance of Bosozoku car tuning, the perception that Japanese cars are un-witheringly reliable but boring has been shattered. No cars prove this better than the cars you'll find here. We've covered everything from rally cars to GTs, hot hatches and SUVs. Here's our guide to the nine best Japanese cars to buy in 2024. 


1. Mazda MX-5

It’s quite incredible to think that this generation of Mazda MX-5 is still going strong, let alone the badge – drop-top sportscars are all but extinct in every other carmaker’s line-up. It could be argued that the fourth-generation ‘ND’ model’s reign as the king of modern small sportscars has been so convincing that other manufacturers have decided not to bother. The Mercedes SLK (SLC when it disappeared) is gone, the Audi TT is going next year, but the ND MX-5 introduced in 2015 just seems to keep going, and will almost certainly get a replacement when the time is right, given its special place in the Mazda range. The current version is a car true to its original brief, keeping its footprint and ultimately its weight strictly in line with the original of 1989. A Small, high-revving 1.5-litre entry-level engine plays off against the thrills of the more powerful 2.0-litre.


2. Toyota GR86 Trueno Edition

As we know, the Toyota GR86 is already perfect. Like fresh sushi, it delivers perfectly balanced mouthfuls of flavour that make it one of the best sportscars money can buy now, despite it being one of the cheapest. Unlike the old GT86, the GR86 has the power to be interesting on the straights, but like the GT86, it's also cry-your-face-off hilarious in corners in a way a car this well-priced has no right to be. The Trueno Edition nods back to the equally slidey AE86 with a bonnet wrapped in black, Trueno black graphics and a black-wrapped duckbill spoiler with a set of spindly black alloy wheels completing the job. Best of all, buyers can add a Performance Package that includes Sach dampers and Brembo brakes. Now there's a thing. 


3. Nissan Z Coupe Nismo

Nissan has handed its latest Z car to its Nismo motorsport wing to produce the Nissan Z Coupe Nismo. It gets more power, a stiffer chassis, and a sharp body kit, making it look like a far more serious proposition than the standard Z. The Nismo's 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 produces an extra 20PS (15kW) and 46Nm (34 lb-ft) for 420PS (309kW) and 521Nm (384lb-ft) total. Nismo works on the chassis, adding a load of stiffening from which it hangs new dampers with increased spring rates and 19-inch Rays alloy wheels wrapped in Dunlop SP Sport Maxx rubber. The Nismo should be good for 0-62mph in around four seconds (Nissan doesn't quote a time), but Nismo's magic is felt most in the chassis' vast quantities of grip and tomcat-like composure.


4. Honda Civic Type R

The Honda Civic Type R has been a common sight on British roads in its 25 years as one of the best hot-hatchbacks out there. The new one, codenamed FL5, is aiming to land a knockout blow on the current brigade of 300PS plus rivals. But unlike many of those adversaries, the Civic aims to do it in the only way it knows – using front-wheel-drive, a manual gearbox, and VTEC power. The new car is a strong evolution of the former-favourite FK8 model, the updated appearance combining with an engine developing 329PS (242kW), suspension and chassis revisions designed to introduce more grip, and an interior that’s heavily updated and brought into the modern world. You’ll pay a pretty penny more for this Type R than its predecessor though, with prices starting from just under £47k.


5. Lexus LC

Where most cars are styled by the designer’s pen or the click of a mouse on a CAD terminal the Lexus LC looks like they let a katana-wielding warrior set about the clay styling buck and carve elegant chunks out of it with broad sweeps of his sword. And after decades of deference to European and American tastes the LC is a confident assertion of distinctively Japanese design, and all the better for it. In a premium sector still dominated by European ideas of luxury the LC stands as an individual and discerning choice, the hybrid version following parent brand Toyota’s associations with the technology. But we’d have to have the free-revving LC500 V8 version, its choice of engine as anachronistically eccentric in this day and age as the styling is exotic.


6. Prodrive P25

Built by Prodrive, the P25 aims its Cupid's arrow at anyone who was a teenager in the 1990s when hearing the approaching warble of a Subaru flat-four was as common as the whir of electricity is today. People who couldn't afford fast Subarus now have the cash, which is good because the P25 requires lots of money – each of the 25 examples sold for more than £500,000. If you had the money to buy one (one guy but two), then you'll be rewarded with arguably the best road-going rally car money can buy, with a carbon-fibre body and a 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four producing 446PS (328kW). The P25's biggest boast is that it's 100kg lighter and 100PS (75kW) more potent than the haloed 22B. That’s almost sacrilegious around these parts. 


7. Toyota GR Yaris

The 1.8-litre supercharged Yaris GRMN was a difficult sell, in a hot-supermini market eagerly awaiting the superb value Fiesta ST due not long after it. But Toyota’s second attempt at a ‘GR’ badged hot Yaris – the aptly named GR Yaris – is a different ball game entirely. It’s a curious car, because its development was originally undertaken to create a new WRC car for Toyota’s works team. However, when it was decided that the Yaris WRC model based on the previous-generation supermini would continue in competition, Toyota decided to build the homologation special road-going GR Yaris anyway. For a short three-door hatchback, it requires several unique engineering solutions to package a permanent four-wheel-drive system, powered by a 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine developing up to 272PS (200kW). It finally made its competition debut in the 2022 World Rally Championship season as the basis of the GR Yaris Rally1 entered by Toyota Gazoo Racing, winning the manufacturers title.


8. Toyota Land Cruiser

Toyota has revealed the new Land Cruiser, and it looks set to be the firm's best effort yet, adding cool retro looks to its famously rugged off-roader to compete with the trend-setting Land Rover Defender. The Cruiser's boxy shape and circular headlights pay tribute to a heritage tracing back to the 50s. Formed on a reputation for bulletproof reliability, the new Land Cruiser brings the car brand up-to-date with big infotainment screens and hybrid motors. Its sophisticated four-wheel drive guarantees its offroading credentials as do its generous ground clearance, low-range gearbox, locking differentials and detachable anti-roll bars for outrageous wheel articulation. 


9. Mitsuoka Buddy

Mitsuoka’s mad creations never fail to impress. There’s something uniquely Japanese about the weirdness of its miniaturised homages to classic British cars, but the brand also likes to push iconic American cars through its uncanny-valley design workshop. The MX-5-based Rock Star evokes a Corvette Stingray, but the marque’s most recent crude creation is its first SUV. Called the Buddy, it uses the technical basis of the latest Toyota RAV4, but with a boxy makeover intended to pay homage to the K5-generation Chevrolet Blazer, complete with BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres and ‘80s steel wheels. It’s not available here in the UK, but Bookham-based TW White - Mitsuoka’s UK dealer - still advertises the Jaguar XK120 inspired Mitsuoka Roadster.

  • Toyota

  • GR Yaris

  • Yaris

  • List

  • Mazda

  • MX-5

  • Suzuki

  • Ignis

  • Supra

  • Subaru

  • Impreza

  • Honda

  • Civic

  • Civic Type R

  • Lexus

  • LC500

  • Isuzu

  • D-Max

  • Mitsuoka

  • Nissan

  • Z

  • Land Cruiser

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