While it wasn't indeed a Subaru, the 2008 Justy marked the Japanese carmaker introduction to the European market's small segment.
Subaru was well-known for its all-wheel-drive vehicles and its boxer engines. That's why, when it introduced the Justy at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, the audience raised their eyebrows, wondering if they are watching there was a re-badged vehicle or an unusual Subie. The answer was both. Unfortunately for the carmaker, it was the wrong moment to introduce a completely different car than its philosophy. It was a rebadged Daihatsu Charade and shared its platform with the second generation of the Yaris, so farewell to all-wheel-drive Subaru Justy.
Its front side featured a curved area over the engine bay and a raked, wide windshield. Its headlights covered the front corners, in front of the flared wheel arches. The bumper itself was the one that told the world it was a Subaru. It was extended toward the hood and incorporated the upper and the lower grille. The designers abruptly ended the straight window line with an upward kick to the roof. Its thick C-pillars blocked the view toward the minimalist trunk and, from inside, the driver's view to the rear side.
Inside, the Justy featured a dashboard carried over from Daihatsu Charade with its elliptic instrument cluster that grouped a wide tachometer and an even bigger speedometer. Despite its exterior look, the interior was roomy for four adults, but the narrow width hardly made room for three rear passengers.
Under the hood, there was no boxer engine. The bay was filled by Daihatsu's inline-three gasoline unit and sent the front wheels' power via a 5-speed manual.
Subaru had a long history with its all-wheel-drive vehicles, and there was no surprise to see the little Justy transformed into a crossover vehicle, but behind the badge, it was a Suzuki.
Both Japanese car companies were known as big manufacturers of small vehicles. While Suzuki was known for off-road vehicles, Subaru was recognized as a world rally-winner with the Impreza range. The alliance between them resulted in the birth of the 2004 Justy.
Small, with higher ground clearance, the Justy was unusual for its class and times. The front fascia featured rectangular headlights swept-back over the hood. A noticeable difference from Suzuki Ignis was the grille and the bumper. Subaru installed bigger fog-lights, resembling the Impreza's round headlights, and the blue badge in the grille's middle. A tall greenhouse with a straight roof, but ascending beltline, were some of the two siblings' specific design cues.
Inside, it was room enough for four adults due to the high roof, but not that much legroom in the back if all the occupants were above 6 ft (180 cm) tall. With its small trunk, the Justy was good enough for a city vehicle. The rear split-folding bench seatback could add some more room for a long trip if only two passengers were on-board. Like the Ignis, the Justy featured a small instrument cluster designed in a binocular style.
Since Subaru had only boxer engines, which were unsuitable for the little car, the Justy's engines were carried-over from its sibling, the Ignis. Suzuki installed three engine choices, depending on the market and paired exclusively with a 5-speed manual gearbox and, since it was a Subaru, all versions featured all-wheel-drive systems.
Subaru tried to enter the small-segment market with the Justy, but its expertise in that area was not only limited but also ineffective. Thus, after a call to Suzuki, they cut a deal, and Subaru got a re-badged facelifted Swift wearing its badge.
Suzuki had vast experience in building small cars. It didn't know or care to make anything larger than the compact segment. The Swift was such a successful model that it was also sold in Australia, badged as Holden Barina, or Geo Metro in the U.S.
Subaru sold the car in a three- or five-doors configuration. Since it was a badge-engineered model, it kept the main components but placed new ones that could reflect its brand image. Thus, the front fascia sported a lower grille in the apron that resembled other Subaru models. Its narrow upper grille was split in three with two vertical slats, and the blue oval badge with stars took center stage. The five-door version featured a third window behind the rear doors.
Inside, it was a refreshed Suzuki with a flat dashboard and a slightly rounded instrument cluster. The main difference was the badge on the steering wheel. Its front, low-mounted seats were flat without the usual bolstering from the bigger Impreza. Depending on the trim level, the Justy offered four power windows and an AC unit.
Under the hood, Subaru opted for an inline-four, 1.3-liter engine built by Suzuki. It paired it with a five-speed manual. Power went at the front or in all corners via an all-wheel-drive system.
Subaru introduced a new generation of the super-mini model Justy in 1996, but it wasn't a genuine Subaru, even if it featured an all-wheel-drive system.
With so many challenges inside the company, Subaru's engineers didn't have enough time to develop a new car, so the management took a different path for a badge-engineered model. The only other carmaker that offered a suitable model was Suzuki, who already had the facelifted version for the Swift, which was available with an all-wheel-drive system as an option. But since most of them were front-wheel-drive, Subaru stepped in and filled the production lines with the Justy.
The Japanese carmaker changed the front bumper and the hood. The new front fascia sported a lower grille in the apron that resembled other Subaru models. Its narrow upper grille was split in three with two vertical slats, and the blue oval badge with stars took center stage. The car was available in a three or five-door version. In the former one, it looked sportier, mainly due to the light-alloy wheels and the roof spoiler mounted on top of the tailgate.
Inside, it was a refreshed Suzuki with a flat dashboard and a slightly rounded instrument cluster. The main difference was the badge on the steering wheel. Its front, low-mounted seats were flat without the usual bolstering from the bigger Impreza.
Under the hood, Subaru opted for an inline-four, 1.3-liter engine built by Suzuki. It paired it with a five-speed manual. Power went in all corners via an all-wheel-drive system.
In 1984, Subaru and Suzuki worked together to develop a small vehicle that could fit into the kei car category and eventually exported with larger engines.
As a result, the Suzuki Cultus and the Subaru Justy came on the market, but their limited success was caused mainly by their height. Their greenhouses were too tight for the average-sized people. In 1989, both vehicles were updated with taller ones, and that helped them sell better.
The Justy was available with three and five doors. Its small size made it an excellent companion in crowded cities and in tight parking spots. The simple minimalist design language showed a set of rectangular headlights and a wide and narrow grille. Its black, wrapped-around bumper sported the corner-mounted turn-signals. In the rear, Subaru adopted the same idea for the bumper, but without turn-signals. Instead, it installed the fog-light. Despite its minimalist design, the carmaker tried to offer as much comfort and possible for the three-doors version and installed pop-out rear windows.
Inside, the car featured a straight dashboard with a rectangular instrument cluster. Even though it was a small vehicle, the carmaker offered it with a tachometer. The floor-mounted gear-stick stood on a taller center tunnel needed for the transmission. Subaru used the same floorpans for both front- or 4WD versions, which were available since 1988. In the rear, there was room just for two passengers.
Under the hood, Suzuki installed two inline-three engines and paired them with a Subaru gearbox that sent power in all corners.
Subaru and Suzuki joined their forces to develop a new range of small vehicles that could fit in the kei-car category but large enough to export them in other countries.
While Suzuki made the Cultus, Subaru built the Justy lineup and launched them on the market in 1984. The main problem with these vehicles was that their greenhouses were too short, and taller people couldn't fit inside. Both carmakers went back to the drawing board and introduced the 1989 model, which was re-designed.
Subaru built the Justy with three and five doors. Its small size made it an excellent vehicle in crowded cities and in tight parking spots. Its minimalist design language showed a set of rectangular headlights and a wide and narrow grille. The black, wrapped-around bumper sported corner-mounted turn-signals. Subaru adopted the same idea for the bumper in the rear, but with a fog-light and a reversing light. Despite its minimalist design, the carmaker tried to offer as much comfort and possible. The five-door version provided an easier ingress and egress to the rear seats, especially for children.
Inside, the car featured a straight dashboard with a rectangular instrument cluster. Even though it was a small vehicle, the carmaker offered it with a tachometer. The floor-mounted gear stick stood on a taller center tunnel needed for the transmission. Subaru used the same floorpans for both front- or 4WD versions, which were available since 1988. The rear bench was fit for two passengers, and if needed, the folding seatback enlarged the trunk from a mere 200 liters (7 cu-ft) to a decent 700 liters (24.7 cu-ft).
Suzuki built the engines for both carmakers since Subaru had little experience with inline units. Power went through a five-speed manual gearbox or a CVT in all corners.