Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

A flash of green: my not-so-subtle approach to car ownership

Photograph of a green Suzuki Hustler kei car in front of a dam in Japan

When I moved to Japan I knew I was going to have a car. A Kei car at that. Small, economical and (in my mind) as underpowered as a classic Mini.

Once I got my licence sorted out, off I went to the car dealership. Plan A was simple: buy a Suzuki Alto. They’re small hatchbacks, pretty anonymous and decent cars by most accounts. Not like I was unfamiliar with small, underpowered hatchbacks having owned a couple in my time. My last car in the UK was a Renault Clio with a 1.1 litre engine and a tonne or two of metal to lug around.

In I got and the Alto was everything I thought it would be. Decent driving position. Comfortable. A few toys and gadgets. About on a par with my old Clio. Not bad, I thought.

Then I hit my head on the way out

Off we went looking at the “next size up” – the WagonR. Another ubiquitous Kei car, with a selection in the standard, always blends in white. Blending in is important – I already attract my fair share of attention.

Only there she was. Sat on the forecourt glinting in the bright spring sun. I tried to ignore her. I had a budget. I had rational needs.

But my heart overruled my head.

Ever since I first saw the Suzuki Hustler there was a running joke it was my “dream car”. I’d played with the configurator on Suzuki’s website. Found the optimum blend of features. Always orange with the white roof. Always with a few driver’s aids off the options list.

Photograph of a green Suzuki Hustler key car next to a white Mercedes Mini-van showing the difference in size

There’s a story to what came to be known as Henrietta Hustler. She arrived on the dealer’s forecourt the day before, hadn’t been added to any sites, and was a “special edition”. To this day, in spite of blasting all over Hyogo, I’ve only seen two others with the same colour scheme.

So Henrietta ended up on my driveway

Yes, she struggles to get up the mountains first thing in the morning. She screams trying to maintain a decent speed up the mountain roads. The CVT gearbox likes to have a long, hard think about what to do.

But she’s comfortable with her air conditioning and adjustable seats and passenger seat that turns into a table for road station pauses. Around town she’s quick off the mark, and on the expressway she’ll happily cruise at 100kph (the max speed here, and I would never exceed it). We’ve gone 4-up over to Awaji, and thrown flat packed furniture in the back. 

All this and an average over 20km for each litre sipped. 26km on a cruise on the expressway.

Here’s to Kei Car Motoring

Yes, I would have been happy with a white Suzuki Alto. I’d have been more than satisfied with a white WagonR. 

But I have a bright green Suzuki Hustler, and I love it.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.