Mitsuoka Buddy unveiled: Retro American styling for the Toyota RAV4 – UPDATE

The Japanese company known for its bold designs has a new SUV on the way, inspired by classic American SUVs.

UPDATE, 27 November, 2020: The Mitsuoka Buddy has been officially launched in Japan, following a limited number of photos emerging of the SUV last month.

The Buddy is essentially a Toyota RAV4 in a 1980s American outfit, with Mitsuoka giving the SUV a distinctly retro design. Buyers can choose which engine and trim they desire from the RAV4 range before the vehicle is transformed into a Buddy.

As with the mechanicals, the interior is little changed from the Toyota form, but it does get retrimmed leather seats with a centre strip which matches the exterior colour, and a new logo on the steering wheel and throughout the cabin.

Pricing for the Mitsuoka Buddy starts at ¥5.9 million (AU$77,000), but Japanese media reports a number of expensive options which will push the real starting price closer to ¥7 million (AU$91,200).

“I think Mitsuoka Motors is something that is fun, not overwhelming, and interesting,” Mitsuoka President and CEO Akio Mitsuoka said at the unveiling.

“Today is the first time I’ve seen a finished car, but it’s completely American vintage,” he said.

“When I saw the sketchbook a year and a half ago, I felt something was wrong, but the front, side, rear, and lines seen from the back are really American vintage. I am delighted from the bottom of my heart.”

The company expects to build 50 examples of the Mitsuoka Buddy in 2021, with deliveries to begin in the second quarter. Production will increase to 150 vehicles in 2022.

30 October 2020: The Mitsuoka Buddy has emerged online, offering buyers the chance to own a modern vehicle with the retro styling of an American SUV.

Based on the Toyota RAV4, Mitsuoka has transformed the vehicle into a classic American model from the 1980s, with a design vaguely reminiscent of the Chevrolet K5 Blazer or Suburban from the era.

Mitsuoka rose to fame when the company designed and produced a unique sports car with Toyota Camry running gear, called the Orochi, which was known to have emphasised style over performance.

In late 2018, the company produced the Rock Star, which borrowed many of its styling cues from a 1960s Chevrolet Corvette, but using the underpinnings from a Mazda MX-5.

Before those models, Mitsuoka’s portfolio included a Mark 2 Jaguar look-alike based on the Nissan Micra, called the Viewt, and a Zimmer-esque coupe and roadster called the Le-Seyde, based on a Nissan Silvia. Various modified versions of everything from Ford Mustangs to Toyota Corollas and more, fill the company’s back-catalogue with inspiration taken from British and American vehicles of various eras.

The latest creation takes the Toyota RAV4 – Drive’s Car of the Year for 2020 – and applies bodywork which gives the car a bolder look, with revised front-end, new tailgate and tail lights – which appear to have been adapted from a Cadillac ATS – along with chrome bumper bars, and optional steel wheels with centre hubcaps.

No changes have been made under the bonnet, with Mitsuoka only offering the original four-cylinder powertrains as they came from Toyota – including the very popular hybrid variant.

The full reveal of the Mitsuoka Buddy is expected on November 16.

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