One Step Beyond

Balls to the Bronco, Da svisdania Defender. There’s a new friend in town…

Green Buddy. (c) Autoblog

Hey you! Don’t watch that, watch this. For this is the heavy, heavy monster sound.” So goes the introduction to the 1979 Madness song to which the title refers. “The nuttiest sound around” is shouted, followed by the saxophonist’s opening account as the tune then explodes into your eardrums. It’s enough to make your feet get busy.

With research limited to that internet, one cannot say whether the Ska sound from the early eighties had any impact upon the results here or if stronger substances were involved. But those imps at Mitsuoka have produced something astonishing – a likeable, honest SUV. Yes, you read that correctly, but one has to admit when these eyes first laid into the Mitsuoka Buddy, driving any form of vehicle was far from my (addled) mind.

Once judge-like sober after several hours slumber, and gathering my thoughts, I returned to the Japanese coachbuilders who in the recent past have brought us such delights as the (not Rolls-Royce) Galue, the (not Jaguar Mk2) Viewt along with the irrepressible yet impossible to ignore, Orochi, Mitsuoka have returned to us with the Buddy.

(c) autoevolution

Mark the 26th November in your diaries now – the unveiling date for the world to look upon. Mitsuoka have not engineered the whole vehicle of course. But they have chosen wisely; underneath that retro bodywork, more on that momentarily, is the Toyota RAV4. Whilst Aichi’s large selling and faithful four wheel drive resembles something that could quite easily have erupted from Mitsuoka’s own back catalogue, (dumpy, ugly) the Toyama City based creatives have used the Chevrolet KS Blazer, which ran from 1969-94 as inspiration for their Buddy.

GM, by recent chance have also decided to update the Blazer into a generic looking blob. One hopes Photoshop hasn’t been applied here. Daniel…? The Chevy remained a two door truck, the Buddy liberating shoving seats forward by simply adding two more doors. Makes reaching for that beach ball or six pack far easier, doncha think?

Aided by Google Translate (other online translation tools are available), this from Mitsuoka’s website concerning design:

“Buddy who was always with me

No matter how much you remove the squirrel

The night you talk to your friends

Take me on a trip without saying anything

On a broken day, he wrapped me up with kindness

Dear woman Fun companion

It’s an irreplaceable time

Buddy If you notice, you always smile by your side

I can’t be a glorious man

I feel like I’m used to a good Daddy

Because I was the best in my life

From now on, play with the children

Buddy’s best companion

Buddy Come on, my partner”

Far from poking fun, I genuinely see a vehicle that at least looks and sounds interesting in its own inimitable way. Sadly they’ll be no V8, just Toyota’s standard fare but at least you know it’ll get you from your apartment to the beach or mountains and back with nothing more required than a quick recharge of either fossil fuel or electricity, depending on your choice of motive power.

The acres of chrome whilst adding heft to that front end lend the Buddy a friendly face. Paint your wagon Fury Yellow over white roof with chunky tyres (adorned with white embossed  BF Goodrich name) and I’m (almost) sold. Although the monotone Deep Purple could give Ted the Mechanic something to sing about.

In fact, most of the offered hues have jolly monikers: Grange Denim Blue, MJ Black Mica (Madness, Japan?), Beach Beige, Star Orange and a definitive throwback with 80’s Mint. This appears to these eyes at least, a vehicle not strangled by being colour specific, but one which looks good in any given shade. My word, this new ale is strong…

(c) carscoops

To the rear, the RAV4 norm has been barged aside by Jeep-aping vertical light clusters, more chrome in the bumper bar and the M I T S U O K A nomenclature. C’mon, this is NOT offensive.

Mitsuoka have yet to invite us inside their Buddy, though it is reasonable to expect an interior with more flair than their more illustrious neighbours offer. Maybe some teak panelling, contrasting piped leather though doubts remain to the vehicles hose down capacity for those leaning towards activities sporting or indeed, utilitarian. For sure, expect the unexpected with Mitsuoka.

Which garners hearty applause from this observer, for one. Doubtful though the opportunity to pop down to your local Toyota dealer to place an order. Mitsuoka have yet to offer the wider world a chance of sampling a Buddy. Which is rather a shame, even allowing that we have no need for yet another amorphous blob of metal filling up our already heavily impacted road space.


But if we are all headed towards vehicles that are obscenely large yet conform to current emissions by prodigious use of clever technology, why not make such cars fun? Easy as child’s play to apportion blame squarely at Mitsuoka’s angled wheel arches for jumping on the bandwagon, there is currently precious little from any manufacturer that positively shouts from its black railed rooftops, “I may not be in the first flush of youth but by George I’m gonna enjoy myself.

Although personally omitting the leaping due to dodgy knees. At this current moment in time, when we need to ingest any form of colourful ideas to lighten the mood, you could do worse than a Mitsuoka Buddy. All that’s left undone is to don a pork pie hat, practice some staggered dancing and get in rhythm with that saxophonist; Madness…

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

28 thoughts on “One Step Beyond”

  1. “When I’m driving in my car /
    It isn’t quite a Jaguar…”

    You were expecting this to be to be the first comment, weren’t you?

    1. Well it could’ve been far worse. Michael!
      As soon as I saw the Buddy, I heard One Step Beyond swiftly followed by Driving in my Car and played the Madness greatest hits whilst writing this with those two songs on repeat a good few times.

  2. I was always intrigued as to where “the factory by the Tyne” was that Suggs’ 1959 Morris Minor was apparently built. I’m assuming it was a van given the reference to “GPO on the door” but not aware of any north east productions facilities for BMC.

  3. Good morning Andrew. Madness is certainly an apt accompaniment to any new Mitsuoka, but it least the Buddy a bit of fun, unlike the derivative Blazer:

    It’s not terrible, but that upswept DLO and ‘broken’ C-pillar treatment is such a cliché now. If I could be bothered (I can’t) to ‘improve’ the Blazer, that would be the first thing to go.

    In any event, there’s no need, because we have the new Ford Bronco:

    Yes, I know it’s shamelessly retro, but I really like it.

    Must get on, I’ve a squirrel to remove…

    1. Note the absence of Ford badging. This appears to be a company that has lost its confidence.

    2. Hello Daniel
      I am intrigued by your comment “that upswept DLO and ‘broken’ C-pillar treatment is such a cliché now”. I never notice such things and wonder what causes you to do so?

    3. Hi Mike. I would guess it’s easy to overlook because that detail is so commonplace as to be virtually invisible these days. Here’s a random selection of cars from different manufacturers that feature it:

      I’m afraid noticing such things is something of a compulsion on my part, appraising details that please or offend me. It’s not just cars, either: architecture, furniture, decorative items, domestic appliances etc. are all subjected to similarly rigorous scrutiny.

      My partner is similarly afflicted. It makes buying a new kettle a nightmare in our house!

    4. Hi Daniel
      Thanks for your response and the images too. Amazing how many are so similar when it is pointed out to you. I understand your home life predicament more too…

      I have the same issue with spelling and seem to be able to spot when something is wrong almost immediately I see it.

    5. Hi Charles, to experience the full, gobsmacking awfulness of the new iX, you need to see it in this colour and spec, with random bits of blue exterior trim added:

      There are no words adequately to describe just how bad it is.

    1. Well done Andrew – particularly for sparking off another diversity of trains of thought, of which Daniel’s cliché-ed C-pillar is a classic. Talking of clichés, those very silly post-apocalyptic wheels on the new Ford Bronco spoil what could be so much better looking and practical for real-world use. I’m sure that if Daniel’s photo-shopping skills were to remove the wheel-arch extensions and the wheels themselves and then substitute something which was in proportion with the body shell we might end up with something which fitted the Queen’s highway. But don’t change the colour; it’s great!

    2. Hi JTC. No need to resort to Photoshop: Ford’s US configurator offers a more ‘urban’ version with body-coloured wheel arch extensions and wheels that are a bit less ‘Mad Max’ than those above. Here it is:

  4. Another great article Andrew. Never heard of the Mitsuoka company before, every day’s a school day 🤣. I do like a bit of chrome on a car, so lacking in most modern cars, but perhaps a bit too much. Not keen on the wheel arch treatment either but I know it’s on trend at the moment. Will we ever see one on U.K. shores I wonder?

  5. The buddy is rather good looking. I must say though, why simulate quad headlights when you can have a tower of a headlight on each side (thanks to having composite headlights rather than sealed beams), after all that is what designers all those years ago intended to simulate. One minor nitpick Andrew, I believe you meant ‘k5 blazer’ rather than ks blazer, or that might have been a trim level that I am unaware of.

  6. The Buddy is a good looking car, even if it is a SUV.
    Given the fact it´s base is a RAV4, they could have done nothing wrong at Mitsuoka anyway.
    A few days ago I was standing next to a RAV4 at the trafficlight, just saw the front from the side and I thought “Oh, my goddness”. Do they point a gun to the customers head to sign the contract? I don´t know.

    1. I believe no guns are pointed are customers, Fred. Just copious amounts of salesperson rhetoric to those sadly blighted by myopia. The current RAV4 is truly awful yet they’ll sell zillions of them

  7. If you’d prefer your RAV4 with a hint of Suzuki flavour, may I suggest the new Across?
    Which will actually be available in the UK, unlike the Mitsuoka (and Bronco) – but only in PHEV form, at £45k. Quite why Suzuki’s designers took inspiration from the “frog-mouth” era at Peugeot is anyone’s guess.

    1. It is not getting better…

      Great, a failed facelift and another logo sticked on. Apparently William Rootes never died and lives on in a modern zombie universe.

  8. Good Lord! Do Suzuki mean for you to look across from the car to something less, well, pig ugly? I’ve seen better looking broken bottles

  9. For comparison, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a little larger but starts at £10k cheaper. The Across is a lot quicker than the Outlander, though. I had forgotten, but there will soon also be the Swace (?), a rebadged Corolla estate hybrid:

    Their collaboration works the other way around, too – the Toyota Glanza, which looks nothing like the Suzuki Baleno:

    To bring it back toward the Buddy a little, the Glanza likewise has upbeat names for its colours – who could resist Sportin’ Red or Enticing Grey?

  10. Did you remember to set your diary for this cars launch? No? Shame on you!
    Too late anyways. Mitsuoka’s Buddy sold a full two years supply (200) in just four days. Some-Buddy gonna have a long wait. I’ll remove myself and the squirrel…

  11. Fun fact: My brother has ridden as a passenger in not one, but two of Mitsuoka’s goofy creations; a Viewt and a Rock Star.

  12. Hi there Joe

    Could you get your brothers views, comments or pictures on his appreciation (or not) to the introduction of such niche products, please? I, for one would be fascinated to know

    1. I passed this request along to my brother, and he arranged to take another ride in, and photograph, his colleague’s Rock Star. Stay tuned; one of these days he’ll find time to share his thoughts (+ photos) via a comment, either here or on Bruno’s subsequent article specific to the Rock Star model.

    2. At long last, my brother’s photos and comments on the Mitsuoka Rock Star have been posted as a comment on Bruno’s subsequent article specific to that model!

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