Compact SUV; Built in Japan
  • 2-door convertible
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $2,000*

1993 Suzuki Samurai

1994 Suzuki Samurai

1995 Suzuki Samurai

1990 Suzuki Samurai

1991 Suzuki Samurai

  • 4WD traction
  • Fuel economy
  • Maneuverability
  • Price
  • Acceleration
  • No airbags or antilock brakes
  • Noise
  • Ride/handling

Though cute and cheap, Samurai is simply too small, underpowered, and unrefined to serve as real transportation.


Introduced for 1986, it was not until 1989 that the sport-utility vehicle was on sale across the country, as either a convertible or a fixed-roof hardtop. The slow-selling hardtop was dropped after 1989, leaving only the convertible, in a single price level. Switching from carburetion to fuel injection for 1990, the 66 horsepower 1.3-liter engine came only with a 5-speed manual transmission. An on-demand, part-time 4WD system was standard. Manual-locking front hubs also were standard, but dealers could install automatic-locking hubs.

Yearly Updates

1991 Samurai
A pair of two-wheel-drive models arrived for 1991, led by the JA. The JA came without a top or rear seat, while the JS added a folding soft top and 2-place rear seat.
1992 Samurai
The 2-wheel-drive JS model dropped out, leaving only the 2WD JA and 4WD JL models.
1993 Samurai
Nothing was new for 1993 in Suzuki’s smallest sport-utility vehicle.
1994 Samurai
Only 4WD remained after ’93, as the two-wheel-drive model dropped out. The remaining Samurai came with a canvas top, and added a center high-mounted stoplamp.
1995 Samurai
Only a 2-door convertible body style with 4-wheel drive returned for 1995, Samurai’s final season.


longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive

New or used, there’s never been a choice when shopping for a Samurai. All models used an overhead-cam, 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine, rated at 66 horsepower. Each one was equipped with 5-speed manual shift; no automatic transmission available.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.3/79
Engine HP 66
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 76
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual



Road Test

Small size, lightweight construction, and absence of airbags make the Samurai feel vulnerable to most other vehicles on the road. Furthermore, it lacks the comfort and performance of several passenger cars in the same price range.

With its short wheelbase and rock-hard suspension, you can expect a harsh, bouncy, unstable ride. Even on apparently smooth roads, the ride is stiff and pitchy. Like other narrow-track 4x4s, the Samurai is unnervingly tippy in corners, bouncing and flexing through bumpy turns. Steering is slow and unresponsive.

Though willing, the 1.3-liter powerplant runs out of breath early and buzzes madly while struggling to produce mediocre acceleration. Gas mileage is a relative bonus.

Even next to a Jeep Wrangler, the Samurai appears crude, with inadequate insulation. At highway speeds, wind noise can reach hurricane intensity.

Controls are simple and convenient. Space is adequate for the two occupants, but cargo space is scant. Four-wheel-drive models have manually locking hubs, which can be an annoyance when switching between 2WD and 4WD.


Model Tested: 1994 Suzuki Sidekick

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 2
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 1
Steering/Handling - 2
Quietness - 2


Controls/Materials - 3
Room/Comfort Front - 3
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 5


Value - 2

Total: 27


2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
79.9 135.0 60.6 64.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
27.8 10.6 2
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.2 38.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A 2-door convertible


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Dashboard lights
Description: The seatbelt-warning light stays on due to a shorted wire under the driver’s seat. (1990)
Engine misfire
Description: An electrical-system failure can be traced to a blown fusible link in the power lead from the alternator. (1990)

Recall History

Description: Front seatbelt-buckle release buttons can break, leaving occupants inadequately protected in a crash.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

Share this: