Bangerwatch: Subaru Justy 4WD

Bangerwatch: Subaru Justy 4WD

Apparently a huge dollop of snow is going to dumped on Great Britain tomorrow. This will undoubtedly result in the entire country coming to a standstill, schools being closed and 24-hour news channels forgetting about the world’s news and choosing instead to feature children sledging down a hill in Oxfordshire. Amazon will run out of sledges, the police will arrest people for throwing snowballs and Auto Trader will see an increase in the number of searches for 4x4s.

Of course, the names Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Jeep and Subaru will feature quite prominently. But there’s one Subaru that’s likely to be overlooked. And that’s the Justy 4WD.

Here’s the thing. If you want to keep moving in the snow, you’re better off hunting down something light, nimble, narrow and with a set of skinny tyres. You also want something reliable as breaking down is no better than getting stuck.

Oh, and you want something cheap too, so if the worst does happen you’re not faced with monthly repayments for a car that’s sat upside down in a ditch. Step forward the Subaru Justy 4WD. Or more specifically the first generation Justy introduced to the UK in the late 1980s.

Yes I know it was universally panned when it was new. We’ve never really taken to small 4x4s in the UK. We prefer our 4x4s to look like 4x4s – it’s all about kerb appeal. A raised driving position and a spare wheel on the back would be just the ticket. So a small, unfashionable, relatively expensive and anonymous 4×4 from a niche manufacturer was always going to struggle. With some weedy engines and, on some models, a CVT transmission, the Justy 4WD was doomed.

White 1990 Subaru Justy 1.2 GLII 4WD

Which means they’ve become perfect PetrolBlog fodder. There happens to be two in PBHQ’s village and I’ve got my eye on both. One is white and seems to be used for commuting and taking the dog for a walk. I don’t know the colour of the other one as it’s covered in mud, grime and vegetation. But they both just keep on going in all weathers and on all surfaces. The mud-coloured Justy is often seen loaded from floor to ceiling with kindling, logs and small trees. The outside is falling apart, but it has the heart of an ox and will almost certainly outlive the human race.

So my fondness for the Justy 4WD grows stronger everyday. Which is why this eBay find is hugely appealing.

Admittedly the auction price has already exceeded prime Bangerwatch territory, but just look at it. One-lady-owner from new, 17,544 miles on the clock, original dealer sticker and a wonderfully unmarked body. And it looks perfect in white. It’s also got a comedy CVT stick, a very ’80s-style selection of decals on the doors and a huge amount of retro-boxiness charm. Need to do away with those hideous aftermarket wheel trims though.

Interior of 1990 Subaru Justy 1.2 GLII 4WD

The ECVT gearbox wouldn’t be my choice, but it’s actually a clever piece of kit. It has a P-R-N-D-Ds layout, largely similar to a typical to an automatic ‘box. But unlike an automatic, it won’t immediately pull away when you select D. What’s more, the Ds stands for Drive Sport, which provides an extra dose of poke for overtaking and steep hills. Could be rather useful in the snow.

Which all means I’m rather sad I shan’t be buying this example. Surely it’s the best Subaru Justy 4WD left in the UK? Adding a third one to the village would see it become the epicentre of the go-anywhere Justy. With 15 hours to go the bidding has reached £1,120, which is still a good price for an economical 4×4. It almost seems a shame to get it dirty.

View the Subaru Justy 4WD for sale on eBay here.

Check out the video to discover just how much fun you could be having in the snow tomorrow. Bring it on!

ECVT info courtesy of Dusty’s Justys. Images © eBay.


About author

Gavin Big-Surname

The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. So you can blame him. Has an unhealthy obsession with cars of the 80s and 90s. The more rubbish, the better. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. Joseph 17 January, 2013 at 20:59 Reply

    I love the wee Justy, it just looks so eighties in a ‘right’ way, has the aforementioned 4wd, and it is cheap! I remember speaking to a member of my Advanced Driver’s group, and he was seriously considering selling his nearly new Merc E-Class to buy a big SUV for the winter months. Why bother? Keep the Merc and spend a couple of hundred on a little Justy. It has the snow-conquering 4wd, is cheap and looks rather fun!

  2. Simon Hingston 17 January, 2013 at 21:52 Reply

    Ow ow and thrice ow, how much? Other than that cracking little cars, pity they don’t last up here with the amount of salt around (has to be seen to be believed underneath). Quite right about tall and skinny, had to laugh at a ‘friend’ ignoring advice and buying BIG bear claws for their L200, bad idea :)

  3. mikedowen 26 January, 2013 at 18:26 Reply

    There’s a reason why pretty much every midwife / district nurse in Scotland used to drive one of these “back in the day”.

    • Gavin Braithwaite-Smith 26 January, 2013 at 18:34 Reply

      Good point. I still wish Suzuki GB had imported the Swift 4×4 a couple of years back. Would have been perfect in the conditions we’ve just experienced.

      Tested one a couple of years back and was very impressed. There’s a review on here somewhere.

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