The General began selling the Suzuki Cultus hatchback with Chevrolet Sprint badges here starting in the 1985 model year, with the later versions becoming the Geo/Chevrolet Metro. Even though gasoline prices had crashed during the middle 1980s, the three-cylinder Sprint sold well enough that Subaru decided to bring their tiny three-cylinder car to our shores. This was the Justy, and I’ve found this ’90 in a self-service yard in Subaru-crazed Denver.
You could buy the Justy here for the 1987 through 1994 model years, with the four-wheel-drive version appearing in the 1988 model year. At $8,156 (about $18,405 in 2022 dollars), it was the cheapest four-wheel-drive car you could buy in North America that year (yes, the $7,999 Suzuki Samurai was a bit cheaper, but it wasn’t a car).
This being Colorado, I find plenty of 4WD Justys in the car graveyards here; the front-wheel-drive examples have been much harder to find.
While the Metro eventually got a four-cylinder engine, every Justy sold new on our continent was a three-banger. This engine displaced 1,189 cubes (centimeters, that is) and had 73 fuel-injected horsepower (the entry-level Justy DL had a carburetor and 66 horses).
There was a version with a continuously variable transmission available in 1990, but this car has the five-speed manual. Check out that big 4WD button on the shifter, a feature you saw in a lot of Subarus of that era.
Though Subaru had just begun selling cars here with true all-wheel-drive systems by 1990 (and went to all-wheel-drive in all their North American offerings for 1996), most 1990 Subarus that could send power to all four corners did so via a system that required the driver to select between front- and four-wheel-drive manually. If you drove for long periods on dry pavement with the car in the 4WD setting, you’d tear up the tires and maybe the drivetrain. I find it interesting that the 4 in this badge could be read as an A; the “all-wheel-drive” term hadn’t come into widespread use at the time, but Subaru saw it coming and— presumably— didn’t want to be forced to design new decals.
How many miles did it have when its career on the road ended? Thanks to this five-digit odometer, we can’t know.
The Justy was available in North America as a hatchback with three or five doors. In Taiwan, car shoppers could get a notchback version called the Tutto.
The interior in this one still looks pretty good, despite the rough handling given to car upholstery by the High Plains sun.
There’s rust where you’d expect it, though, and that’s a death sentence for a tiny hatchback with too many pedals.
Air conditioning? Factory cassette deck? Not in this car!
It took Subaru a few more years to completely ditch the idea of selling bargain-basement miserable econoboxes here.
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