Since emerging on the global car market in the 70s, Japanese manufacturers have become some of the most innovative in the industry.
From the boom of economy cars in the 80s from the country, the wave of performance monsters in the 90s and pioneering some of the biggest technologies in the new millennium, brands from the land of the rising sun have claimed rightful places as leaders in today’s market — offering some of the best options on sale. We pick our ten favourites you can buy now.
Nissan GT-R Nismo
The Nissan GT-R is getting quite old now, having been in production since 2007, but it’s still capable of holding its own the in world of high-end sports cars — and the GT-R Nismo is the best yet.
Nismo, the tuning arm of the Japanese manufacturer, is no stranger to creating extreme versions of the already bonkers GT-R models — with legends such as the 400R and R34 Z-Tune under its belt. Its latest creation continues that, adding a boost in power, lightweight handling components and an eye-catching body kit to distinguish this as the ultimate R35.
The Toyota Hilux has a reputation for being a robust and versatile vehicle — and that’s no different with the latest model.
Introduced in 2015 and facelifted for 2017, the current generation of the pick-up offers all that ruggedness and wraps it in a modern-looking package with a heap of modern tech for good measure.
Since its introduction in 1989, the Mazda MX-5 has proven to be the go-to choice for budget sports cars buyers thanks to incredible driving dynamics harking back to old-time British roadsters, but without the horrendous unreliability.
The fourth-generation ND model is no exception, boasting an aggressive new look for the MX-5 while retaining the fun driving experience the car is renowned for. It’s even available with a retractable metal roof now, offering a more tourer-focused experience.
Subaru WRX STI
The Subaru WRX STI is about to bow out of the UK market, but not without a bang. The Final Edition WRX STI is now on sale, and waves goodbye to a legend that has been around since 1994.
Limited to 150 units, the Final Edition brings a new bodykit, 19-inch alloy wheels and a host of fresh equipment to the hot-saloon car — which is set to become sought-after by collectors once the model disappears for good. Maybe now is the time to invest….
Suzuki Swift Sport
The last-generation Suzuki Swift Sport was something of a swansong for the traditional hot-hatch formula — offering a lightweight body, propelled by a high-revving naturally aspirated.
Well, it’s been replaced by a new, turbocharged car — but that doesn’t mean the fun is gone. The 1.4-litre unit is taken from the larger Vitara S, here tuned to produce 138bhp — that may not sound like much, but the car weighs a mere 970 kilograms, making for a fun recipe.
The Nissan Micra has become a favourite in the UK supermini market, offering good quality and equipment for a low price.
The latest version was introduced last year, bringing a new look for the model along with Nissan’s latest technology, including emergency braking, lane keep assist and high beam assist — stuff normally found on cars twice or three times the price.
Honda Civic Type R
Perhaps the ultimate hot hatch on sale today, the Honda Civic Type R is a wild machine.
Its bonkers looks may divide opinion, but one thing that can’t be discredited is the sheer performance the Japanese hatch offers — boasting 315bhp from its 2.0-litre turbocharged motor, taking it from 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds and to a sports car-rivalling 169mph top speed. It’s a lunatic, and we love it.
Set to be refreshed for 2018, the Mazda 6 might just be the best Japanese budget saloon on the market today.
Along with sharp looks, it offers fantastic levels of equipment and a great range of efficient engines — paired with great driving dynamics for a class not normally known for fun behind the wheel.
The Toyota GT86 is arguably the most fun you can have in a car on sale right now. It’s not the fastest, most powerful or even the most composed around the corners — but it offers sheer driving pleasure.
On the limit, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything giving you a bigger smile, thanks to an involving drive, raspy 2.0-litre Subaru-sourced boxer engine and enough grip to keep you on the road — but not so much that you can’t kick the tail out if you so wish.
It took a long time for the new Honda NSX to come to the market, after more than a decade of rumours and speculation but at last, it’s finally on sale.
It’s one of the most high-tech cars on sale today, offering a hybrid setup seen on no supercars other than the hyper McLaren P1, Porsche 918 and LaFerrari — at a fraction of the price. We waited a while, but the current NSX was certainly worth it.