A funky SUV for Japan only.
Everyone should try to find the time to delve into the history of Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) vehicles. There are some truly astonishing cars to be found, ranging from Kei cars to luxury sedans, and off-roaders. None of them were exported (hence the JDM tag), including to the US. One of the coolers ones was the Nissan Rasheen, a small SUV with four-wheel-drive that launched back in 1994. The X-Trail was its immediate successor, which eventually morphed into a rebadged Nissan Rogue.
Like many other JDM vehicles, the Rasheen was funky looking, but its fairly rugged and angular body still looks cool today. With seating for up to five passengers, the Rasheen's interior was really nothing special but it did come with plaid-patterned cloth seats. The dashboard is very straightforward but that's fine for many SUV buyers.
Under the hood those customers had a choice of three naturally aspirated inline-four engines with displacements of 1.5-, 1.8-, and 2.0-liters. A four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual were the transmission choices and the full-time four-wheel-drive system was capable of variable torque distribution. Total weight comes to only about 2,900 pounds, which is featherweight for an SUV. Nissan was clearly onto something with the little Rasheen.
Small SUVs like this were just starting out at the time, and like our first-generation Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, were car-based. The Rasheen was also bigger and more comfortable than the Spartan and tiny Suzuki Jimny. So why didn't Nissan continue with the SUV approach? Because it's not what the market wanted at the time and the customer is always right. Heck, even the Pathfinder has become a crossover.
The Rasheen was discontinued in 2000 and some early examples are now popping up in the US thanks to the 25-year import ban rule coming to an end. This 1995 Rasheen is currently up for grabs at The Import Guys. It has the 1.5-liter engine and slushbox combo, and a total of 111,027 verified miles. Yet it's still going strong. And the price is darn reasonable at $8,650.
Automakers are now more focused than ever on a "one size fits all" approach for new vehicles that are better suited to a global economy. Financially speaking, that makes complete sense but the downside is the loss of distinct cars, trucks, and SUVs. This doesn't mean purpose-built JDM cars like this will completely disappear, but we're likely to see fewer new ones in the future.