The Suzuki Samurai was the first of Suzuki's SUVs manufactured in North America. It appealed primarily to young first-time buyers who prefer sporty performance and driving economy. By design, it was positioned at the entry-level end of the compact sport/utility market. Key competitors included its larger corporate sibling, the Sidekick, as well as the Jeep Wrangler, the Geo Tracker and the Isuzu Amigo.
With the 4x2 option discontinued for 1994, the Samurai was now available in one version only, the 2-door, 2-passenger 4-wheel-drive JL. The sole powertrain remained the 1.3-liter sohc inline 4-cylinder mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.
The Samurai's 4-wheel-drive system featured a 2-speed transfer case with a manual-shift floor-mounted lever and manual locking hubs. Shifting from 2-wheel-drive to 4-wheel-drive or vice versa therefore required getting out and setting the front hubs by hand.
Standard features for the Samurai included dual outside mirrors, swing-open tailgate with spare tire mount, 3-point belts, front carpeted floor covering and side window defrosters. Dealer-installed options included a/c, AM/FM/cassette system, security alarm and chrome front and rear bumpers.
The Suzuki Samurai turned 10 years old this year, but the birthday celebration was a quiet one. No major model changes were anticipated. However, in a major marketing change, the Samurai was no longer be available in California or Massachusetts, and also not in some other states in the Northeast either as they adopted California's tough emissions standards.
The Samurai's strongest asset remained unchanged: The lowest-priced, most fuel-efficient 2-door sport/utility in the market.
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