Future Classic: 2018 Mitsuoka Ryugi Wagon – Hybrid In More Ways Than One

What? It’s March already and we haven’t had a Mitsuoka on CC yet this year? Scandalous! Have no fear, fellow CCurbivores and lovers of automotive oddities, to titillate your eyes and blow your minds, T87 found the latest novelty wagon from the famous Japanese marque – now available with a hybrid powertrain.

Most Mitsuokas we’ve covered before were based on Nissan cars, but that is not always the case. Mitsuoka are an equal opportunity JDM offender and will even, from time to time, include foreign names on their ever-growing list of automotive victims (e.g. the Ford Mustang). So here’s a Toyota-based Mitsuoka – and a very current one it is too.

By current, I mean it is still in production (or was until recently, that’s a tad unclear). And it’s a hybrid, being based on the 2012-19 JDM Toyota Corolla Fielder (E160), which is slightly smaller than the Corollas built and sold in most other markets. This is the first Mitsuoka to be officially badged a hybrid, and that word fits it like a glove.

I was unable to photograph the interior, so here’s an OEM photo instead. Look like the folks at Mitsuoka put most of their energy into modifying the exterior anyway. At least nowadays the steering wheel emblem is changed, unlike older Mitsus.

Not to be confused with…

That name is quite an oddity, too. There used to be a Ryoga model (I caught one last year), which went through two generations and then disappeared. Now, I’m not saying Mitsuoka are running out of creativity, but if one compares the “Ryoga” and “Ryugi” scripts on both cars, it looks like they just cut the top of the letter O to turn it into a letter U and sort of mangled the letter A into a sort-of letter I. It’s a weird name and it’s nigh on impossible to read, but that’s what Mitsuoka have always done. But now, it’s a bit déjà vu, and that’s strange. Are they losing their mojo?

Face-wise, I’d also say the Ryugi is pretty derivative. It just looks like a scaled-down Galue in every respect. At least, the Ryoga had its own bizarre face, whereas this one just borrows its big brother’s Bentleyesque mug without attempting to give it any additional character. That’s a great pity, as Mitsuoka are missing an opportunity to regale us with another homage to classic British cars. They could have made a mock Alvis or a faux Humber instead of cutting and pasting the same Bentley styling cues yet again. Come on, guys! The Super Snipe beckons! Failing that, the Riley Pathfinder, the Daimler Majestic, the Rover P5 or any Armstrong Siddeley would be great candidates for a bit of Mitsuification.

However, the main attraction to this particular find is its long-roofiness. Putting the word “wagon” next to the name “Mitsuoka” is something of an Everest of automotive exoticism, especially in certain part of the world. Wagons are still very popular in Japan, but I understand that few, if any, are currently sold in North America. And Mitsuokas are attention-grabbing no matter where they are. Nitro meets glycerin.

There is a saloon version also, of course. The hybrid drivetrain comes with a 1.5 litre petrol engine, as do the non-hybrid versions. Mirroring the JDM Toyota, the Mitsuoka Ryugi is available with 4WD – though not the hybrid, which is FWD-only – but the 1.8 litre is not technically available on the Ryugi wagon, unlike the Toyota Fielder (no idea why that is).

The Corolla / Fielder has moved on to the 12th generation (E210) since late 2018, though the E160 saloon is still being made for fleet sales. This has not pushed Mitsuoka to update their Ryugi thus far. I’m unsure whether they just have enough in stock to get by for a couple years, or whether they are just keeping the car on their line-up by purchasing old ones and modifying them as second-hand cars. The fact remains that Mitsuoka are still advertising the Ryugi saloon and wagon as new cars in 2020. Maybe they have access to a time machine. Actually, that would explain a lot of things.

Rare though it may be, the Ryugi wagon is slightly underwhelming. Not as mad as the Ryoga, not as tongue-in-cheek as the Viewt and less impressive than the Galue, it fails to make the impression a Mitsuoka should. But at least, it robs the Toyota Fielder of its angry eyes and tortured frown, which makes present-day Toyotas all look like they could use a combined therapy of muscle relaxants, Quaaludes and alcohol. Now that’s a hybrid retro cocktail that might be worth pursuing.