Unique JDM

The Toyota Probox | A Supercheap JDM Van

The Toyota Probox is not a car many of us westerners would know of, but in Japan, and parts of Africa and East Europe the Probox serves a greater purpose than you could imagine. The Probox was manufactured as a cheap commercial vehicle for small business owners. But there’s more to it than that. While the Probox serves as a workhorse for some, it serves as a full-blown racing car for others. That’s right, people have started modifying the Probox for extensive track-day use, there is even a Probox championship (JPSC).

What type of car is the Toyota Probox?

The Toyota Probox got introduced in 2002 and replaced the back then Corolla/Sprinter van. The Probox comes in a 5-door configuration either as a 2 or 4-seater passenger car and is considered a light commercial van.

The Toyota Probox can be found in almost any commercial or warehouse car park throughout Japan and serves as a great entry-level commercial van for small business owners.

The purpose of the Probox was to offer a small commercial vehicle at a very reasonable price while still offering the same benefits as a full-sized van. Hence the Probox focuses on function over form and aims to offer increased work efficiency while being cost-effective. Due to this, the Probox has become a huge success in Japan, but also internationally in countries with limited economies such as Peru, Bolivia, and eastern Europe.

The Toyota Probox is still in production today under the Toyota B Platform and is one of the cheapest new vehicles you can purchase.

History of the Toyota Probox

The Probox is assembled in Kyoto, Japan at the Daihatsu Kyoto plant and was manufactured on Toyota’s NBC platform between 2002 through 2014. The NBC platform was also used for other cars such as the Toyota Yaris, Toyota Platz, Toyota Sienta, Toyota Scion, and a few others. It eventually got replaced with the Toyota B platform as it received a facelift in 2015. This platform is shared with cars such as the Toyota Prius, Corolla, Vios, Sienta, and a few others.

The facelifted Probox didn’t receive too many changes. The exterior was slightly altered as it received a new front end with some new headlight designs. The rear of the car was mostly kept the same and the overall boxy design was kept in order to maintain the large boot capacity the Probox provides.

The interior of the facelifted Probox is perhaps the largest change between the non-facelifted version and the new revised version. If anything, the facelifted interior got even more minimalistic and a lot of the buttons on the non-facelifted Probox got replaced with dials. The instrument panel also became more minimalistic and only displays the utmost requirements such as the speedometer and warning lights. Storage space was kept the same.

The Design of the Toyota Probox

The design of the Toyota Probox is very simple. But perhaps that is all the more reason to like it.


If the name didn’t give it off yet, the Probox is more or less the shape of a box. And there are basically two reasons for that. For one, it is really cheap to design and manufacture so they could sell the Probox for cheaper while still making a profit. Secondly, it just happens to be so that a rectangular-shaped vehicle is great for putting a lot of stuff in the back, which is one of the Probox’s main focuses.

There is not much to be said about the exterior rather than it serves a purpose. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the bloke which likes to stand out of the crowd, the Probox might just do it.


The interior is actually quite interesting. You can clearly see who the intended buyer would be just by looking at the features of the interior such as the built-in food tray, pen holder, or coin tray for holding your coins for going through drive-throughs or parking lots.

The interior was designed for the working man or woman on the go, such as a sales representative, or a deliveryman. The food tray could not only be used for food but also to sign documents or papers with the pen from your pen-holder. These small features certainly do come in handy, and even if you just save a few seconds at most became really attractive for the working man/woman.

The cup holder is even designed so that if you put your drink in it, the air vent behind it will cool it down. And it was these small things that no other competition really offered which put the Probox aside from everyone else. And then you had the cheap price tag on top of it as well (more details about price further down).

We haven’t mentioned the rear seats yet, and there is not much to mention. The Probox was not designed for rear seat passengers, the back seat is like sitting on a double-folded newspaper – it is not a pleasant experience in other words.

Here are some of the Probox quirky features:

  • Large, always open glovebox – Can fit any large folders of choice
  • A pull-out food tray
  • Large phone holder (can even hold the largest of smartphones)
  • Large bottle holder with A/C air vent placed directly behind it for cooling
  • Penny/Coin holder for passing through parking lots with a breeze
  • Gigantic trunk space with rear seats which folds flat

Toyota Probox Engine and Transmission

If you’re looking for excitement and speed then you’re looking in the wrong place. Since the Probox aims to provide great mileage, the engine options are quite limited. The Probox came available with a range of different Inline-four engines with displacement ranging from 1.3L to 1.5L and power ranging between 75-109hp. All engines utilized double overhead camshaft technology (DOHC).

The Toyota Probox came available with either front-wheel-drive (FWD) or four-wheel-drive (4WD) and depending on options weighed in at about 1,030 to 1,120 kg (2,270 – 2,470 lbs.) for the first generation and 1,090 to 1,170 kg (2,403 – 2,580 lbs.) for the second generation.

Engine Specifications

Engine Code
1.3L (1,329 cc)
1.3L (1,299 cc)
1.5L (1,497 cc)
1.4L (1,364 cc)
95 hp
88 hp
103-109 hp
75 hp
Petrol + Petrol-Hybrid


The first generation Probox came available with two gearbox choices. Either a 4-speed CVT automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. The second generation Probox only came with a 4-speed CVT automatic as the 5-speed manual was ditched in favor of better fuel economy.

Is The Toyota Probox Reliable?

The Toyota Probox tends to be a reliable vehicle. The engines are solid, even so, that the 1.3L 2NZ-FE engine available in the pre-facelift Probox even won the International Engine of the Year award in the 1-liter to 1.4-liter category which partly proves its efficiency and reliability. Apart from the engine, the Probox has no known issues. Its rear shock absorbers can be loaded with up to 400 kg which is 50 kg more than the Land Cruiser VX which is quite impressive.

Another great thing with the Probox is that, if something breaks spare parts are cheap, and the work can be for the most part at home since the Probox is really easy to work on. And even if you have to go to a mechanic, you’ll get away way cheaper than if you were in another car.

How Much is a Probox in Japan?

A big reason for the popularity of the Probox is because of its affordable pricing. A brand-new Toyota Probox will today set you back about 1.5 million yen ($13,100~) to 2 million yen ($17,500~) depending on model and options. Which is not much to complain about.

But what about a used Probox? Well, those can be had for a lot cheaper.

A high-mileage first-generation Probox can be had for as low as $1,000. Although most cars tend to land in the $2,000 to $4,000 range depending on model year and mileage. A fair price for a reliable workhorse that will last for a long time as long as you keep up with standard maintenance.

Toyota Probox Racecar / Racing Series

What I love about the Japanese is just how innovative they are. As long as a vehicle moves, it can be raced in their eyes. And apparently, that saying stays true for the Toyota Probox as well.

Today there are many aftermarkets tuning shops in Japan offering tuning parts for the Toyota Probox. And it has almost become a meme down there. A couple of decades ago, there was a saying that the fastest car was the one used by delivery drivers. Since they got paid per delivery, they tend to drive really fast, even though their engines were small and underpowered. The same applies to the Probox except for this time they actually made it fast.

The Probox is already light at it is, weighing in at about 1,000 kg in stock form. Once you remove some of the interiors, add some good coil overs, and tune the engine and gearbox you’ve got yourself quite a capable racer.

The fun thing is, as more people started modifying and racing their Probox they got together to create what is known as the “All Japan Probox Succeed Championship (JPSC)”. So basically, a championship that only involves highly tuned Toyota Probox’s.

E. Lindgren

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