The Mitsubishi Pajero, often celebrated for its rugged off-road prowess and unwavering reliability, has long been a stalwart in the world of sport utility vehicles. But did you know that there exists a lesser-known, adorable variant of this Japanese legend? The Mitsubishi Pajero Junior, a compact SUV produced exclusively for the Japanese market from 1995 to 1998, brings a touch of cuteness to the storied Pajero lineup.

Among the rarest of these compact SUVs is the fully loaded Pajero Junior ZR-II model, a true JDM gem that recently made its way to the United States. With its diminutive size, you might be tempted to underestimate its capabilities, but the Pajero Junior – or Pajero JR – has a few surprises up its sleeve.

Gallery: 1997 Mitsubishi Pajero Junior

For starters, this particular example is very well-equipped. It comes fitted with six-spoke alloy wheels, roof rails, keyless entry, air conditioning, anti-lock brakes (ABS), a driver-side airbag, power windows, a one-touch driver-side window, a premium sound system, an additional instrument cluster with an altimeter, outside temperature gauge, compass, and clock. 

What truly distinguishes the Pajero Junior from its peers, however, is its size. While it may appear to fit the profile of a Kei car – small, compact vehicles popular in Japan – the Pajero Junior sets itself apart by its 1.1-liter engine, which disqualifies it from being classified as a Kei car. In contrast, the Kei version of the Pajero goes by the name of Pajero Mini and boasts a smaller engine that adheres to Kei car regulations.

Despite its compact size, the Pajero Junior is a genuine part-time 4WD vehicle. Initially, it operates as a rear-wheel-drive machine until you engage the 4H (four-wheel high) and 4L (four-wheel low) settings via the transfer case lever – just like larger, more rugged trucks.

Back to the example you see depicted in the gallery above and featured in the video at the top of this page, it is currently for sale by OttoEx in Portland. As mentioned above, the model was originally available only in Japan, hence the steering wheel on the wrong side. There’s nothing wrong with the price, though – $13,545 for a rare and capable SUV that appears to be in perfect condition and has just around 49,000 miles on the clocks.

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