Published on April 25th, 2019 | by Subhash Nair


The Honda Jazz was Once an SUV in Japan

My colleague, Bo from Autophiles, has been obsessing over off-roaders ever since he added a Toyota FJ Cruiser into his stable.

While looking at possible beater SUVs to play around with, he stumbled across the Opel Frontera. I distinctly remember seeing these vehicles as a child in Johor Bahru. It, like other left-field off-roaders such as the SsangYong Musso were real ‘pin-up poster’ cars to me. They were rugged, yet distinctive looking things.

I never really gave the Opel Frontera much thought, until he mentioned a very strange thing:

“The Opel Frontera was actually sold as the Honda Jazz at one point”.

Hold up.

The Jazz, as we all know, is Honda’s B-segment hatchback. It’s not an obscure SUV from the 90s. What was going on here.

Sure enough, a quick bit of internet research revealed that at one point Honda was selling a car called the Jazz. And that Jazz was based on the first Isuzu MU, which was also the basis of the Opel Frontera. Well, then.

Apparently, this was in the mid-’90s. Back then Honda had no SUVs ready for the market’s sudden demand for such vehicles.

The compromise was to license one from the experts: Isuzu. And yes, Opel (and Holden) took the same Isuzu MU as the basis of their Frontera.

Isuzu MU original

Here are tables taken from the website for the Honda Jazz and Isuzu MU.

It would seem the Honda version of this 3-door SUV was lighter, shorter (length not height) and cheaper too. Strange, isn’t it?

Honda Jazz SUV rear

Both featured the 4JG2 3-litre inline-4 turbodiesel engines. These featured electronically controlled indirect mechanical injection with 120PS and 270Nm of torque.

On the other hand, the Opel Frontera (at least in Malaysia) comes with a General Motors X22XE 2.2-litre inline-4 petrol engine. These had 4 valves per cylinder, 136hp and 202Nm of torque.

What happened to these cars?


The Honda Jazz eventually gave way to the Honda Passport. This was based on a later version of the Isuzu MU. But by the early 2000s, Honda’s in-house SUVs were ready. The all-new 3rd generation Honda Passport is in no way related to the Isuzu product. By 1995 itself, Honda had the first CR-V ready. They did such a good job on that that it’s still one of the most popular vehicles in its segment today.


Opel’s Frontera too continued hand in hand with Isuzu for another generation. It’s worth noting that Isuzu has had a working relationship with GM that persists to this day. The Isuzu MU found its way into many GM brands besides Opel. There were ‘Frontera’ badged Vauxhalls, Holdens and even Chevrolets. Today though, the Frontera badge has been retired. You can find used Fronteras in Malaysia for between RM6K-15K but there might be room to haggle.


Isuzu themselves evolved the ‘MU’ into the ‘MU-7’ and eventually the ‘MU-X’, which were both based on D-Max chassis and engine technology.

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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