The Suzuki Potohar is probably one of the least talked about vehicles in our market that did quite well in its era. It was introduced in the mid-1980s by Pak Suzuki and was originally a Suzuki Samurai produced by Spain’s Santana Motors (which in turn was a second-generation SJ30 Suzuki Jimny) but with an F10A petrol 970 cc carburetor engine.
It was initially sold as Suzuki SJ410 (signifying its chassis code) but in 1991 when Pak Suzuki’s Bin Qasim plant became operational in Karachi, the locally assembled lineup was expanded with all the Suzuki vehicles renamed to popular places/ regions of Pakistan. The Swift sedan was called Margalla, the MK-I Swift hatchback was renamed Khyber, the 2nd gen Alto was called Mehran, while the minivan & pickup iterations of the 7th gen Carry were renamed Bolan and Ravi respectively. In a similar fashion, the SJ410 was renamed Suzuki Potohar.
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The Suzuki Potohar was popular due to its relatively low price tag, fuel economy, smaller dimensions, high ground clearance, low-end torque, and potent 4×4 system making it a wonderful low-budget off-roader. Due to its genuine offroading capabilities, it was rightly named after the Pothohar Plateau which is located between the Indus River and the Jhelum River, forming the northern part of Punjab.
The exterior of the Suzuki Potohar featured a fairly boxy design language. The front end was dominated by circular headlamps, a rectangular grille, and an outwardly protruding bumper. The side featured side steps, visible door hinges, a high roof with glass apertures on either side and protruding rounder wheel arches. At the back, there were low-mounted horizontal rectangular taillights, while the spare wheel was mounted on a movable swing-out door among the key highlights. Overall the styling was typical of an SUV designed in the 1980s.
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The distinguishable characteristics of locally assembled Potohar included a grey/black colored livery on the sides, with Potohar branding at the extreme back, whereas another similar livery on the high-roof with 4WD lettering on it. The spare wheel cover at the back had an image of a rhinoceros hanging from the Suzuki logo, which was there to illustrate the ruggedness of this small 4×4.
The inside was rather simple, with black plastic accent elements on the dashboard, basic door trims, and front & rear seats with fabric upholstery. The air conditioning was available as an optional feature, while the interior was cramped, especially in the back, so while Potohar was a capable offroader, it was never comfortable for daily use.
Under the hood, the 970 cc F10 A engine was actually a SOHC 8-valve version of Suzuki’s F-series engine with up to 45hp of power and 78Nm of torque, mated to a 4-speed manual transmission. Not many know that this same engine (with some tweaks in output) was deployed by Pak Suzuki in the 5th gen Alto hatchback that was sold in Pakistan between 2000 and 2012.
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The fuel ignition system was a traditional distributor with breaker points. The replacement of the factory distributor with the one that came with the locally made Suzuki Alto was a common aftermarket upgrade. The initial Potohar/ SJ410 models had 4-wheel drum brakes, but they were eventually modified to front-wheel disc brakes as standard. For a few years, the Potohar was also offered with factory-fitted CNG.
Some examples of Suzuki Potohar in Pakistan
The locally assembled Potohar was discontinued in 2005/06 with no replacement offered by Pak Suzuki. When pulled off, the standard version (without AC) was priced at PKR 6.18 lac while the air-conditioned version was available for PKR 6.78 lac. Though, a few months later, the new third-generation Jimny with an M13A engine was introduced as a CBU import model but with a higher price tag. The manual version of 3rd-gen Jimny cost PKR 10.40 lac while the automatic version was available for PKR 11.20 lac. To give you an idea, Mehran back in those days was priced from PKR 3.31 lac for the base version (without AC) while Bolan was priced from PKR 3.67 lac.
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Despite being out of production for over a decade & a half, the Suzuki Potohar can still be found in the used car market in decent numbers, though finding a well-maintained one is a difficult ask. Do you have an ownership experience of the SJ410/ Potohar, share it with us using the comment section below.
A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com