THE SUZUKI Jimny could be the coolest car you’ll never buy.
It’s a proper little 4×4 that has built up a cult following since it was launched almost 50 years ago. Over that time there have been just three generations of Jimny, but that is set to change early next year when this fourth-generation Jimny goes on sale.
As a small SUV it will compete with the likes of the Kia Soul and Seat Arona but in reality, soft-roaders like those aren’t proper rivals; the Fiat Panda 4×4 is a bit closer but there’s nothing quite like the Jimny.
Looking like the lovechild between a Land Rover Defender and Mercedes G-Wagen, the little Suzuki has a funky, chunky look that manages to be both modern yet still stay true to its design heritage.
The round headlights echo those found on the original Jimny. There are horizontal lines on the side of the bonnet reminiscent of the second generation model, while the rectangular sections on the grille are inspired by the third generation model. And, as on all Jimnys, this new model has a spare wheel fixed to the rear door. But the overall look is bang-up-to-date for a fun, playful 4×4.
And that’s what the Jimny is: a 4×4. It’s not a faux off-road SUV.
The Jimny is built upon a rather unsophisticated but tough ladder-frame chassis, which provides the foundation for its off-road ability. It also comes with what Suzuki calls AllGrip Pro, which in normal on-road driving allows the the car to be propelled via the rear wheels only, but at speeds of up to 60mph drivers can switch to four-wheel drive, engaging the front wheels. It even has a low-ratio four-wheel-drive box for when you encounter the real rough stuff and tricky gradients.
Although the new Jimny has rigid axles, which means if one wheel is forced up over rough ground, the opposing wheel is forced down making it more likely to find grip, each wheel can be braked individually so that power can be sent to the wheels with traction, limited slip differential-style.
Combine all this with excellent ground clearance and what you have is a fantastic 4×4. It really is amazing fun — and amazingly capable — when you go proper off-roading.
But with all that off-road ability comes a compromise: it’s not at all good on the black stuff. Yes, it is better than previous Jimnys on-road, but on a long motorway drive the Jimny is noisy, not very comfortable and, with its 1.5-litre non-turbocharged petrol engine, feels underpowered. It fidgets and moves around as you drive, leans a lot in the bends, and pitches and dives when braking and accelerating. Real world fuel economy will be a pretty poor 35mpg.
But with all that off-road ability comes a compromise: it’s not at all good on the black stuff
Around town, though, it’s actually not that bad to live with. You sit high up, giving a commanding view of the road, the steering is light, it has a relatively tight turning circle and is pretty narrow, so you can fit through tight gaps.
Inside, it’s a bit dark and dingy, with loads of hard, black plastics, but the controls are chunky and easy to use. Space in the front is OK but there’s not much room in the back and the boot is tiny. Fold the rear seats down and the space you get is about the same size as the boot in a WV Golf.
The Jimny will cost from about £16,000 but top spec SX5 is the one to go for. For around £17,500 you get you sat-nav and can run Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on the touchscreen, and get funky LED headlights and alloy wheels.
The Suzuki Jimny does exactly what it is designed to do — transport a couple of people and a bit of kit over rough terrain for not much money. And you’ll look cool getting there.
Most people will want a modicum of comfort and greater all-round practicality, however, so the Jimny is set to remain a niche car and, as much as we love its little bruiser spirit, the limited appeal means a below average rating.
Suzuki Jimny rivals
Price £37,965 – £39,945
Fiat Panda 4×4
Price £14,710 – £16,650
Or, if you’re taken by the looks but don’t need 4×4 prowess, consider…
Citroen C3 Aircross
Price £14,700 – £18,005