The cult classic returns — it’s the all-new Suzuki Jimny. The previous (and third) generation was built for 10 years, and gained a momentous reputation for being brilliant off-road, incredibly reliable and cheap to buy as well. Now, there’s a new one. It may follow a similar platform — its chassis is still a ladder frame design, for instance — but a variety of tweaks and touches have been implemented to make this Jimny just a little more grown-up, but no less bullet-proof.
The fundamentals remain delightfully simple. There’s still, as mentioned, a ladder chassis underneath the whole operation, which gives the Jimny excellent capability off-road and excellent robustness. And while other small off-roaders choose electronics to help when the terrain gets sticky, the Jimny still offers a proper four-wheel-drive system, with transfer gear and three-link rigid axle suspension.
There’s a new powertrain — more on this shortly — and while the new Jimny is actually shorter than the car it replaces, it’s able to offer up better interior space and passenger legroom thanks to an increase in the front and rear seat hip points. All of these features mean that while the new Jimny is no less capable off-road, it’s a little easier to live with.
Underneath the Jimny’s short, snub nose beats a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 101bhp. In regular modes, it runs in rear-wheel-drive, sending power to the wheels through a five-speed manual (an automatic will be available from launch too), and though Suzuki hasn’t quoted any official 0-100kph figures, we’d estimate it’s somewhere over the 10 second mark.
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The whole drivetrain can be switched into four-wheel-drive with a separate shift lever underneath the conventional gear stick. This allows you to pick between two-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive high gear, and four-wheel-drive low gear, for when the going gets really tough. In terms of economy, Suzuki claims 6.6 litres per 100km on the combined cycle and emissions of 178g/km CO2. Top speed for the manual gearbox-driven car is a dizzying 145kph, but in truth this is a car which isn’t about all-out performance.
Quite a lot of the issues we had with the old Jimny have been suitably rectified. When on the motorway, the Jimny now feels far quieter and relaxing than its predecessor, for instance. There’s still quite a large amount of wind noise generated by the close to vertical windscreen, but the engine noise is isolated well and it sits at just under 3,000rpm when travelling at 120kph (while travelling on a de-restricted German autobahn, we’ll add). Would a sixth cog in the gearbox help the whole affair feel a little more settled-down? Certainly. But as it is, it feels more than happy travelling at higher speeds.
Then there’s the way it goes off-road. Thanks to its low weight and impressive approach and departure angles, the Jimny still manages to tackle terrain which would leave other so-called off-roaders floundering in the mud. It’s very impressive indeed.
Part Mercedes G-Wagen, part Japanese Kei-car, the Jimny manages to look both imposing and cutesy all at the same time. The square proportions make it stand out against ordinary traffic, while the chunky wheelarches and bumpers give it an appearance of a car that really is ready for any adventure. Our test car, finished in ‘Kinetic Yellow’ (designed to be bright enough to stand out in poor weather), certainly turned heads as we ambled through small German villages.
It’s a fitting evolution on the Jimny appearance, and though some throwback design touches remain — the round headlamps with independent indicators being just two — it feels thoroughly fresh and modern, and all the better for it.
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The Jimny has been designed to be robust and hard-wearing, and as such we can forgive it for the amount of harder plastics used throughout the cabin. Everything feels rock-solid, however; the grab handle in front of the forward passenger, for instance, has been rubberised and feels as though it’s been built for chilly days out in the fields.
It’s a strange extra, therefore, given that Suzuki impressed upon us that the cabin controls had been designed ‘to be simple to use with gloves’ that a touchscreen audio volume controller had been fitted — something we’d be certain would have been accessed via a rotary dial.
The standard boot space remains pretty woeful, just as it did in the previous car. With all seats in place there’s little more than a space for the boot door to fit, though with the rear seats laid flat there’s 377 litres to play with — 53 litres more than its predecessor.
Right off the bat, the Jimny has managed to encapsulate all that was loved about the previous car while adding better refinement and build quality. It still, as you’d hope, is an utter triumph off-road, shaking off even the most difficult of surfaces and inclines. If Suzuki pitches this at just a slight premium over the starting price of the older car, then it’ll have a success on its hands. Too much more than that, and the limitations of the Jimny (lack of boot space, being one), could make this a less appealing prospect. We just hope it gets it right.