After twenty years, yes that’s right – twenty whole years of selling a car that didn’t change much – perhaps setting a record for the longest production run of all time – Suzuki have launched an all-new Jimny, but can it remain in a league of its own?
Suzuki’s Jimny is a car that is favored across the globe, especially in mountainous regions and to be honest, still doesn’t look much different now, despite being an all-new model, than it has done since the second generation Jimny was launched in 1981.
Selling in excess of 2.75 million units world-wide, with over 42,000 models sold in the UK over the last two decades, there is undoubtedly a strong market for a vehicle like the Suzuki Jimny, a machine that doesn’t have a direct rival – keeping it in a league of its own.
There are a few vehicles out there that might appear on a Jimny buyer’s radar, however unlike them, Jimny is properly capable, and a back-to-basics mini-suv from Suzuki that offers good old mechanical fundamentals underneath, but now with a splattering of modern technology on-board.
I guess if you have a good thing, why change it? Well Suzuki had to, as the automotive industry has progressed, Jimny too had to be brought up-to-date. Aside from adopting lots of quirky body design features from decades of mini-suv manufacturing, the latest Jimny is shorter, taller, but most importantly, wider than the previous model.
Offering more leg and head room inside than ever before, the taillights have been moved to the rear bumper meaning the side-hinged tailgate is perfectly square, affording the Jimny a wider loading area, making it a little more practical.
Suzuki have retained the ‘ladder-frame’ chassis but with added rigidity in areas that the previous model perhaps wasn’t quite as taut, this all-new model drives incredibly well on-road, whilst remaining unstoppable off-road.
Starting from just £15,499, Jimny ownership is a simple affair, there are no frills involved, it is durable throughout, and for good reason too, most models will be used in the countryside meaning a hard plastic, easy wipe surface is preferred over some fine leather and suede.
Being brought into modern car ownership expectations, the latest entry model, named SZ-4, features a multi-function steering wheel and Bluetooth with CD player as standard, as well as air conditioning, cruise control and front fog lamps.
Safety is helped with dual sensor brake support, hill descent control, lane departure warning and high beam assist whilst an SZ-5 model, from £17,999, adds 15-inch alloy wheels, climate control, 7-inch touchscreen with navigation and smartphone link, as well as heated seats, rear privacy glass and LED headlights.
The latter model set to be the most popular, all Jimny’s come equipped with Suzuki’s acclaimed ‘ALLGRIP PRO’ – their own all-wheel-drive system which, in the last model could be switched between 2-high, 4-high and 4-low via a button on the dash.
This button has been ditched in favor of an agricultural lever between the gear-stick and hand-brake, at the feedback of owners, who said they missed the secondary ‘drive select lever’ on the transmission tunnel, which allowed them to feel the mechanical engagement of whichever driving mode they wished for.
Ditching their 1.3L engine after so many years, Suzuki have opted for a larger capacity 1.5L 4-cylinder petrol power-train that, due to the metals used, is lighter than before and produces 98bhp with similar torque, seeing a top speed of 90mph and a yet to be confirmed, 0-62mph sprint.
Paired to in most cases, a 5-speed manual gearbox, an uninspiring sounding 4-speed auto ‘box is available as a £1,000 option on the SZ-5 trim level and on the manual model tested at the UK press launch, a good honest mid-30’s mpg was seen on mixed driving over a respectable distance.
One thing Suzuki UK do well, is great driving routes, they do not believe in letting you drive a car for 12 miles and expect an honest review, they lay on mileage that would exceed the daily commute of most, and despite the low power, this latest Jimny performed just fine.
Yes OK, you are never going anywhere in a hurry, but it is more than ample for the chassis which as previously mentioned, has been strengthened and on-road, this is very noticeable as the Jimny no longer bounces along undulating roads, it absorbs them like water to a sponge.
Having been shocked at just how unstoppable the previous model was off-road, I attest that this all-new Jimny from Suzuki is even better, thanks to increased body angles and a 200mm ride-height. Many have questioned the lack of turbocharged ‘BoosterJet’ engine on Jimny, but off-road it would impede what ‘Wee Jimmy’ is all about.
With torque in all the right places, and low ‘box gearing akin to an old Land Rover Defender, it was into an off-road testing area we went. Now, as an instructor of off-road driving, I am often skeptical of these tests on launches, but Suzuki provided the perfect route to highlight the expected ability and agility of the Jimny off-road.
Jimny doesn’t need all the expensive materials, technological clutter and vastness of room to make it a good car, because as a point-to-point vehicle, it is great. Suited for the school run and rural living equally – ‘WEE JIMMY’ really is, absolutely bloody outstanding!
Outstanding it may be, please don’t get too excited about owning one, as you may well find yourself in a face-lifted Vitara for 18-months instead, as this is the estimated time it is going to take for delivery of a new Jimny in the UK.
With demand (globally) exceeding supply by a long way, this is the first time Suzuki have ever found themselves in the position of not being able to supply a car, on demand – instead, being forced to take deposits and create lengthy waiting lists.
The frustration of which, was clear to see when MD of Suzuki Cars UK was more than honest about the situation, which is out of their hands – a second factory in Japan would certainly help!
The all-new Suzuki Jimny is expected in showrooms any day, with the first cars rolling out to owners in January, but with just 600 models expected to the UK in 2019, it will be annoying for some owners who change their Jimny every couple of years, as they may not be able to get one.
Suzuki offer a three-year / 60,000 mile warranty as standard and if life was just me, the wife and two dogs, and we lived a little more rural than we do, it would be ideal as a van-like mode of transport, rear seats folded flat for the hounds, as a guaranteed way of getting anywhere, no matter what the weather!
Words & Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY
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