Adorable design, off-road prowess, plenty of equipment
Choosing between carrying people or their possessions
What is it?
It’s the all-new Suzuki Jimny, or ‘Jimmy’ as every smartphone and laptop auto-correct feature insists on calling it. Good luck Googling one of these if you decide you want one.
‘Want one’ tends to happen about three seconds after clapping eyes on the Jimny. Cuter than a Jeep Renegade and as sturdy looking as the Mercedes G-Class (but at six-tenths the scale), it’s one of those instantly desirable pieces of design, like a Fiat 500 or whatever Apple’s attached a lower-case ‘i’ to this week.
Jimnys have extremely loyal buyers, but for every one potentially warded off by the new model going ‘fashion’, I’d wager it’s already won five new fans via social media who’s never have had it on their radar before.
The old Jimny lasted an astonishing 20 years on sale. In those two decades, three things boomed in popularity: SUVs, downsizing, and retro. So the new Jimny, complete with its 1.5-litre petrol engine and functionally honest design, looks like a masterstroke.
Underneath, the Jimny is still based around a traditional steel, ladder frame chassis, but it’s a new, stiffer foundation for 2018, supporting rigid front and rear axles with separate differentials, and a four-cylinder petrol engine with 100bhp and 95lb ft, and 200cc more capacity than its predecessor. There is no turbo, no hybrid assistance, and no diesel. Suzuki hasn’t yet confirmed how quickly the 1.5-litre motor can tow 1,135kg of Jimny from 0-62mph, but if it’s under 12 seconds, we’d be impressed, and buy the brave-shifting test driver a pint.
That boxy phizzog will eventually stop bullying the air at 90mph, but of far more relevance are claims of 35.8mpg and 178g/km on the WLTP eco cycle. Very modest numbers for a small, lightweight simpleton in 2018, aren’t they? Efficiency perhaps isn’t the Jimny’s strong suit, but as we’ll see, it can be more frugal than the lab tests suggest.
As standard, you get a manual gearbox with five speeds, and a low-range transfer box for 4x4 scrambling. You can spec a four-speed auto, but it’s even more sluggish than the manual and fewer than ten per cent of Jimny-folk will bother. Good.
See, the Jimny is supposed to be for the professional outdoors-type. The ones who spend their days in Gore-Tex, zips and double-laced boots, and only ever sip tea out of flasks. This isn’t some sort of pound-shop G-Wagen to pose on campus or outside pilates class. It’s a tool.
This new Jimny is 30mm shorter, 45mm wider and 20mm taller than before, to best balance off-road articulation and cabin space. It’s got a bigger boot, a wipe-down interior and hill-descent control. As standard you get delightfully utilitarian steel wheels, and there’s no option to paint those anti-scratch plastic bumpers and wheel arch spats body-colour. If that offends you, there are a hundred faceless crossover clones that will complement your life far less intrusively than the Suzuki. You know where to find them. Even Suzuki makes a couple.
But, if you’re the sort of person who appreciates a flat-roofed vehicle because it’s easier to clear snow off and mount cargo racks to, or you favour cars with a roofing gutter so you’re not dripped on as you load the tailgate, then you might like the Jimny. You might like it a lot. You’ll be in good company, because despite its on-road haphazardness and packaging compromises, Top Gear likes it a lot too.
Fancy reading a long term review on the Suzuki Jimny? Click these blue words to find out more.
What is the verdict?
The new Suzuki Jimny is a car of as many surprises as it is predictability. No, it’s not a sophisticated crossover dressed up in waders, but its authenticity as an off-roader hasn’t unduly compromised it on the road. Certainly, it’s got more rarefied manners than any Jimny before now, and its hard-fought momentum and deliberate controls make it rollicking good fun to tack along in.
Hopefully, Suzuki can get the pricing right. Hopefully, an audience will be drawn in by the tractor-beam of its squee-factor styling. Hopefully, they’ll come for the oddity and not be dismayed by the Jimny’s hardy reality and brutalist cabin.
In the end, you just can’t separate the sheer joy of the way this rascal looks, and the adorable character it plays as it skips along, from the way it drives, and that irrepressible cute-meets-tough joy is what will make it ultimately a little cracker to live with. It’s not the most complete 4x4 you can buy, but it’s a plucky underdog. Not to mention, something of a new Top Gear hero.