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Suzuki Jimny a tough little 4x4 that’s big off road

New Suzuki Jimny is extremely capable off-road but much better to drive on it. Picture: Suzuki

New Suzuki Jimny is extremely capable off-road but much better to drive on it. Picture: Suzuki

Suzuki

Suzuki is now launching the fourth generation of its iconic, lightweight Jimny 4x4 which packs a heavyweight punch off-road. Motoring editor Andy Russell finds out how good it is with an early drive.

Spare wheel mounted on the side-opening tailgate adds to the rugged look. Picture: SuzukiSpare wheel mounted on the side-opening tailgate adds to the rugged look. Picture: Suzuki

For a little Suzuki, the iconic Jimny has a huge reputation in the 4x4 market.

Originally launched as a four-wheel drive mini car nearly half a century ago, the Jimny first arrived in the UK in 1998 and that third-generation model has become a cult classic with more than 42,000 sales here.

The one-and-only, small, lightweight, four-wheel drive vehicle, with no direct rivals according to Suzuki, now sees the launch of the fourth-generation, remaining true to its roots – a simple design, serious 4x4 hardware but the most technically advanced and loaded with standard kit.

Looks and image

Simple fascia includes chunky you can use while wearing gloves. Picture: SuzukiSimple fascia includes chunky you can use while wearing gloves. Picture: Suzuki

The designers have modernised the Jimny without losing its design heritage – round headlamps with separate indicators, vertical slots in the front grille, the flat clamshell bonnet and square styling.

As well as white, silver and black for the SZ4 model, range-topping SZ5 is also available with a blueish black roof contrasting with blue, ivory and kinetic yellow body colours – the latter a high-vis, lurid lime green you won’t lose in a car park!

Under the bonnet

A new more powerful 101PS 1.5-litre unit is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and, in SZ5, optional four-speed auto.

Four-wheel drive is selected with a lever rather than a button. Picture: SuzukiFour-wheel drive is selected with a lever rather than a button. Picture: Suzuki

Without a turbo, it needs to be worked but, once up to speed, is happiest between 40 and 60mph as it’s high-revving nature – 3,000rpm at 65mph – means it’s buzzy at motorway speeds.

The manual box has a short, snappy shift which, combined with light controls, takes the strain out of urban driving.

How it drives

The old Jimny was good off-road but, with its rough ride and roly-poly roadholding, not so adept on it. This new model is civilised by comparison – no mean achievement given it retains its off-road oriented ladder-frame chassis and is 20mm higher.

New Suzuki Jimny has more space for occupants. Picture: SuzukiNew Suzuki Jimny has more space for occupants. Picture: Suzuki

The chassis is stiffer while redesigned rubber mounts, between the ladder frame and body, enhance comfort and stability so the ride is more composed with less lean through corners.

And it’s no lightweight off-road, taking slippery, muddy, stone-strewn off-road terrain in its stride, hauling up tricky gradients on tickover.

For road use, the drive system runs in two-wheel high gear ratios but can be slotted into four-wheel high via a proper lever – a nice touch to meet customer demand for a physical switch rather than pressing a button – up to 62mph. Four-wheel low gearing can be engaged when stationary.

Space and comfort

Rear seats split 50/50 but lack under-thigh support. Picture: SuzukiRear seats split 50/50 but lack under-thigh support. Picture: Suzuki

The new Jimny is 30mm shorter and 45mm wider but, with the boxy body, offers more space for four occupants. You’d rather be in the front than the back where you have to negotiate the high step behind the sliding front seats and, once there, the low seats lack under-thigh support with the shallow footwell.

Boot space with the 50/50 split rear seats up is just 85 litres – dropped flat it grows to 377 litres, 53 more than its predecessor. The rear seat backs and load floor are coated with plastic, so easy to clean, and SZ5 has a removable boot luggage box.

Moving the rear light clusters to the bumper creates wider access with the side-hinged rear door open.

At the wheel

Suzuki Jimny SZ5 has a removable luggage box in the boot. Picture: SuzukiSuzuki Jimny SZ5 has a removable luggage box in the boot. Picture: Suzuki

The Jimny is about utility, first and foremost, which is clear in the highly-practical interior with its simple fascia, big dials, chunky buttons you can work while wearing gloves and a high-level seven-inch, smartphone compatible touchscreen on SZ5 – expected to account for 80pc of sales.

The hard plastic trim will be easy to clean and visible Allen bolts securing the fascia add to the robust feel.

Upright A-pillars and low side windows create good forward visibility but the tailgate-mounted spare wheel limits the view out of the back.

Equipment

Suzuki Jimny's boxy shape maximises space inside. Picture: SuzukiSuzuki Jimny's boxy shape maximises space inside. Picture: Suzuki

The SZ4 entry model includes selectable 4WD, auto high beam, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, cruise control and front fog lamps. Safety systems include autonomous braking to avoid a front collision or reduce damage, hill-hold and hill-descent control and lane-departure warning.

SZ5 gains alloy wheels, LED headlights with washers, rear privacy glass, climate control, navigation, smartphone link and heated door mirrors and front seats.

Final say

The Suzuki Jimny is a little toughie, in both looks and ability. It’s simple, practical and functional and that makes it appealing if you want a little 4x4 workhorse.

SPEC AND TECH

Price: Suzuki Jimny SZ4 £15,499; SZ5 £17,999 (auto £18,999)

Engine: 1,462cc, 101PS, four-cylinder petrol with five-speed manual gearbox

Performance: 0-62mph 12 seconds (estimated); top speed 90mph

MPG: 35.8 combined

CO2 emissions: 154g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 31pc

Insurance group: TBC

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 3,645mm (including spare wheel); W 1,645mm (excluding door mirrors); H 1,725mm

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