Everything that is old is new again and Suzuki embraces the adage with a fresh-faced look at the principles that made its first Aussie-launched LJ50 of 1975 such a hit.
The latest Suzuki Jimny – a name tagged to the 4WD since the Japanese-market LJ10 of 1970 yet not adopted here until much later – reflects the minimalistic design approach borrowed from Jeep, shrinks the dimensions, retains a ladder frame and low-range gears, and introduces it at an affordable price.
The new mini-4WD is touted as a new-gen but in fact is largely made of components carried over and/or upgraded from the previous model.
In its 2019 guise, it is targeted at the urban style-conscious generation and its city-friendly size and fuel economy make it compatible with commuters.
But while the Jimny may be desired by urbanites, it’s a vehicle with so much more to offer than being limited to suburbia. Just like its predecessors, the ability to go pretty much everywhere on the smell of an oily rag is a temptation to hard to ignore.
One word on the pricing. This is $3000 more than the model it replaces at $23,990 plus on-road costs for the manual ($25,990 for the auto). It’s not cheap, especially up against more comfortable hatchbacks.
That’s if you like a white car. You have to pay $500 extra for any other colour, plus $1250 for the neat black-coloured roof. Add it up and it’s $25,740 before it hits the road.
The Jimny is a square box with its perpendicular sides set 90-degrees to the ground, with a height greater than the width, and a smaller box up front to cover the engine. That’s basically it.
The thing is that despite looking very vulnerable parked alongside a Lexus LX570 – the other tester in the garage at the same time as the Jimny test – it has an overwhelming need to be cuddled. “Cute” was a name that resounded among those who shared the garage walk around. (Spoiler alert: Those that drove it never mentioned the “cute” word again).
Nothing is overdone about the exterior and the term “fit for purpose” suits this wagon perfectly.
The rear door is hinged on the right, opens to practically the full width and height of the carton-shaped cabin, and keeps with tradition by placing the spare wheel on this door.
The cabin is smallish in the style of previous Jimnys, and previous users will remember its narrowness.
There’s a lot of hard plastic in the dash but it’s purposeful in design and ergonomic in layout, incorporating a panic grip for the passenger, a useable glovebox, and a high-mounted centre screen for satellite navigation, entertainment and communication functions.
The seats are thin, flat and lacking in support but are easy to get into and out of given the high cushion height from the ground.
There’s the same stick from atop the gearbox with five forward gears, and the smaller one for slipping the transfer case from 2WD High to 4WD High (on the run) and then, by depressing the lever, into 4WD Low. Simples.
The rear seats have squabs that fold flat to make the cargo area suit luggage, for without this seat movement there would be virtually no space for goods.
Two adults can fit in the back but it’s not a particularly enjoyable experience and only short trips are recommended.
This is the car-buying procrastinator’s nirvana. There’s only two Jimny’s – one with a manual transmission and one with automatic.
There are two cupholders but no bottle holders, two speakers, one USB port in the front and two 12-volt outlets, 15-inch alloy wheels with a full-size spare, LED headlights with dusk sensor, two Isofix baby seat connections, and – better – a touchscreen that accesses satellite navigation and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
ENGINE and DRIVE:
Over last year’s model, the engine gets a 15 per cent boost in capacity to 1.5-litres and delivers 75kW (up 12.5kW on the old 1.3-litre) at 6000rpm, and torque of 130Nm (up 20Nm) at 4000rpm.
Suzuki badge the wagon as having AllGrip, which is an electronic traction aid. Drive goes through a two-speed transfer case to front and rear live axles with coils and multi-links – just like a proper 4WD. There’s front disc brakes but the rears are drums.
The engine is a bit noisy, a bit asthmatic (though not as breathless as the 1.3), but eager. It has the potential to be frugal but though Suzuki claims 6.4 L/100km (6.9 L/100km for the auto), expects around 8.0-8.5 L/100km in town.
On the freeway it’s a bit noisy, with 100km/h coming up around 3100rpm, and the suspension and steering system – in concert with the tyres – makes it bounce around the lane. A windy day is interesting.
Off the road it’s a gem. The direct steering, tight turning circle (9.8m) and basic chuckability of the vehicle makes it eat up off-road tracks and cast aside difficult obstacles.
Standard gear is highlighted by autonomous emergency braking (AEB) plus a reverse camera, seven airbags including full-length curtain airbags and a knee bag for the driver.
But in the safety department, there’s not a lot else. The elephant in the room is the crash test result of a weak three stars. This is despite AEB and reflects the fact it’s a small, vulnerable vehicle that places its occupants close to the slab-sided sheet metal.
- Fantastic in the dirt
- Minimalistic fun
NOT SO GOOD BITS:
- Buzzy on the freeway
- Bumpy ride
- Low crash test result
You could fall in love with one of these until you find off-road isn’t your scene and that a hatchback has more room, is more economical, is safer, quieter and more comfortable. Otherwise, it’s a stylish fun box that will decimate a lot of decent 4WDs in the dirt and especially along the beach. Would I buy one? Unlikely.
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FACTS AND FIGURES: 2019 SUZUKI JIMNY
- Engine: 1.5 L 4Cyl Petrol producing 75kW/130Nm
- Transmission: High/Low 4WD 5 speed manual, 2 speed transfer
- Warranty: 5 Yr./ 140,000km (if dealer serviced)
- Safety: 3-star
- Origin: Japan
- Price: from $23,990 MLP*
*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.