It has taken 20 long years for a fourth-generation Suzuki Jimny to emerge, but finally the time has arrived. Almost five decades have passed since the first model was bolted together in Japan, a point in time that set-in motion a long run of success. I’ve driven the small, basic yet purposeful and most importantly fun, 4X4 at the local launch in Victoria.
A three-door steel box, sitting on a ladder frame chassis with a tiny engine that has the ability to bat above its average off-road. There’s no doubt this mini Jeep-style vehicle is a bit of a dinosaur in this day and age. If I was to continue the Jurassic analogy I’d say the Jimny is a Chaoyangsaurus as opposed to a T-Rex. A what? I hear you chorus, well just Google it like I did.
The roof is flat, a spare-wheel hangs off the rear tailgate and the front-end resembles a Tonka truck. It’s about as toy-like as a recreational vehicle can get. But for 2019 it gets some smart gear, a stronger body and more sophisticated 4X4 system.
Behind the Wheel
I can’t tell you what the Suzuki Jimny drives like on the road, because the local launch avoided the bitumen. Our day was spent at the Melbourne 4X4 Training & Proving Ground. This crater-like centre features a running river, numerous hill climbs and other obstacles to showcase the Jimny’s ability.
Jumping into the Jimny reveals a typically unconventional upright interior. This is old school stuff, like a mini Land Rover Defender or even a Toyota 70 series for example.
The cabin certainly pays homage to previous models, with a twin-cubic style instrument cluster, grab handle above the gear box for the passenger and lots of exposed interior metal where normally you’d expect some kind of trim.
Visibility is great given every window is just about upright. You’ll notice just about every surface inside is simply back, while the instrument cluster is illuminated by a nostalgic red hue. The seats are pretty fancy with a new cloth design, although they could do with some more lateral support.
The steering is basically blunt, although the actual wheel itself feels good in the hands. Bouncing around off-road was commendable enough for a car of this nature, with a pretty solid and secure feel. This is mostly thanks to three-link coil springs all round, rigid axles and added stiffness and extra rubber mounts for the underlying chassis.
Despite tiny outputs the Jimny was able to scale 30-degree hills with ease and navigate some pretty aggressive washouts that would see a rear wheel lift occasionally. The approach angle is rated at 37-degress while the departure angle sits at 49-degress.
I’ve no doubt there will be a cult group of people heading straight to ARB to customise their Jimny to the hilt.
The 2019 model scores a 7.0-inch display that sits in the midst of a cabin from another era. It almost looks alien to see Apple CarPlay or Android Auto running in this environment, let alone air-conditioning, electric windows and cruise control. Autonomous Emergency Braking comes as standard. It uses a monocular camera and a laser sensor to detect vehicles and pedestrians. However, it only operates at speeds at over 60km/h, which seems a little odd to me.
We had the chance to fiddle around with the Hill Decent control down some steep inclines. I’ve no doubt it helps stop the Jimny from running away on you, but careful brake application or gear selection produces the same result, plus it’s more satisfying. Hill Hold will keep the Jimny from rolling backwards for around two seconds, handy when trying to find a gear in a challenging hill climb situation.
The Jimny scores lane departure and lane weaving alerts, but this is an alert system rather than one that actually intervenes. For added safety there are six airbags, but now to address one glaring problem.
ANCAP has awarded the Suzuki just three stars based on Euro NCAP results. Of most concern is some fundamental structural weakness found during the testing. “The Jimny misses the mark with structural and design weaknesses, poor protection of pedestrians and cyclists, and lack of effective safety aids,”said ANCAP Chief Executive, James Goodwin.
“Engineers observed a number of issues in the frontal offset test including excessive deformation of the passenger compartment, with penalties applied for loss of structural integrity, steering wheel and pedal intrusion and knee injury risk. Insufficient inflation of the driver’s airbag was also observed with the dummy contacting the steering wheel through the airbag, indicating reduced protection in more severe crashes.”
Suzuki argues that given this is a car designed for off-road work the results are good. But I’m afraid I can’t swallow that smother; would you want your family member being in a car that looks like this after a frontal offset test at 64km/h? However, will it affect sale numbers? I doubt it. We’ve been through this with our number one selling sports car, the Ford Mustang.
The 1.5-litre petrol engine produces 75kW/130Nm via a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic. A purist would of course go for the manual every day of the week, but to be honest I need more car time to really pass comment on either transmission. The 4X4 system is part time with 2H and 4H modes, a low range transfer gear is included, all via a separate gear lever. The Jimny’s new LSD traction control system will send torque to the diagonal wheel, should you lift a wheel or loose traction.
Prices kick off from $23,990 for the manual and $25,990 for the auto. Basically a $3000 rise over the outgoing model. Suzuki offers its five-year / 140,000km capped price servicing warranty.
Why Would You Buy One?
Because you want to tow one behind your Winnebago.
I had a stack of fun in what is a straight forward piece of engineering. The Jimny will appeal to many because it’s funky and full of personality born from a near 50-year legend that has seen around 2.8 million sold globally. Plus, aside from my glib Winnebago quip it will also have widespread appeal across many demographics. But ANCAP’s comments worry me and they should worry you. It’s a 6 out of 10 for me.