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Car reviews - Suzuki - Jimny

Our Opinion

We like
Styling, uniqueness, off-road prowess, affordability, reliability, manoeuvrability, charm, cabin design, compactness, economy
Room for improvement
No steering reach adjustment, driver’s seat rear-entry facility, driver’s seat height adjustment, digital speedo, three-star ANCAP rating

Off-road-focused Suzuki Jimny swaggers in with unique character, charm… and gumboots

25 Jan 2019

SUZUKI’S LJ10 original not only helped define the small 4x4 genre, it helped put the Japanese micro and motorcycle manufacturer squarely on the world map. 
Now, nearly 50 years later, there’s the fourth-generation iteration, offering striking retro styling, a thoroughly modern interior and – we hear – much improved on-road manners. 
We only managed brief drives off-road, but what we tasted left us hungry for more. 
Utterly unique and inexpensive to boot, we can at least tell you that Jimny Mk4 can take a hiding.
Drive impressions
At 20 years old, the previous Jimny was a gem off-road and like a jarring and slow weekend on it. 
Sure, at a whim, each one could climb mountains and ford streams with impunity, and we admit that such compactness and toughness were uniquely suited to the urban jungle. 
But time had caught up, wholly swallowed and then spat out again the ageing Suzuki 4x4… probably a decade before it was finally put out to pasture last year, to be honest.
Welcome, then, to the fourth-generation Jimny, a massive visual and engineering makeover over its geriatric predecessor, and one of the most hotly anticipated new models of this year. So… what’s it like then?
Good news first. 
How great does the latest Jimny look? Like the lovechild of a Land Rover Defender and Mercedes Geländewagen, the Japanese four-seater wagon’s clean, geometric lines are pitch-perfect and spot-on. 
That teens and septuagenarians alike are so equally drawn to it is testimony to the real design skill that’s gone in to fabulously updating this modern classic. Bravo, Suzuki. 
Form definitely follows function too, for from the driver’s seat, those square-rigged pillars, deep windows and commanding seating provide excellent vision out, aiding safety and manoeuvrability alike. 
Narrow the Suzuki may be, but it feels like it could squeeze into anything and take you anywhere. No other car at this price point can do that.
Then there’s the cabin architecture, a suave mixture of old-school ‘70s LandCruiser charm and 21st century sass, thanks to the boxed binnacle instruments and utilitarian presentation on one hand and big 7.0-inch touchscreen tech, handy mod cons and quality finishes on the other. 
They’re enough to make you forgive the lack of steering wheel and driver’s seat height adjustments, or the painfully awkward acrobatics required to squeeze yourself from the thin rear cushion to the right-hand-side of the Jimny. At least the front passenger bucket slides forward easily enough.
Though obviously no AMG G63 botherer, the larger 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine only has around 1.1 tonnes to tote around, so acceleration feels fairly brisk; this quiet engine has been around for ages and has long impressed us with its smoothness and frugality as well as its willingness, and so we’re expecting it to be a damn sight stronger on-road than the pensionable 1.3L unit in the last Jimny. Even with only four speeds in the auto version. Some things never change.
Frustratingly, we weren’t allowed to drive the newcomer away from the fairly challenging but also limiting 4x4 track down in Melbourne’s outer south-western suburbs, so we can’t tell you anything about how Suzuki’s latest feels on the highway, corners through tight bends, rides over urban streets or brakes on wet roads; in these very areas the last one felt old and tired when Bill Clinton was still president, so of course any improvements would be welcome. 
We’ll have to wait until a loan vehicle comes our way. Watch this space.
As it stands then, the new Jimny remains outstanding going up steep rutted tracks, traversing rivers and getting down and dirty in sandy and muddy pits. 
We also suspect, with the upgraded powertrain, hugely updated interior and more advanced driver-assist tech, the on-road elements would have taken several massive steps forward too. Have no doubt about that. 
Question is, by how much? Could you actually live with one day-to-day, after the novelty and allure of the design wears off?
But does any of this matter? The world has collectively gone gaga for the GJ Jimny, and there’s already enough substance inside and underneath to go with the swish exterior. 
Supplies are limited and demand is rocketing, so if you like what you see, we can’t imagine you could go wrong buying one anyway. It’ll probably be easy to on-sell for a while yet. 
The Suzuki 4x4 icon’s appeal, like the series itself, will likely last many years. We cannot wait to put the Jimny through its paces on bitumen.

The Road to Recovery podcast series

Model release date: 1 January 2019

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