It’s been 48 years since Suzuki bought out the Hope Motor Company’s design for OM360 and put it on sale with a Jimny badge on the front. Since then this Lilliputian 4×4 has bought no-frills, body-on-frame ruggedness to markets all round the world, selling 2.85 million across three generations. It’s been used on building sites, in forests and supermarket-mall car parks where its charm and off-road performance more than made up for its Spartan looks, cabin and ride quality.
New Mark IV Jimny has been completely revised, with a stronger, cross-braced ladder frame under the separate body, isolated on eight rubber bobbins. The coil-sprung axles have been beefed up and there’s a new 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine, with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. As ever there’s a part-time four-wheel drive system with an old-school, transfer box giving a choice of two- and four-wheel drive and a set of crawler gears. It also has a back-to-the-future retro design (like a Mercedes G-wagen hit by the incredible shrinking ray), which is shorter than its predecessor but wider and much cuter. Jimny’s creating a lot of interest on social media, but is all that twitter justified?
Step across the tiny but high sills and you are presented with a square, angular facia with passenger grabs and seats that are wider than the previous Mark III model – it’s all there, but at ⅝th scale. Actually, the seats aren’t bad and nor is the driving position, though the steering wheel only tilts up and down, which isn’t great for taller drivers. In the back, the twin seats are cramped, but a six-foot adult can sit in there.
The boot space is a bit of a joke since the rear tailgate closes almost on to the rear seat back, so if you want to carry a suitcase, you’re going to have to fold at least one rear-seat down. From the driver’s seat, you can see all four corners, (you could almost reach out and touch them) and the big plastic bumpers, sills and front and rear valances are mark proof in the car park or the outback.
With a driver’s binnacle containing a couple of analogue dials for speed and revs, the Jimny presents a very traditional look and feel. Designers have even reverted to the traditional floor-mounted lever to engage the part-time 4×4 system and low ratios in place of the button shift system on the Mark III Jimny. Jimny ballyhoo used to boast that you could operate it all the controls in thick gloves, but not anymore since the central touch screen (which only really serves as a display of the sat nav and radio controls), is inoperable unless you stab at it with a naked digit. Jimny does come with Apple CarPlay (the Apple iPhone wasn’t even invented when the first Jimny was launched), so you can get quite sophisticated connectivity as well as the standard Bluetooth.
Top speed is quoted at 145km/h for the manual with an estimated 0-62mph acceleration in less than 12 seconds; it’s not fast! The engine is a willing if vocal unit, without much torque after 4,000rpm although it revs bravely if noisily to 6,250rpm. We achieved an indicated 151km/h on the German autobahn, but you wouldn’t want to stay there for long, this is not a vehicle in which to travel from Sydney to Perth but that’s not the point. The refinement, though, is much better than previous models and even with the engine racing at 3400rpm at 114km/h, passengers could still converse without getting hoarse.
The gear lever sprouts from the floor like an umbrella and has a long but precise travel. The ratio gaps are odd, though, and this car could really use a sixth gear if only to increase the economy at speed.