New Suzuki Jimny – A Long Time Coming But Worth The Wait!
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
I have a long-standing association with Suzuki’s diminutive off-roader, having owned a number of SJ410 models in the 1980s. They weren’t the most civilised to drive, but their light weight and capable 4x4 system ensured they would venture further off the beaten track than all but the most daring would want. They were affordable too and cheap to run.
1998 saw the third generation model, now christened Jimny, arrive and this model has remained in production until today. 42,000 cars have been registered in the UK and it’s a safe bet to assume that most are still in service today.
It would be a massive understatement to say that the motoring press has been hugely excited about the announcement of an all-new Jimny, me included. The Paris Motor Show last month was my first opportunity to see the car in the flesh and it didn’t disappoint. Still recognisably a Jimny, compact, cutesy even, but now boasting a new engine, modern safety kit and a raft of new equipment.
Finally the invitation came from the Suzuki Press Office to get behind the wheel and an immediate acceptance confirmed my attendance to my most anticipated car launch of 2018. The fact that there would be the chance to put the car through a proper off-road workout at Stoneleigh Park, was just icing on the cake.
The buzz at the pre-drive press conference was palpable as we learned about Suzuki’s new baby. The PR team were in fine form, knowing full well that they have a hit on their hands. Instead of the usual rush to dinner, the 40-strong media representatives had a raft of questions, leading me to suspect some are considering a purchase.
The new Jimny is shorter, wider and higher than its predecessor, but is instantly recognisable. In a world of copycat SUVs that is an immediate plus.
Rivals are nonexistent and although Land Rover is readying its new Defender, it is likely to be priced at more than double the Jimny’s ultra-competitive asking price of just £15,499.
The aforementioned price buys an SZ4 Jimny positively loaded with kit. Air conditioning, cruise control, DAB radio and Bluetooth are amongst the highlights. Up the spend by £1,500 and an SZ5 model can be on your driveway, boasting climate control, alloy wheels, satellite navigation, rear privacy glass and heated front seats.
Six body colours are available and I would suggest Kinetic Yellow is likely to be a popular choice, though white, silver and black are available for the less extrovert.
Climbing aboard it is immediately apparent that the interior is crafted with durability and hard use in mind. Those looking for soft touch plastics will be disappointed.
However the driving position is good with plenty of seat adjustment so that even the tallest of drivers will be comfortable behind the wheel. The major controls all fall easily to hand and are designed to be operated with ease whilst wearing gloves.
The rear compartment will accommodate two adults, though modest legroom may mean that those up front will need to yield some space.
With the seats up the boot is tiny, though once stowed away the 377 litre space should suffice for most needs. The seat backs are plastic clad for easy removal of dirt or stains.
The Jimny is now powered by a new 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. Its power output is a modest 101PS, ensuring plenty of revs are required for brisk on-road performance.
A five-speed manual gearbox comes as standard, with the option of a four-speed automatic on the top SZ5 model (add £1,000).
Both gearboxes are fine to use, though the lack of power does see the automatic hunting up and down the gearbox at times.
Suzuki quotes 35.8mpg for the combined cycle, roughly on our par with my test figures. Emissions are 178g/km CO2.
The new Jimny’s ride is a distinct improvement over the old model. There is comfort to be had, yet the 3-link rigid axle suspension with coil springs is designed for harsh off-road use.
A little time on the motorway demonstrated that high speed cruising, whilst not a Jimny forte, need not be an unpleasant experience. Wind and road noise tend to dominate, though not unpleasantly so.
On road, the steering is a little vague and at higher speed there is the feeling that constant corrections are necessary to keep on the straight and narrow.
Off-road however is a completely different story. The course available to us was challenging to say the least. Steep ascents and descents, plenty of mud and ruts and no trick tyres to aid progress.
Unsurprisingly the Jimny romped round, with barely a spin of a wheel. The new part-time 4WD system allows for switching between 2WD and 4WD drive on the move, though for our off-road shenanigans we were in low range with the hill-descent control active.
The Jimny’s compact dimensions ensure that the narrowest of tracks are not off limits and its light weight means that there is less likelihood of getting bogged down in sticky mud.
Should the worst happen, the new Jimny has a raft of safety equipment such as Lane Departure Warning, Dual Sensor Brake Support and Traffic Sign Recognition. Even so, a Euro NCAP score of just three stars is a tad disappointing.
Sadly for Suzuki’s excellent network of dealers, supply of the new Jimny will be very limited. Just 600 cars are likely to make it to the UK in the first six months of 2019, unlikely to satisfy the unprecedented demand. Over 10,000 people have registered their interest in the small off-roader, me included.
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That demand will undoubted come mainly from rural motorists looking for a formidable, yet affordable go-anywhere vehicle. For them the new Jimny will be perfect, but I can also see trendy urban dwellers being drawn to the car. Easy to park, distinctive looks, a raised driving position and the ability to slip through narrow gaps in the traffic-filled streets....
The new Jimny won’t suit all and for those who travel long distances and with a full complement of passengers, Suzuki offers its newly updated and eminently affordable Vitara SUV.
Being in the market for a new car myself, head says buy a Vitara. However, when has car buying been a rational experience? So my name is down for a new Jimny and if you are as enthused as I am, I would suggest contacting your nearest dealer as a matter of urgency.
I will keep you posted!
Priced from £15,499 to £17,999
101PS 4-cylinder 1,500cc petrol engine
5-speed manual gearbox (Auto + £1,000)
Top speed 90mph
0 to 62mph – TBA
Combined economy 35.8mpg
Emissions 178g/km CO2
Kerb weight 1,135kg
Ground clearance 210mm
New Suzuki Jimny – A Long Time Coming But Worth The Wait!, 26th November 2018, 5:10 AM