Suzuki Jimny

 

    The Suzuki Jimny, the smallest SUV on the market I’m reliably informed, has believe it not, been around since 1998 and it’s simple, upright squared-off, wheel-in-each-corner, spare-wheel-on-the-back, Land-Rover Defender-that’s-been boil-washed stance has never really changed. A thorough freshening up in 2013 that saw the Jimny gain a new front bumper, restyled grille and a new bonnet complete with air scoop, and they moved the fog lamps too. But despite the changes and a 30mm gain in overall length, nothing really radical happened.

    It’s similar story once inside. Swing open the Jimny’s somewhat thin and rather lightweight feeling door and an equally simple and no-doubt familiar interior greets you. Ahead lays a logically laid out dash that houses both speedo and tacho, as well as the new digital gauge for fuel, and water temperature and to meet modern standards, there’s a gear indicator. And at last, they’ve put the indicator stalk on the left. No more switching the wipers on mid-roundabout – Hoorah!

   In the centre console you’ll find the controls for virtually everything else. There’s a radio – DAB no –less in the case of the car Suzuki’s always lovely press office loaned me – air-con, and the all-important buttons to select 4 wheel-drive, plus another to select low range. The Jimny may be small but don’t be fooled, it’s mighty.  Despite its size, on the right tyres, it will go practically anywhere you point it.

    The steering column is fixed and thus offers no adjustment, the seats move merely fore and aft, but surprisingly the driving position is actually comfy. Access to the rear bench seat is tricky and space back there is limited too, so it’s perhaps better to consider the Jimny a 2+2 rather than a full-on four seater. It’s narrow too. You can easily reach across to the passenger door from the driver’s seat without stretching. It’s probably a good idea to get know your passenger before you both climb in – you’ll be sat awfully close together by today’s modern hatchback standards.

     The way the Jimny drives, and its performance also seem to be from simpler era. The chassis is a simple ladder arrangement with a beam axle both front and rear. The very short wheel-base makes for a bumpy ride and on all but the smoothest of surfaces the Jimny bucks, and bounces around. There’s little in the way of grip and you’ll find yourself having to saw at the wheel like a pre-war racer to maintain a straight course. The 1.3 litre, all-alloy16 valve engine works hard to produce just 84bhp and 5 very short ratios in a gearbox that shall we say, “takes a little getting used”, means Suzuki’s little SUV is anything but quick: 0-60 takes nearly 15 seconds. Terminal velocity, says the paperwork is 87mph; I’ve never been brave enough to find out.  Once past 60 you’ll be wishing there a was 6th, maybe even a 7th gear, and there’s a heady combination of wind noise and transmission whine at “speed” - the barn-door aerodynamics make sure of that.

      And yet I love it. I really do. In world where more and more machinery feels evermore sterile and disconnected it’s a joy, a simple pleasure, to get into something that you really have to drive. Making progress in the Jimny requires thought and careful planning. Its diminutive dimensions, superb visibility and elevated driving positon mean as long as you allow for the body roll in the corners and keep stirring the gearstick you can go for the gaps. It’s not quick by any means, but by God is it involving. Quite literally you feel everything. You can even heel-and-toe in it when you change down. Honestly, and yes I know it’s a cliché: I drove home the long way the other night - just for the Hell of it.

    And yet despite all of my rose-tinted and nostalgic wafflings unless you really need a dinky and utilitarian go-anywhere 4x4 it’s hard recommend the Jimny. It’s cramped, it’s noisy, there’s virtually no boot-space, and, considering the size of it, it’s expensive to run (39.8 mpg combined) and expensive to tax. Many a modern SUV or 4 wheel–drive hatchback will do nearly everything to Jimny does for similar money and provide you with far more comfort whilst doing so.

    But, I’m writing this just a day or two after the last Land-Rover Defender rolled off the production line. And it got me thinking.

   They might be different sizes, but the Jimny and the Defender actually have a lot in common, not least the way the look and the way they drive. Like the Defender the Jimny has a loyal following (Suzuki sell approximately a 1000 a year it the UK alone with minimal marketing) but still it I fear won’t be around forever. It’s soldiers on but it’s feeling its age, and like the beam- axled, ladder-chassised Defender, the do-gooders, the safety police, and the eco-types are, I fear, bound to try to kill it off eventually.

    Promise me you’ll drive one though  before they do.  

   

   

     

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4

Engine: 1328cc 4Cyl 16V petrol

Transmission: 5 speed Manual, Selectable Four wheel drive with low range option

Power:  84 bhp @ 6000pm

Torque: 81 lbft @ 4100rpm

0-62MPH: 14.1 Sec

Max Speed: 87 mph

CO2: 162 g/km

MPG: 39.8 combined

Price: from £13,295

Many thanks to Jade at Suzuki’s UK press office for the loan of the Jimny

 

www.liam-bird.com

@bird_liam

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Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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