Cheerful chappie

Road (and off-road) test: Suzuki Jimny SZ4

“…and how about the facelifted Jimny?” Well, I hadn’t ever given the Jimny much thought before but we love to drive everything at Motor Writer, so yes please. Then, by accident, expectation was set with a passing remark from a fellow journalist: “really good fun”.

The Jimny has been around since the ground was drying up after the Great Flood and Noah’s Ark lay resting on its side, animals and little Suzuki Jimnys plodding about in the inevitable swamp. Okay, it’s been around in a similar form since 1970, just like me.

A light refresh

Styling has been tweaked but nobody could be under any illusion that it’s anything other than a Jimny – the distinctive angled base of the B-pillar, the broad vertical slats for a front grill and external tyre on the rear. Changes include the new grill, front bumper and optimistic, large bonnet scoop. Inside it has had a light refresh but it is still quite spartan, even on this top-of-the-range SZ4 model. The Jimny is the smallest and one of the most rugged 4x4s on the market so the basic interior is fitting for its likely use. It really is quite small – in fact shares an almost identical footprint with my Series III 88″ Land Rover.

Boingy

On the road, it can best be described as ‘boingy’, coping with poor road surfaces by bouncing over any lumps and bumps. Cornering is also on the boingy side, with everything from understeer to oversteer experienced variously; the separate chassis, short wheelbase and vehicle height will always be a challenge here. In a straight line, the Jimny gives an enthusiastic effort but the tiny 1,328cc engine is quite coarse and lacking in torque. It is low-geared, happily sitting at 30 mph in top (fifth) gear but complaining somewhat at 70 mph at 4,000 rpm. That said, ride isn’t too bad at A-road speeds. The Jimny is best suited to pottering and is quite happy between 1,800 and 3,000 rpm. One characteristic is the tendency to lift the front near-side corner (as one might raise an eyebrow) on accelerating from a standstill.

It is incredibly easy to drive, both from the controls aspect and all-round visibility. It’s a 2-door so access and egress necessitates the tipping of the front seats, easy with the side lever. There are just two rear seats, now with Isofix. There is a basic stack in the central console, with vents, audio, heating (with air-con), drive selection and an ash tray. There is a pair of clear dials in front of the driver for revs and speed; the digital display is limited to odometer and trip meter – no dynamic mpg calculations or outside temperature indication. The oxymoronic ‘synthetic leather’ seats and leather steering wheel will make it easy to keep the interior clean. Pedals are offset a little to the right but not prohibitively. Gear change also falls under the boingy category – it has a slightly rubbery feel but is otherwise easy enough for accurate selection. The Jimny’s modest size makes it feel nimble and easy to park. Rare these days is the indicator stalk on the right – just like the old Landie.

Off-road is where the little Jimny excels

Grabbing a sunny morning for a photo shoot, I pointed the Jimny up a rough track and the boingy road ride and modest performance meant nothing – off-road is where the little Jimny excels. The stiff chassis and taught body kept the vehicle feeling extremely solid. Easy selection of four-wheel-drive with diff-lock engaged is a simple button push while on the move. Switching to low range is a second button – equally easy. I didn’t need all-wheel drive with the good traction provided by the Bridgestone Dueler H/T tyres but it felt much more controlled on the slippery mud.

For an all-rounder, it falls short in levels of civilisation on the road and mid- to motorway-cruising ability. There’s no denying the age of the design and limited toys, either. Yet it offers extremely competent off road performance – and is fine for pootling about – at budget money. With the current trends for increasingly wider vehicles, it is also a pleasure to drive through towns and villages without the risk of exchanging door mirrors. It might be fine for urban life but its wheels are most at home firmly planted in the country.

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4, at £13,725 (including £430 for Pearl White Metallic paint). Jimny range starts at £11,995 for SZ3

Power: 85 PS (6,000 rpm), torque: 110 Nm (from 4,100 rpm), emissions: 162g/km CO2 (band G), 0-62 mph: 14.1 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○





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