Ex­clu­sive drive of Suzuki Jimny

Be­hind the wheel as boxy off-road leg­end is re­born More power and low-down torque from 1.5-litre en­gine Our ver­dict on retro-styled small 4x4 over chal­leng­ing ter­rain, as well as on the road

Auto Express - - Contents - Peter Lyon

OR­DER a new Suzuki Jimny in Ja­pan now and you won’t pick it up un­til early next year. That’s how pop­u­lar the tiny, go-any­where SUV has be­come. And Suzuki says it ex­pects sim­i­larly strong de­mand in over­seas mar­kets, too.

Why? That retro styling, of course. The Jimny is a log­a­rith­mic im­prove­ment over the chunky, clunky out­go­ing model; born way back in 1970, this is the first all-new Jimny in more than 20 years.

So Suzuki has had time to think about re­vi­sions and get the pack­ag­ing right. Penned in an unashamedly boxy style with strong hints of the Mer­cedes G-class and Land Rover De­fender, the new Jimny has pro­por­tions that make it ap­pear big­ger than it re­ally is. But it’s not just that con­ser­va­tive, ap­proach­able ex­te­rior that’s gen­er­at­ing such in­ter­est.

Pretty much ev­ery other as­pect of the tiny Suzuki is ex­actly what the mar­ket wanted, ac­cord­ing to chief en­gi­neer, Hiroyuki Yonezawa. “We kept things sim­ple, but im­proved qual­ity and func­tion­al­ity,” he told us. “But above all, its off-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

Af­ter driv­ing the new Jimny on and off road near Mount Fuji, on an early do­mes­tic mar­ket launch, we’d have to say that Yonezawa has reached his goals – and then some. Size-wise, the Uk-bound Sierra model is 50mm longer and 45mm taller than be­fore, while the wheel­base and width stay un­changed.

Lighter

In place of the out­go­ing 1.3-litre petrol en­gine, Suzuki has fit­ted a new, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 1.5-litre four­cylin­der pro­duc­ing 101bhp and 130Nm of torque. That’s a jump of 14bhp and 12Nm over the old unit; a no­tice­able in­crease in a car weigh­ing only 1,070kg.

Matched to a choice of ei­ther fivespeed man­ual or four-speed au­to­matic gear­boxes, the new en­gine is lighter, more pow­er­ful and more eco­nom­i­cal.

While not ex­plo­sive, power de­liv­ery is grad­ual and suf­fi­cient, es­pe­cially above 3,000rpm. Beefy bot­tom-end torque helps the Sierra get over just about any hill and through ev­ery ditch; it’ll hap­pily wade through small streams as well.

The Jimny’s new lad­der frame chas­sis is 50 per cent more rigid, and the three­link rigid axle sus­pen­sion has been tuned to cater to both on-road and of­froad han­dling. As a re­sult, ride qual­ity takes a huge leap in the right di­rec­tion.

On the road, the Jimny is vastly im­proved, then. While it still rolls in bends, it doesn’t sway nearly as much as it used to, and once com­mit­ted to a cor­ner, it will hold its line. There is a slight de­lay in the steer­ing on-cen­tre, but over­all the Suzuki de­liv­ers de­cent con­trol. Brake re­sponse is sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter with grip­pier ini­tial bite and less nose dive com­pared with the old model.

Where the Jimny truly ex­cels along­side city-bi­ased ri­vals is off road. Chal­lenged over mud, dirt and 35-de­gree in­clines, the Sierra breezed ev­ery sec­tion of our com­plex off-road route. There wasn’t even the need to en­gage the low-range box; it re­ally felt like a mini-toy­ota Land Cruiser.

With some­thing Suzuki calls ‘Brake LSD Trac­tion Con­trol’, we were able to cruise ef­fort­lessly over a mogul-style course. Here, the BLTC en­gages im­me­di­ately to stop the tyres spin­ning, send­ing that wasted trac­tion to the wheels on the op­po­site side to keep the car mov­ing.

The new hill des­cent mode and ‘twosec­ond’ hill-hold con­trol also work ef­fort­lessly to sta­bilise the car on steep slopes. At this price, not even a Da­cia Duster can match its rugged abil­ity.

In­side, the Jimny is more mod­ern than be­fore, with big clear di­als and an Ig­nis-in­spired in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. The SUV is qui­eter on the road and the seats more com­fort­able than be­fore. Higherqual­ity ma­te­ri­als and plas­tics are used through­out, without ne­glect­ing off-road de­tails like the pas­sen­ger grab han­dle.

Vis­i­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent all-round, but a rear cam­era is miss­ing from the op­tions list. Suzuki makes up for it with cruise con­trol, auto emer­gency brak­ing and a lane-de­par­ture alert, how­ever.

Yonezawa added: “If you de­sign a car with a well-de­fined pur­pose and get the pack­ag­ing right, you can ex­tend model cy­cles in­def­i­nitely.”

If in­ter­ester­est in Ja­pan is any gauge, this Jimny may also be around for 20 years.

RUGGED As be­fore, the all-new Jimny is un­ri­valled off road. But with qui­eter progress on the tar­mac, it’s also bet­ter to live with day to day

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