Rebirth of rock-hopping cult classic
Reboot of rock-hopper classic
THERE’S a highly evolved enthusiast scene for the previous-gen Jimny – a car that went on sale two decades ago and to this day remains in a class of one: a tiny, ladder-frame 4x4 with proper off-roading talent, at the expense of on-road manners.
But now there’s a new one. Or perhaps a very heavily updated one, since that chassis retains its design, albeit strengthened with extra bracing to improve torsional rigidity. This two-door seats four, but only if you don’t need boot space, because its 377 litres of volume is only available with the wipe-clean, plastic-backed rear seats folded flat.
Still, ferrying friends isn’t really on the agenda here. Jimny is built to appeal to keen fourby folk who need its terrain-tackling talents, but Suzuki also wants to push it in the direction of youngsters whose lifestyle requires go-anywhere ability. That’s why it’s styled somewhere between a Jeep, an old Landcruiser and a mini G-class.
Our test drive near Frankfurt soon highlights the Jimny’s limitations. Barrel into a bend too quickly and you get comical bodyroll. The electrically assisted recirculating-ball steering set-up – combined with the long-travel suspension – can make for unpredictable levels of control and composure even at modest speeds.
To get properly under its skin, you need to leave the tarmac behind. Pull the pleasingly agricultural transmission selection lever rearwards one click and you’ll engage the front wheels as well as the always working rears, and you’ll be able to make full use of the impressive approach, ramp and departure angles. When stationary, push that lever down and pull back another click to engage the low-range transfer box for more accurate control scaling the steepest slopes.
There’s no centre-locking diff here but rather an open one on each axle, with torque-vectoring by braking making a decent fist of simulating an LSD. The 1.5litre naturally-aspirated engine’s torque is enough to keep the Jimny moving through the relatively tame mud, rock and dust of our test route, and it feels as though we’re only scratching the surface of what this rugged 1.1-tonne mountain goat can do.
Just as in the previous-gen, a five-speed manual and a fourspeed auto are likely for Oz. We tried the manual, and wish it had a sixth gear to cut engine revs and noise at motorway speeds. But otherwise refinement is far better than that of the old Jimny.
A pity, then, that the sat-nav is woefully slow, and the Euro NCAP rating is a paltry three stars. Still, you’ll either love the Jimny – and join the ranks of smitten enthusiasts – or ignore it in favour of a less characterful small SUV.