Re­birth of rock-hop­ping cult clas­sic

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - GARETH EVANS

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.

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