Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - FELIPE UBILLA

MOST PEO­PLE who know me think that I’m loud, brash and overly con­fi­dent. Lit­tle do they know that this is merely a front for the self-con­scious me that lurks just be­low the sur­face.

So imag­ine my alarm when I’m handed the keys to this ‘look-at-me’ Suzuki Jimny. Painted as it is in a ten­nis-ball-like Ki­netic Yel­low, the diminu­tive 4WD is about as in­tro­verted as Don­ald Trump at a ‘Make Amer­ica Great’ cam­paign rally. At least it’s not furry. Or rock­ing a comb-over.

Nev­er­the­less, I sim­ply couldn’t pass up the op­por­tu­nity to drive a car that had been caus­ing such a fuss around the Wheels of­fice, so I flicked the self­con­scious Me the bird and suited up for a set with the Slazenger-in­spired Suzi.

Mea­sur­ing just 3645mm from nose to tail, the lit­tle off-roader may be pint-sized, but its boxy, retro-in­spired styling – char­ac­terised by those cir­cu­lar head­lamps and blacked-out five-slit grille – punches well above its divi­sion in the head-turn­ing stakes.

And judg­ing by the vig­or­ous scram­ble each arvo for first dibs on the road-test key jar, it ap­pears I’m not the only one who has fallen for the lit­tle Suzi’s util­i­tar­ian charm.

Be­neath its light­weight bon­net is a 1.5-litre four-cylin­der en­gine, punch­ing out 75kw and 130Nm. Those out­puts might seem mod­est, but they’re fully 12.5kw and 20Nm more than the pre­vi­ous 1.3-litre unit, yet still only haul­ing around 1075kg.

Un­der the fur, I mean skin, is a five-speed man­ual gear­box, a ‘proper’ lad­der-frame chas­sis, and what Suzuki calls the All­grip Pro 4WD sys­tem. The lat­ter fea­tures a low-range trans­fer case that en­ables switch­ing be­tween 2Wd-high, 4Wd-high, or fair dinkum 4Wd-low. Add live axles front and rear and you have the same recipe that has been ren­der­ing Suzuki Jim­nys un­stop­pable for decades.

It’s not all old-school cool, though, as in­side there’s a 7.0-inch touch­screen

in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, with mod-cons like sat-nav, Blue­tooth, and Ap­ple and An­droid com­pat­i­bil­ity. Other lit­tle lux­u­ries in­clude re­vers­ing cam­era, cli­mate con­trol, a USB charg­ing port, AEB, cruise con­trol and auto head­lights.

The in­te­rior plas­tics aren’t the best qual­ity, but ev­ery­thing is log­i­cally laid out and eas­ily reached. The seats have no height ad­just­ment but the high seat­ing po­si­tion and large glasshouse pro­vide great all-round vi­sion.

Rear seat­ing can be a bit tricky to ac­cess for adults and is best re­served for kids, or peo­ple you dis­like. Hit a speed hump with any vigour and those in the rear can get some se­ri­ous air.

That rear space is best used with the seats down, al­low­ing 377 litres of lug­gage space from a laugh­able 85 litres with the seats up­right. One flaw al­ready ap­par­ent is a need for fab­ric or rub­ber lin­ing on the seat backs – a drive with Heidi the Burmese moun­tain dog had her slid­ing from side to side through ev­ery di­rec­tion change.

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