The new Jimny has the ability to compete for kerbside appeal with the likes of a Ferrari or a Porsche. Trust me, I witnessed it first-hand.
We live in a world of lies. This is the truth. Everyone trying to deceive everyone else as long as it pays well; or less well, it doesn’t really matter; as long as it pays.
The car world is no different. Just look at the current crop of phoney off-roaders built for city centres, engine sounds coming out of speakers, the abundance of fake sporty tailpipes and a lot more I won’t care to mention here because is just makes me sad.
For a petrolhead, this is very hard to fathom. That is why the Jimny is so important. The Jimny shows it is possible to make a real car that people will embrace.
It is, in fact, the opposite of fake: it is the only true small off-roader in the world. You read that right: the only one. It sits in a class all of its own.
This is not an SUV, a crossover or anything like that, pretending, because it has a high driving position and a bigger ground clearance than usual, to be capable of taking you where the road ends and beyond. This is the real deal. The car for those who want an honest product that does what it says on the label.
Now, being a real off-roader, its competitors are, objectively, the Range Rover, the Jeep Wrangler and the Toyota Land Cruiser. The funny thing is, they all cost at least three or four times more than the small Jimny.
The Suzuki is not a Ferrari. It is not a motorsport-derived Porsche. The Jimny is most definitely not a Lamborghini of any kind. But, strangely, it has generated as big a buzz as any of those. Really. Everywhere you look in the press, social media, tv car shows, YouTube, there it is, the new Suzuki Jimny.
Well, surprisingly, I have to say that is totally understandable. My job is to explain why. Let’s begin with this: the design. Just look at it. Ever since the Fiat 500 came out in 2007 that the market had not produced such a cutie. This car is so perfectly designed and proportioned, people are buying it just because of the way it looks and not because of what it can do. It’s becoming a fashion item, which is big news for Suzuki.
The last model was on the market for 20 years and owners love it. I know two people who have driven theirs for over 300,000km and never had a major problem. Talk about selling and they will beat you up – you see, Jimnys tend to stay with their owners for long periods of time.
Still built on a ladder frame with a still body, as a true off-roader should be, Suzuki has added two extra cross-members to increase stiffness and improved the driving modes: 2WD-high, 4WD-high and 4WD-low, with the help of an electronic traction control system that redistributes torque asymmetrically where it is needed the most. This means the Jimny goes pretty much everywhere. Gravel, mud, rocks, water, you name it, the Suzuki can overcome it. It’s incredible what this car can do and, besides, it looks even better with some dirt on it. It looks like it is fulfilling its destiny. I like that.
Of course, this being a true off-roader, and for the price of a city car, one cannot expect it to perform on the road with the same excellence. Around town, the light weight and the diminutive size help it being quite practical and even fun to drive. Add easy parking and the option of ‘back seats up, back seats down’ in 10 seconds and you got yourself a car you can realistically use every day.
The thing is, in case you need to travel and know you are going to be driving above 120-130km/h for long periods of time, you are better sticking with another car. The Jimny simply isn’t built for that. There is too much wind noise, the engine (1.5 litres, 102 horse power, 130 Nm of torque) has neither enough power nor enough torque to let you relax. The back seats have no real legroom and the suspension is tuned for forests, not highways.
But remember, the Jimny is not a liar, so it is not breaking any promises. What it was built to do, it excels at. And that is why it is getting so much love from all sides. Including from this road-tester. At €21,000, for a 5-speed manual car (a 4-speed auto is available), the Jimny is a cheap(ish) way to own what is basically a very capable, very fun, very honest car.
You drive it, you love it. You love it, you buy it. But so will many others, hence the six-month waiting list. But it is worth it. Suzuki has hit the jackpot.
By Guilherme Marques