When a car becomes a legend in its own lifetime, it’s an anxious time for fans when the replacement comes along. Will it lose its magic?
The Suzuki Jimny has been with us since 1970 and two decades have passed since the outgoing third-generation model made its debut in 1998.
Nearly three million have found homes globally, including 42,000 in the UK. During that time the dependable little 4×4 has developed a huge fanbase and is popular with both urban dwellers, country folk and serious off-roaders.
Priced from £15,499 to £17,999, the 2019 Jimny is slightly shorter, wider and higher than its predecessor and sports a fresh face, oozing retro cool. It’s boxier too, while new tech brings it up to date. Most importantly of all, the new car is true to its heritage and core values.
Suzuki has wisely decided to opt for evolution over revolution, so elements will be familiar to existing owners. For instance, the interior is a triumph of packaging, but still with the accent on durability, so don’t go looking for soft-touch plastic surfaces. In fact, the controls are still designed to be operated when wearing gloves.
The high driving position will rings bells too, while there’s still room for a couple of adults in the back. However, boot space is limited to say the least, though the rear seats can be folded, creating a 337-litre luggage space.
Thankfully, the new Jimny has moved with the times so a 7.0-inch touchscreen is available, though you will have to go for the higher of the two trim levels (SZ4 and SZ5). Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Lane Departure Warning are also fitted as standard, along with air conditioning and cruise control. SZ5 adds heated front seats, rear privacy glass and a sat nav.
Naturally, Suzuki’s ALLGRIP four-wheel drive system is standard across the range, along with Hill Descent Control.
There’s now also an element of personalisation available – how could you not like Kinetic Yellow with a contrasting ‘Blueish Black Pear Metallic” roof and body-coloured door handles?
Sadly, Euro NCAP wasn’t bowled over with the Jimny when it crashed tested it, awarding it only three stars out of five, but don’t let that put you off – it may not be perfect, but it’s still a remarkable little car.
Suzuki’s kept it simple when it comes to engine choice, because there’s just one – a four cylinder 1.5-litre petrol unit which develops 101bhp and is available with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed auto transmission.
The manual is the most economical version, returning up to 35.8mpg with co2 emissions of 178g/km, while top speed is just 90mph and 0-60mph takes around 12 seconds.
To be fair, it seems swifter on the road than the figures suggest, but then the Jimny has never been about speed. It may look cute, but this car can cope when the going gets tough too.
The engine pulls away well enough and the Jimny can cruise at a steady 70mph, but you will find yourself reaching for a sixth gear before you get there because it’s not terribly relaxed at speed, while the manual gearbox is a tad notchy.
For a tall SUV, it rides well enough in a bouncy sort of way and body lean is noticeable in faster corners. On the plus side, the steering is light, which is great for driving around town. So, all in all, the Jimny’s performance and handling are hardly the height of sophistication.
But here’s the thing – it’s precisely that old school charm, combined with its dinky dimensions, distinctive looks and off-road capability that make the Jimny a national treasure.
Of course, most owners will never put its all-terrain ability to the test, but if you buy one, it’s well worth taking it on a challenging course at some stage in its life, because the fourth-generation car is better than ever.
A genuine mountain goat of a 4×4, it’s endowed with phenomenal traction on even the muddiest tracks, while its hill descent control system will see you negotiate the trickiest of climbs and drips with the minimum of fuss.
Even if you never take your Jimny off-road, it’s good to know that it can cope in extremes of weather – especially if you live in more rural areas. In short, the Jimny represents some of the most fun you can have on four wheels for less than £20,000.
There are other reasons why the new car will put a smile on your face. Suzuki has a great reputation for dependability (which is why so many Jimnys are still on the road), plus you’ll have exclusivity on your side because Suzuki can’t build enough of them, so you’ll be lucky to see one on the road in 2019.
Verdict: The all-new Suzuki Jimny is one of the most likeable cars you will ever drive. The epitome of affordable fun, it looks retro cool, has bags of character and is a revelation off-road.