To fully appreciate the new Suzuki Jimny, you need to approach it from a different angle. No, I’m not asking you to creep up on the miniature 4×4 from behind a hedge, but instead, stop looking at it as a new car.
Seriously, hear me out on this. Consider, if you will, the glut of so-called ‘restomod’ vehicles we’ve seen over recent years. Porsche 911s built by a sewing machine company, Jags and Astons you can’t drive on public roads, and a reimagined Delta Integrale, to name but a few.
Customers with a deep love of the past – and even deeper pockets – line up to grab a slice of nostalgia, while the companies behind the cars fill their velvet-lined pockets. Love them or despise them, the ‘restomods’ are here to stay.
Which brings me back to the 2019 Suzuki Jimny, a car that manages to look and feel like an in-house ‘restomod’, despite being entirely new. And I mean this most positively. It’s as though Suzuki has built a 4×4 for PETROLBLOG, complete with a tailgate-mounted spare wheel, ladder frame chassis and more exposed screws than an ironmonger.
Viewed in this context, the not entirely surprising three-star Euro NCAP safety rating fades to irrelevance, while the price – which I’m worried will be a little higher than we would like – will seem like a bargain when viewed in the context of a £300k Integrale.
Spoiler alert: the new Suzuki Jimny is brilliant and you* will love it.
*That’s assuming you’re a regular PB reader; you aren’t fond of soft-touch plastics; you haven’t bought into the crossover obsession; and you enjoy the experience of driving a car that feels 20 years old, straight out of the box.
You can’t hurry a Jimny
Having been presented with a Jimny key – which itself is a traditional non-flippy thing – I spent the first 20 minutes just looking at the car. The proper journos headed straight off, seemingly keen to make it to the lunch stop. What’s the hurry? The Jimny might be small, but there’s a lot to take in.
The styling shouldn’t come as a surprise: Jimny photos have been filling timelines and generating ‘likes’ ever since the leaked photos appeared online earlier this year. But nothing can prepare you for your first meeting with the diminutive 4×4. It doesn’t need its safety jacket-inspired Kinetic Yellow paint to stand out, but it helps.
Equally, you don’t need me to tell you how it looks – you have a pair of eyes. But the two-box/wheel-on-the-back styling is so delightfully retro and contrasts with the 15-inch alloy wheels, ‘safety jacket’ paint and LED headlights to create a ‘restomod’ vibe.
Looking in a rear-view mirror to see a Jimny hurtling along a gravel track, LED lights piercing a line through the dust cloud, is one of my highlights of 2018. I know, I don’t get out much.
The round headlights, independent indicators, front grille and rear lights provide an affectionate nod to the past, but the design is suitably functional. The flat roof enables easy snow removal, the positioning of the rear lights contributes to a wider tailgate opening, while the upright windscreen and flat bonnet improve visibility.
A note about the drip rails on the roof edges. Suzuki will tell you that they protect the cabin from water ingress, but they also make for useful finger-grab rails when you’re ambling along with your elbow perched on the window frame. This kind of thing matters.
In an industry guilty of over-thinking and needless complication – the world doesn’t need an SUV coupe – the Suzuki Jimny is beautifully simple and simply beautiful. You must have a heart of stone if you don’t look at it with a degree of affection
It’s the 4×4 you drew as a child. The antidote to bloated SUVs. The most PetrolBloggy new car of the decade. How on earth will Suzuki keep up with demand?
Not everyone will buy into it. For all its charm, the Jimny remains a two-door 4×4 with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, a tiny boot and a three-star Euro NCAP rating. The Fiat Panda 4×4 remains the default choice if you’re after a small and practical off-roader. The Jimny is more niche.
You’ve no doubt made up your mind on the Jimny and might be contemplating adding your name to the 3,000 or so people who have registered for more information. With this in mind – and in a rare example of offering proper consumer advice – PB will attempt to answer some of the questions you might have.
Note, the answers are based on 45 minutes of light off-roading and a couple of hours behind the wheel.
Should I buy one?
Yes, next question.
What’s it like on an Autobahn?
Not as scary as you might think. You’ll need a good run-up before entering the inside lane – starting in Mainz is advisable if you’re joining an Autobahn in Frankfurt – but once there it’s perfectly fine.
At 75mph, the engine is humming along at 3,750rpm, but it’s not a terrible assault on the ears. Besides, you could always crank up The Hoff or the Scorpions to mask the engine note. The entry-level SZ4 model features a CD player. Brilliant.
So, I should definitely buy one?
Does it ride like a figure skater on the cobbles of Bruges?
It’s fair to say that ride quality has never been a Jimny strong point. After 20 minutes behind the wheel, your back would be screaming for mercy, and your head would be screaming for Nurofen.
Not so in the new Jimny. The ride quality is probably the most surprising aspect of the new car – it’s not cosseting like an SUV, but for a tiny 4×4 with a ladder frame chassis, it’s remarkably composed.
Long journeys can be approached without fear or trepidation, which is just as well considering that run-up you’ll need before joining the Autobahn in Frankfurt. Oh, and your figure skating chum will require picking up from Bruges.
Will my figure skating pal fit in the new Jimny?
Space up front is excellent, while the two seats in the back are pinched together to create an almost 2+2 feel. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of room in the back – because there is – but it’s not easy to get there, and the non-opening rear windows make things a little claustrophobic.
As for the skater’s paraphernalia, there’s 377 litres of boot space with the rear seats folded down, while Suzuki will sell you a set of roof bars if you fancy taking a pair of skis. The designers have positioned the radio aerial on the right-hand side of the roof, so your bikes, canoes, Peter Jones waxwork or grandfather clock can hang over the edge of the roof.
Choices have to be made. With the seats folded up, the boot shrinks to a size just about large enough for a German businessman’s briefcase. With them down, it means you’ll be unable to offer a lift to Claudia Schiffer who is hitchhiking her way back from a day shopping for novelty teapots in Bruges.
What’s it like off-road?
Assuming you left your skating chum in Bruges to collect Ms Schiffer, you’ll need to know what it’s like when the going gets Billy Ocean. As a well-known quarry enthusiast, Schiffer will ask to be dropped off in a location well off the beaten track.
Suzuki laid on a 45-minute off-road course, complete with gravel tracks, ascents, descents and a ravine. We were asked to follow a ‘Jimny Instructor’, with any attempts to break free greeted with the kind of response that led us to believe that we’d be chased through the forest like a Doberman after Corinne Dufour.
But there’s no reason to believe that the new Jimny won’t pick up where the old one left off. In other words, brilliant off-road. It rides crests, divots and ruts in a manner that will seem alien to Defender owners, even if the lack of elbow room will make them feel right at home.
The set-up is mostly the same as before: a strengthened ladder frame chassis, three-link rigid axle suspension, part-time four-wheel drive and low-ratio transfer gear. It’s terrific fun off-road, even if you need a Jungle Green Jimny in your rear-view mirror for the full effect.
Sadly, Jungle Green won’t be available to UK buyers. Shame.
Time to pay a deposit, then?
As if you have to ask.
Does it go round corners?
The Suzuki Jimny has a comfort zone, and you’d be advised to stick well within its limits. Asking it to take a corner at speed is like asking a bedside cabinet to dance the waltz. It’ll give it a go, but the results won’t be pleasant.
In fairness to the bedside cabinet, it’ll probably steer with more accuracy and pace.
The Bridgestone Duelers start screaming as they approach the limit of adhesion, while the body roll is a more visual indication that you may have taken the bend a little too quickly.
On the plus side, over-enthusiastic cornering does provide some theatre for other road users. To the chap in the Dacia Sandero on the outskirts of Frankfurt – thanks for the thumbs-up and the big grin. Hope you enjoyed the sights and sounds of a Jimny at full tilt.
Is the interior a sea of soft-touch plastics?
What do you think? It’s not entirely clear why some manufacturers – and many motoring journalists – are so obsessed with soft-touch plastics, but the Jimny’s cabin is resolutely functional and fit-for-purpose. It doesn’t require soft-touch plastics.
Not that it’s without charm and a few quirks. The passenger’s ‘you’re going too fast, Harold’ grab handle feels sturdy and robust, the speedometer and rev counter surrounds are aesthetically pleasing, the electric window switches have a positive feel, while the leather steering wheel – standard on the SZ5 – is almost upmarket.
It’s not all good news. The door pockets appear to be designed for carrying After Eight mints, the infotainment system flatters to deceive (it’s hard to decipher and the plastic surround to display ratio is a bit Wonderbra), and the seats are lacking in support and flexibility.
How much does it cost?
Officially, Suzuki will release prices in November, but you’re likely to pay anything between £16,000 and £18,000 for the privilege of owning a new Jimny. Around 80 per cent of customers are expected to buy one on a PCP contract.
The other 20 per cent are likely to sell a kidney to afford one of the first cars in the UK. One of my kidneys is going on eBay if you’re interested. No, I won’t be taking a “swapz on a 318i with no MOT, m8”.
Can I stick a rhino on the back wheel?
The Suzuki Jimny won’t come with a spare wheel cover as standard, but a selection will be available via an accessories catalogue. A member of the German press team had a PDF of the aftermarket options and accessories available in Germany, including a standard black cover, a black cover with a Suzuki logo, and a coloured option to provide a canvas for a “design of your choice”.
A few more photos from the Jimny launch.
Check out some of the options and accessories.
Wonderful retro grille, mandatory roof bars, wheel cover and a set of red mud flaps. pic.twitter.com/8nNzmXu5OE
— Gavin Big-Surname (@MajorGav) September 19, 2018
So, yes, if you fancy a pair of rucking rhinos on your tailgate, fill your boots. Not that it will take that long to fill a Jimny boot…
The most PetrolBloggy car of the decade, then?
It looks perfect (seriously, what would you change?), it’s safer than a Fiat Punto, it’ll do 35.8mpg (WLTP), it has a separate button for the headlight washers, and it’s a proper, authentic 4×4.
The one you’ve all been waiting for…
Headlight washer jet porn. Operated by a button on the dashboard. pic.twitter.com/Bxd7wZGxW2
— Gavin Big-Surname (@MajorGav) September 19, 2018
It’s also easy to draw, so you can doodle pictures of your motor when you’re sat in another long and tedious business meeting. Try doing that with the Mercedes GLwhatever Coupe owned by the boss.
I promised I’d write a maximum of 500 words on the new Suzuki Jimny, but as I’m approaching 2,000 I ought to draw a line under this ‘review’. Sorry, I got carried away.
But make no mistake: you will love the new Suzuki Jimny. Buy one in Kinetic Yellow, treat it to a set of prefix number plates (an S- or T-plate would work well), and enjoy the best ‘restomod’ money can buy. Sorted.
There were other, more experienced and better informed motoring journalists on the launch. You’d be advised to read their reviews before taking any notice of this random waffle. All rubbbish photos © PETROLBLOG, the one good photo © Suzuki.