Everyone’s favourite small SUV has had a makeover and is now back, with slightly odd styling but the same fighting spirit, says Charlie Flindt
Everyone’s favourite little SUV is back. Charlie Flindt finds himself slightly alarmed by the Suzuki Jimny SZ5 at first sight, but is pleased to find that all the best bits are still there – or have been improved.
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SUZUKI JIMNY SZ5
The first sight of the new Suzuki Jimny is a bit of a shock. The exterior is a curious mix of Tonka toy, G-Wagen and Jeep, as imagined by a one-armed 12-year-old on his Etch A Sketch. But there is method in Suzuki’s madness. It’s a test, to separate those for whom the SUV is a compulsory-dark-glasses fashion statement from the Jimnisti – the hard-core off-roaders who know that the little Suzuki is the pinnacle in cheap but fantastically capable four-wheel-drive machines. And we Jimnisti won’t care about the outside – it’s what’s underneath that counts.
So there’s a great sense of relief to find that the best bits of the old Jimny are still there or have been improved. The ladder-frame chassis has been beefed up, for instance, and the transmission is still Hi2wd/Hi4wd/Lo4wd – selectable via a lever. Fans of a locking differential will be slightly disappointed that a new system involving the ABS is used to avoid loss of traction because of a spinning wheel.
But the wheels are tall and thin, there’s a full-size spare, although you have to buy the basic model if you want to avoid garish alloys. However, the basic model only comes in shades of grey, which is a bit of a pain, and our favourite green isn’t available in the range at all.
The inside is familiar, too. There’s no boot to talk of and folding the back seats leaves a messy floor. (Whip ’em out and make a commercial version, Suzuki.) The dashboard is smart, although the ‘infotainment system’ looks slightly out of place, never mind being bewildering to use.
On the move, the Jimny is exactly as you would expect. The boomy little 1.5 petrol (no DPFs or Ad-Blue nonsense) struggles at high speed (not helped by the lack of aerodynamics) and tends to stall easily in traffic. But out in the sticks it is perfect, plugging along happily. Visibility is fantastic, helped by the upright position and long doors, and the turning circle is tiny. It is the master of the ’60s-designed, multi-storey car park – the one we had to abandon when testing a four-door pickup.
Suzuki seemed to have acknowledged that the Jimny is (how can I say this kindly?) not the most stable beast on the road, and there are sway warning buzzers and lane departure warning beepers – all of which can be set off by a 17 stone teenager boogying mischievously in the front seat. Mind you, he halved top speed, so we were quite safe.
The mud, though, is the Jimny’s home. Slip it into four-wheel drive and it’s unstoppable. You’ll need the seat belt, because you drive through the ruts far faster than you planned (probably going “Wheee!” at the same time) and the flimsy seats give little support or containment. It doesn’t seem right not to have a temperature gauge but you’ll just have to trust Suzuki’s engineering.
We sent the Jimny back in a terrible state – I pity the post-test valet team. But we all know that Suzuki wouldn’t have wanted it back clean – after all, they’re Jimnisti, too.
SUZUKI JIMNY SZ5
♦ Engine: 1,462 petrol
♦ Power: 101PS
♦ Max speed: 90mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: not sure, about a week, probably
♦ Combined fuel economy: 41.5mpg
♦ Insurance group: 29A
♦ Price: £17,999