Motoring with Tony Conlon: Latest Suzuki is small but tough

The latest Suzuki Jimny is a throwback to a time when 4x4s were fun. It might be as aerodynamic as a 9” cavity cement block but who cares? It still caught people’s attention.

I have parked some of the prettiest, most powerful cars at my house over countless years only for family members to totally ignore them. Then I parked up the Jimny the other day only for them to start drooling over it. “So different”, “retro” and “so cute” were among the comments I heard.

And this was the commercial version I was driving. Suzuki has had to stop making the passenger version for Europe due to the car’s large CO2 footprint. The small two-seater is their way of getting around the tighter EU emissions regulations.

My son said he didn’t care that it’s only a two-seater. “It’s got that WW2 Jeep retro look; it has fun written all over it and I’d love to a have a closer look at it before it goes back,” he went on.

Originally launched in the passenger format in 2018, the fourth generation Jimny, like its predecessors, attracted a lot of both private and commercial interest because of its off-road driving abilities. I have no doubt this commercial version, which has side windows, will do the same.

Sitting on 15” steel wheels (no fears of alloy wheel damage here) and with a spare wheel hanging on its back door, the Jimny measures 3.645m in length to the spare wheel, is 1.645m wide and 1.720mm high. It has 210mm of ground clearance.

This light commercial vehicle’s stance, wide plastic wheel arches and piercing headlights relay an impression that this is a small but tough 4×4 that could take on bigger, more powerful models.

Going off-road for a short period, it was as good as I remember its predecessors to be. Back in the 1980s, there was the Suzuki SJ, a slightly smaller 4×4 with a 1.3 liter petrol engine from which the Jimny got its DNA.

At that time, many of Ireland’s motoring writers were invited to the Curragh in Kildare to compete in a 4×4 competition. We were there to drive on the Defense Forces’ off-road training range.

As I learned in later years, although smaller, it was an Irish version of Eastnor Castle in the UK where the SAS trained, as did the Camel Trophy 4×4 teams. It was a difficult testing ground that consisted of hills, sharp inclines and descents, deep ridges and water depths that encouraged you to hold your breath when going through them.

Every possible make of 4×4 gathered and lots were drawn to see who would drive what on the day. I had my eyes set on a Land Rover, but I drew the smallest 4×4, a Suzuki SJ. Feeling deflated, the competition commenced but it didn’t take long for my spirits to soar as the small Suzuki put it up to the competition and started to outperform the bigger, more illustrious opposition.

We won the cup after wading through water that came up the bonnet line, went through muck that would suck you down like quicksand and effortlessly climbed hills when others rolled backwards.

The Suzuki Jimny then and now offers huge off-road capability while remaining fun to drive; my recent reacquaintance rekindled in me that fondness for this spirited little Japanese jeep.

In part it’s because of its tough ladder-framed chassis and AllGrip Pro selectable 4WD which has a transfer gear. While the interior layout may lack some of today’s creature comforts, it does come with manual air conditioning, Bluetooth and lots more than the SJ ever featured.

Complete with a cargo partition, the Jimny offers 863 liters of load space.

The power comes from a 99bhp 1.5 liter petrol engine, but good fuel economy is not the Jimny’s greatest suit as it averaged just 7.8 l/100km (36mpg).

While I am not the tallest of drivers, it’s worth noting that my 5′ 10” passenger reckoned anyone of this height or taller will not find the most comfortable seating position in this 4×4.

Price: €20,995.

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