See you Jimny, you’re aw’right you are. Yes, I know you’ve got a silly name and as far as 4x4s go you look like the one who’d always get the sand kicked in your face by the wheelspin from the other big brutes. You don’t look very muscular, you’re a bit on the thin side and what’s that under the bonnet – a 1.3- litre petrol?
But when it comes to the rough stuff you can pull out a few surprises and leave some of those flashier boys literally stuck in the mud.
The Suzuki Jimny’s abilities are one of the car business’s best-kept secrets but it has an incredibly loyal following from those in the know, who have kept coming back since it first appeared in 1998 with only a few minor updates over the years.
Only about a thousand of them are sold in the UK every year but it’s such steady business that Suzuki has decided to keep it in the model range beyond this year, while dropping the road-going babies, the Alto and Splash, and what had been its SUV flagship, the Grand Vitara. They’ll be replaced by the new Celerio in early 2015 and the new SUV concept, the iv-4, alongside the successful Swift and SX4 S-Cross.
The appeal of the Jimny is down to the fact that it’s a straightforward, simple and basic vehicle and the most compact SUV on sale in the UK. The price is a big attraction too, starting at a fiver under £12,000 for the entry level SZ3 model.
I’d never really thought much about its off-road capabilities but Suzuki put that right by letting me loose on some rough Yorkshire countryside in a standard Jimny, except for some chunky off-road tyres. Hard-baked clay battered into steep climbs, big drops and fearsome inclines provided as tough a challenge as you’re likely to encounter on any weekend excursion. The engine may be small, putting out only a piddling 84bhp but with its push-button selectable four-wheel drive and in low-ratio first or second gear it took everything in its stride without the slightest falter.
Part of its secret is that it is so light, weighing in at just over a tonne. That means the power may be low, but the torque is high, so it goes exactly where it’s needed without the vehicle digging in and getting bogged down in the sticky stuff. From an environmental point of view as well, it does less damage to the countryside.
It’s also got a useful clearance of 19cm to keep above transmission-damaging rocks and is happy to get its wheels wet in a water splash. With a wheel at each corner and short overhangs front and rear it can take sharp hills and drops without the risk of grounding. The driving position is high which means there’s good all-round visibility and the overall feel is of simplicity and practicality.
Don’t expect any luxury though. The interior is basic and quite restricted and there’s virtually no luggage space behind the rear seats. It’s only a two-door and while they open wide, the sills are low and the front passenger seat slides forward, it requires a bit of spinal flexibility to squeeze into the rear. Once there, legroom is neat, to say the least.
But these are all small points and it’s unlikely you’d use this machine fully loaded with passengers. I expect most of them will have the rear seats folded to increase the luggage space through the rear door.
Even the entry level SZ3 comes with front fog lamps, roof rails, remote central locking, ABS and EBD while the SZ4 version of the test car adds air con, 15-inch alloys, leather steering wheel trim and rear privacy glass.
There’s a big range of accessories on the styling front such as a rear upper spoiler and aluminium running boards and for added practicality for the outdoor types you can get a detachable towbar, cycle carrier, large roof rack and partition grille which can serve as a dog guard.
Suzuki has had a good year with overall sales up by 17 per cent in the first six months but the company admits it has to do more to raise customer awareness of its car range.
Everyone, it seems, knows Suzuki makes motorbikes. The company is now stepping up its advertising on its vehicle range, especially the SX4 S-Cross, and spending more than its rivals like the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Skoda Yeti.
The Jimny, meanwhile, just goes on selling quietly in the background without any fanfare. On the basis of my taster with it in the great outdoors, I can see why.
PERFORMANCE Max speed 87 mph; 0-62 mph 14 secs
ECONOMY 39 mpg combined
CO2 EMISSIONS 162g/km