Not a Hummvee far away — the Suzuki Jimny is competent and cool

Concentrated potency

by Andy Bryenton

In an era when everybody wants to make the next cute, hip, urban-styled micro SUV, one car maker has decided to do things a little differently. Well, it’s the way they’ve been doing it since 1970, when they called their product the LJ (light jeep) 10. You’d know its lineage by another name, especially if you judge an off-roader by its ability rather than its size.

It’s the Suzuki Jimny, and it’s been building a reputation and a niche which few other automakers are willing to challenge, let alone contest for dominance in. Variant names such as Escudo, Samurai and Sierra have come and gone, but still, there are few examples out there of similar machines. The Jimny still boasts a ladder chassis like a big, beefy Range Rover. It even has true four-wheel drive with locking hubs, like a Land Cruiser, and it still has the footprint of a single tennis shoe. It also looks so cute and fierce that it is elevated to the same level as a new Fiat 500 or Mini.

This, the pug dog with wheels.

More seriously, the Suzuki resembles like a tiny version of Mercedes-Benz’s G-Wagon. It’s so little that in Japan they fit the Jimny with a 646cc inline 3 and register it as a ‘kei car’; small enough to be allowed on Tokyo streets without a special permit. Here, they’ve put a ‘massive’ 1,400cc four-banger under the hood, mated it up to an old fashioned, snappy little five-speed manual transmission, and turned the whole thing loose with proper four-wheel drive. The challenge, here, is not whether the Jimny is cooler than almost any other micro SUV you can name. It’s whether you can have more fun, with more presence, in the real outdoors, for this little money — sub-$26k money. For an extra $500 you can mix and match paint for a two-tone retro look.

Suzuki is on a roll right now, with the Ignis crossover already gaining popularity for its off-beat and funky aesthetics. Now comes a shrunk-in-the-wash military Jeep, which if it lives up to its ancestors, will actually do the business off-road where other micro SUVs fear to tread. It might be the coolest car on sale right now, and you can justify it for the lifestyle block too.