Third generation of the compact SUV was produced for 20 years.

The Suzuki Jimny must be one of the longest-running models in Japan, having spent 20 years as one generation. And it’s not that it is being ‘revived’ as Suzuki has been producing the model all along. The new generation launched recently is the fourth generation of the popular little vehicle that was introduced long before compact SUVs appeared.

Where previously Suzuki described the Jimny as a 4×4 and SUV, this new generation is referred to as a 4WD minicar and compact car, suggesting it is less of an off-roader than before. Nevertheless, the company says that its ‘authentic off-road functions and performance have been enhanced’.

The styling of the new Jimny retains the boxy look of the previous generations, something which may endear it to the traditionalists who may have been upset by SUVs getting curvaceous. The boxy shape (in fact, the new one seems to have even more straight lines than before) is functional and probably easier from the manufacturing point of view too.

Visually, the new Jimny looks similar in size to its predecessor but it is shorter by 50 mm and wider by 45 mm, while the roof is 20 mm higher. However, the wheelbase is still the same 2250 mm and there’s also generous ground clearance of 205 mm.

The rear door is still side-hinged, another carryover in the design, along with the door-mounted spare wheel. which most other manufacturers have done away with. Swinging sideways instead of upwards offers the advantage of being able to open the door slightly in tight spots to put things in. However, a top-hinged door is good for providing protection from the rain!

Two powerplants are available – a specially tuned turbocharged 660 cc 3-cylinder unit (64 ps/96 Nm) which will be mainly for the domestic market and a 1.5-litre K15B 4-cylinder unit (102 ps/130 Nm) for the rest of the world. Manual and automatic transmissions are also available and like previous generations, a 4×4 drivetrain is also available. This is an all-new drivetrain called AllGrip Pro and the Jimny would be the smallest SUV equipped with a transfer case that has High and Low ranges for gear ratios.

While virtually all SUVs have gone the monocoque route for construction, Suzuki has decided to stay with tradition and the new Jimny continues to have a body-on-chassis construction. It doesn’t seem necessary but Suzuki probably hopes the Jimny will become a popular choice for weekend explorers and that’s when the more robust ladder frame structure will be appreciated.

The interior has been ‘modernised’, as would be expected after 20 years, although it still has that functional feel with some unpainted and uncovered metal surfaces (rare in today’s cars). While some may find this seemingly spartan appearance unappealing, there will also be those who like it as it is in keeping with the rugged image of the Jimny.

Suzuki has been very good at maximising the use of many of its interior parts, helping it to keep costs down. It makes sense since a switch is a switch so why have different designs when one design works fine for all models? In the case of the new Jimny, there are some elements of the latest Swift adopted as well.

The first generation was launched in 1970 and appeared in the Malaysian market in 1978.

Some 285 million Jimnys have been sold worldwide since the model line first went on sale in 1970. It was sold in Malaysia from the late 1970s as the LJ/SJ series and was popular as it was a cheap off-road machine. The third generation was introduced in Malaysia in 2013 when Suzuki was still selling vehicles here but its RM80,000+ price was considered a bit high so sales were slow. If Suzuki decides to return to the Malaysian market (now that it has no future relationship with Proton), perhaps we’ll see this new generation but unless it is assembled locally, it won’t be cheap either.

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[Chips Yap]

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