Tiny Samurai : Suzuki Jimny

The stunning tough-as-nails little 4×4 is suitable for any young (or older) person and undoubtedly impressed me during my time with it. It is packed with oomph and tenacity… And continues to turn heads wherever it goes!

There is a style of design in the automotive industry called retro classic. This design trend became popular early 2000s with cars like the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Mustang and, of course, the Mini Cooper. But, these cars are by no means “old” – they may look like their older versions, but its purely cosmetic. A 2003 Ford Mustang certainly doesn’t feel and drive like the 1965 fastback it’s design is based on. The new Suzuki Jimny, however, is not only based on the classic Suzuki Samurai. It has the heart of a Samurai, for better or for worse…

I grew up in a home obsessed with travelling and off-roading. I first saw this little econobox wrecking the likes of Land Cruisers and Land Rovers at a 4×4 competition around the time I hit puberty. I am not sure if the car or the hottie with the long legs climbing out of it attracted me at that age, but it left a lasting impression. This particular Jimny was the Gen 2 Suzuki Jimny which, at that point, has been around for years with a couple of updates during its nearly 20-year run. Nobody ever expected Suzuki to launch a new derivative, but much to our surprise and delight they did back in 2018. And I got my “first” (no – sadly not the hottie!)… The Jimny was the car I completed my first ever off-road competency course in (even before I had a driver’s license!). So when I heard I’ll be getting a Gen 4 to test, I was thrilled to be reunited with this little Samurai.

The Suzuki Jimny is available in three trim levels: GA, GLX and GLX AT. The differences in the grade walk are minor, though. They all have a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder, developing a modest 74 kW of power at around 6 000 rpm and 130 Nm at 4 000 rpm. So yes: this isn’t a fast powerhouse, and you best not be in a hurry when you drive it – it is made for adventure and heading out of the city for some R&R or extreme 4×4 fun. The one I tested was the top-level GLX automatic, which is a 4-speed auto box with an overdrive function. The GA isn’t very different from the GLX. It lacks a few driver amenities like electronic windows, cruise control and climate control. It also doesn’t have a helpful infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto compatibility, all of which are standard in the GLX.

While only driving around town, I got around 8.6 litres / 100 km, which for the conditions, is fair, considering the size of this car. However, I never expected to be bowled over by the Jimny’s speed or brilliant handling or any type of on-road performance whatsoever. It is not designed for that. No! This baby is designed to go off-road and compete with hardcore off-roaders… and most likely kick sand in their eyes!

The styling, as I mentioned, is what makes this vehicle truly stand out. The classic retro design makes the car look like the well-loved Samurai, which was the true first commercial success for the brand. It does it so well that my grandad thought it was an old Samurai when I popped around for a visit. What a compliment for this classic! The boxy design makes it unique to other vehicles on the road. It is kind of like an easier to park and more affordable Jeep, which, as a bonus, is very much as capable as one. The interior also contributes to the off-road and utilitarian feel. Everything has a function. No space is wasted whatsoever. It’s clear that the focus is practicality. It does mean that the interior isn’t the prettiest on earth, but it does blend well with the vehicle’s exterior. The square, angular nature of the design remains constant across the board.

I do love the Jimny, but it isn’t perfect. In the introduction, I mentioned that most of these retro design cars only lend aesthetic elements to the vehicles they’re based on. I mean, the Chrysler Pt Cruiser is supposed to look like a hot rod while being a conservative people carrier. In contrast, the current generation Suzuki Jimny is an old Samurai for better and for worse. The “better” part is that it has that unrivalled off-roading capability of the Samurai made possible because of its angular and compact design, which makes it a truly remarkable vehicle off-road. It also looks unique and quirky, so you’ll always stand out no matter what. These are all things that made the Samurai special.

The “worse” relates to some flaws in its armour. As I touched upon earlier, the on-road handling isn’t great. It suffers from immense body roll at higher speeds. I’m personally not comfortable driving it at a speed higher than 110 km/h. Granted, you can’t drive much faster than that in any case. It’s manageable, but you must always remain focused, and if you’re in the market for one, I’d recommend some wider aftermarket wheels and tyres. This might mitigate the stability issues. As for practicality, it is practical for two people at best. It is technically a 4-seater, but any normal-sized human being just won’t fit at the back. In fact, in the UK, they do not even install the rear seats!  

For a young aspiring adventurer who, like me, mostly travel solo it is perfect. It is designed for the person who is not looking for a practical people mover aimed at space and comfort, but rather somebody who wants something unique and exciting. Currently, there’s nothing on the market as unique, as quirky, as good looking and as affordable as the Suzuki Jimny. The mighty Samurai continues to capture my heart (without or without the leggy blonde!).

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