Driving with Tony Conlon: The newest Suzuki is small but challenging



The latest Suzuki Jimny is a return to the time when SUVs were fun. It might be aerodynamic like a 9 inch bore cement block but who cares? It still catches people’s attention.

I’ve parked some of the most beautiful and powerful cars in my house for countless years only until family members completely ignore them. Then I parked Jimny’s car the other day only for them to start drooling over it. “Very different”, “retro” and “very nice” were among the comments I heard.

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

My son said he doesn’t care if the car is only two-seater. “It’s got a retro WW2 Jeep look; it’s written a lot of fun and I’d like to take a closer look at it before it comes back.”

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

Sitting on 15-inch steel wheels (no wheel damage concerns here) and with a spare wheel hung on its tailgate, the Jimny measures 3,645 meters in length for the spare wheel, 1,645 meters in width and 1,720 mm in height. It has 210 mm of ground clearance.

The look of this light commercial vehicle, the wide plastic wheel arches and perforated headlights, give the impression that this is a small but powerful SUV that can take on larger and more powerful models.

Off-road driving for a little while, it was as good as I remember its predecessors. In the ’80s there was the Suzuki SJ, a slightly smaller 4×4 with a 1.3-liter gasoline engine from which Jimny got his DNA.

At the time, several Irish motor writers were invited to Curragh in Kildare to compete in the 4×4 competition. We were there to drive in the off-road defense force training ground.

As I learned in later years, although smaller, it was an Irish version of Eastnor Castle in the UK where SAS trained, and so did the Camel Trophy 4×4 teams. It was a challenging testing ground made up of hills, steep cliffs, deep cliffs and water depths that encouraged you to hold your breath as you passed them.

Every possible type of SUV was collected and the lottery was drawn to see who would drive what on the day. I set my eyes on a Land Rover, but I painted the smallest 4×4, the Suzuki SJ. The competition started, after feeling a downturn, but it didn’t take long for my spirits to rise as I put the small Suzuki in the competition and started to outsmart the larger, more well-known competitor.

We won the cup after wading through the water that made it to the hood line, we ran through mud that would suck you up like quicksand and climbed hills with ease as the others rolled backwards.

The Suzuki Jimny then and now offers tremendous off-road capability while still keeping the driving fun; My recent acquaintance has rekindled that fondness for this lively little Japanese Jeep.

That’s partly due to its steel ladder-frame chassis and AllGrip Pro selectable all-wheel drive system that has a shift gear. While the interior may lack some of today’s amenities, it does come with manual air conditioning, Bluetooth, and more than what was ever offered in an SJ.

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

Power comes from a 1.5-liter petrol engine with 99 horsepower, but good fuel economy isn’t the best fit for Jimny as it averaged 7.8 l/100 km (36 mpg).

While I’m not the tallest of drivers, it’s worth noting a 5’10” passenger who considered anyone of this height or height would not find the most comfortable sitting position in this SUV.

Price: 20,995 euros.

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