The Suzuki Jimny is a bit of a weird proposition in the modern motoring world.
It’s absolutely tiny, tough as nails and projected to sell just 1,200 units a year.
It also has the motoring press more excited than pretty much any other car this year.
Its predecessor’s simplicity and honesty caught people’s imagination and the promise of more of the same in the new car’s ridiculously cute packaging had grown men and women salivating.
Suzuki Jimny SZ5
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Transmission: Five-speed manaul
Top speed: 90mph
CO2 emissions: 154g/km
So does it live up to the hype?
Yes, as long as you accept that this is a car unlike pretty much any other.
In a world where so many cars try to be jacks of all trades the Jimny is utterly focused on filling a very small niche. Not many people need something the size of a shoe (okay, a 3.48m-long shoe) that costs less than £20,000 and can also scale a mountain but there are enough to make the Jimny viable and it aims to meet their needs completely.
The Jimny’s unique selling point is that it offers the kind of mud-plugging capabilities few vehicles can match in a compact and relatively inexpensive package.
The new car retains a tough ladder frame chassis but has better approach, departure and rake angles and huge articulation from its rigid axles. It also has hill descent control and Suzuki’s most advanced All Grip Pro four-wheel-drive system.
We were let loose on a seriously gnarly off-road course and the Jimny destroyed it. Even brutally steep, mud-slicked hills were dispatched with ease and without the million-mode computer systems found in more expensive off-roaders.
That’s great when you’re hammering across the countryside with your collies in the back but what about on the Tarmac?
The last Jimny was awful on the road and Suzuki has put significant work into making the new car more user friendly.
It is a big improvement in every way but is still pretty poor by modern car standards. There’s a lot of noise from the tyres, engine and around the mirrors and it still leans a lot when shown a corner. The steering, too, is vague and the 1.5 petrol has to work hard to keep up with traffic.
That being said, the old car’s on-road behaviour didn’t put off its dedicated buyers so the new one’s flaws relative to other cars probably won’t either.
You can’t talk about the new Jimny without mentioning its looks. Quite simply, it’s one of the best-looking cars of the year. It’s been compared with everything from the Land Rover Defender and Mercedes G Wagon to Hummers but thanks to its tiny size manages to be endearingly cute and purposefully tough at the same time.
The detailing includes nods to previous generations but the overall look has also been designed to be as practical as possible. The pillars are upright to give better visibility and the flat bonnet means you can always see the edges of the car. There’s even a dip in the front side widows to improve the view out.
The interior, too, has moved on significantly. It’s still a case of function over form – it’s more wipe-clean than soft-touch – but it’s a far more modern approach than before. All the controls are chunky so they can be operated by a driver wearing gloves but there are also a lot more creature comforts, including air con, cruise control, DAB radio and in SZ5 trim heated seats and a seven-inch touchscreen. It’s still tiny, though, and the boot is a laughable 85 litres with the rear seats in place.
The Jimny is priced from £15,499 for a manual SZ4 to £18,999 for an automatic SZ5, putting it on a par with the likes of the Ford Ecosport, Kia Stonic and Nissan Juke. But it’s not an alternative to a B-segment SUV. It’s still too unrefined and cramped for that. What it is is what it’s always been – a tiny car with a very particular set of skills. If you “got” the old one then you’ll get the new one but if you’re looking for a tough-looking but soft-living SUV look elsewhere.