REBOUND ACE

SUZUKI FINALLY RETURNS SERVE WITH AN ALL-NEW VARIANT OF ITS LEGENDARY JIMNY OFF-ROADER

FELIPE UBILLA

SUZUKI JIMNY

Price as tested: $24,490

This month: 1453km @ 6.9L/100km

MOST PEOPLE who know me think that I’m loud, brash and overly confident. Little do they know that this is merely a front for the self-conscious me that lurks just below the surface.

So imagine my alarm when I’m handed the keys to this ‘look-at-me’ Suzuki Jimny. Painted as it is in a tennis-ball-like Kinetic Yellow, the diminutive 4WD is about as introverted as Donald Trump at a ‘Make America Great’ campaign rally. At least it’s not furry. Or rocking a comb-over.

Nevertheless, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to drive a car that had been causing such a fuss around the Wheels office, so I flicked the self-conscious Me the bird and suited up for a set with the Slazenger-inspired Suzi.

Measuring just 3645mm from nose to tail, the little off-roader may be pint-sized, but its boxy, retro-inspired styling – characterised by those circular headlamps and blacked-out five-slit grille – punches well above its division in the head-turning stakes.

And judging by the vigorous scramble each arvo for first dibs on the road-test key jar, it appears I’m not the only one who has fallen for the little Suzi’s utilitarian charm.

Beneath its lightweight bonnet is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, punching out 75kW and 130Nm. Those outputs might seem modest, but they’re fully 12.5kW and 20Nm more than the previous 1.3-litre unit, yet still only hauling around 1075kg.

Under the fur, I mean skin, is a five-speed manual gearbox, a ‘proper’ ladder-frame chassis, and what Suzuki calls the AllGrip Pro 4WD system. The latter features a low-range transfer case that enables switching between 2WD-high, 4WD-high, or fair dinkum 4WD-low. Add live axles front and rear and you have the same recipe that has been rendering Suzuki Jimnys unstoppable for decades.

It’s not all old-school cool, though, as inside there’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, with mod-cons like sat-nav, Bluetooth, and Apple and Android compatibility. Other little luxuries include reversing camera, climate control, a USB charging port, AEB, cruise control and auto headlights.

The interior plastics aren’t the best quality, but everything is logically laid out and easily reached. The seats have no height adjustment but the high seating position and large glasshouse provide great all-round vision.

Rear seating can be a bit tricky to access for adults and is best reserved for kids, or people you dislike. Hit a speed hump with any vigour and those in the rear can get some serious air.

That rear space is best used with the seats down, allowing 377 litres of luggage space from a laughable 85 litres with the seats upright. One flaw already apparent is a need for fabric or rubber lining on the seat backs – a drive with Heidi the Burmese mountain dog had her sliding from side to side through every direction change.

VISUAL ’ROIDS

We reckon the Jimny looks plenty tough, but if you’re of a mind to step up the visual warfare, check out Japanese tuning house Damd. The creative crew there offer kits to transform the Jimny into a scaleddown Mercedes G-Class or Land Rover Defender. Another outfit, Shibata R31 House, has gone even wilder, lifting the Jimny a further 40cm off the deck and adding massive wheels and tyres to complete the mini-monster-truck look.

FELIPE UBILLA