The Scent Of The Diorite, The Smell Of The Gabbro

It really has been a busy September. That said, I don’t know how I missed this. The new Jimny appeared to the world in the middle of the month and I only found out last night.

As small and great as ever: source

And it is something of a huge relief to see someone give it a clear and fair review. Quite plainly, after twenty years of not caring what the press thought, Suzuki now have a legend on their hands. Thus Autocropley accepted that the Jimny is for swivelling, skidding and slopping around in mud and not about 10/10ths blatting around Castle Combe.

All the downsides the car has, such as they are, are there because it is a vehicle designed to swivel, skid and slop around in mud and carry Tirolean vets to sick animals high in the Alps. This gives me a chance to show again a photo from 2017 with which I am still rather pleased:

Jimny in Nassereith, Austria.

Back to the new Jimny:

2018 Suzuki Jimny rear view: source

Top Gear has  a Philippines edition and this is what they said: “The all-new Suzuki Jimny is simply adorable. This is a fact and it is undisputed. The latest version of the baby off-roader is coming to our roads, and we should really be preparing a ticker-tape parade.” 

It´s a small world: source

For me the interesting thing is the gradual emergence of the Jimny as a mini-titan after having been for so long the kind of product car testers mocked. Suzuki have not listened to anyone but customers. They have carried on making a car with a specific clientele rather than trying to widen the audience. What improvements I can detect are the ones related to production methods and some technology such as hill descent. That one is something one might plausibly use and which (so far as I know) does aid the off-road driver.

“Suzuki’s mission statement to make ‘the one-and-only, small, lightweight four-wheel-drive vehicle’ remains. Under that new body, the fourth-generation Jimny still features a ladder frame chassis, three-link rigid axle coil spring suspension and four-wheel drive. The addition of new tech such as hill hold and descent control, brake support and a host of driver assistance systems are all intended to make the new Jimny even more capable than the old car, “ writes Autocropley.

2018 Suzuki Jimny: source

AutoExpress’s praise verges on the fulsome (but isn’t): “Anyone who liked the old Suzuki Jimny will love this new version. The dinky 4×4 is redefining the mini-SUV with cool retro styling, better refinement and vastly improved off-road handling. It’s a brilliant cut-price Land Rover Defender.” The irony there is that Land Rover’s BOF Defender is dead and they are suing a company trying to make something like it. Their Defender replacement has gone down the path of style and on-road ability. A further joke is that Suzuki already offer a vehicle that does the kind of thing the next Defender will do.

I recently mused about these cars from automotive niches that are not subject to a lot of evolutionary pressure: the small roadster, the aristocratic limousine and this, the proper small off-roader. Suzuki’s success here indicates there’s a good solid business to be made from getting a design right and not messing with it too much.

I’d be inclined to add to my list of natural niches the bloody huge estate car and the compact sports saloon (think Alfa Romeo Alfetta/BMW 320). Not everyone can make a living offering cars to these small but stable customer bases. But if a company cracked the formula they’d be looking at a decade or more of steady sales.

I found this bit at the end of the AutoExpress article: “(Suzuki Engineer) Yonezawa added: “If you design a car with a well-defined purpose and get the packaging right, you can extend model cycles indefinitely.” If interest in Japan is any gauge, this Jimny may also be around for 20 years.” Volvo could still sell the 240 if they’d wanted to.

There is a long waiting list for the Jimny.


2018 Suzuki Jimny design analysis

Design review digest: Unlike the previous model, the new Jimny is now appears to be bit self-conscious of its role as a living legend. The previous car simply applied the style of the mid 90s to express robust, honest, fun utility. This isn’t 1998 (see below) any more so I am not going to criticise Suzuki for the current overtly rationalist style.

1998 Suzuki Jimny: source

I think their designers thought deeply about this. They know this car will be on sale for more than a decade. Design rationalism wears well and what today might look like the pretense of functionalism actually is functionalism that only looks post-Modern. Sorry – that sounds very pseud. What I am saying is this: don’t mistake this design rationalism for retro.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

14 thoughts on “The Scent Of The Diorite, The Smell Of The Gabbro”

  1. The new Jimny is a terrific design. As Richard says, rational but not retro. Its a car that will, I’m sure, provoke affection, not hostility, in other road users. Its a brilliant riposte to all those aggressive, overstyled faux by fours and remains true to its purpose as a very capable off-roader. My partner is smitten with it and even suggested replacing our MINI Cooper with one. Unfortunately, as we never drive off road and, on road, the Jimny remains a pretty primitive driving experience, it’s not for us.

    1. Daniel, you are quite right.

      I think the previous generation Jimny was mocked because people bought them as urban runabouts – a task for which it is wholly unsuitable. Interestingly, in Japan it is available without the wheel arch extensions, in order to fit into Kei car classification. This suggests that many customers in its home market do indeed use it as a city car.

      In later years, as more competitors came onto the market, the Jimny has been seen (and appreciated) more and more for what it is – a dimunitive, fairly cheap car with genuine off road ability.

      For street use, an Ignis would be much more suitable. Happily, Suzuki is able to offer the choice.

  2. Love the new Jimmy. A mini Tonka toy, a reduced Gelandewagen, a dealership very close to us where most roads are 1 in 5 and after last winters deluges, on the list to look at. Reasonably priced, fantastic styling; jolly well done Suzuki. Land Rover really have missed a trick

  3. Terrifically appealing design – so simple, you wonder how others make things so complicated?

    1. Nice channeling of Canada’s foremost public intellectual there.

      On reflection possibly second foremost, after our Bill…

    2. Good Lord, Robert, I leave the matter of log cabin in the snow intellectualism to Northrop Frye, not the infuriating twinkling-eyed McLuhan intent on fomenting chaos in one’s inbuilt logical disquietude. The former wrote:

      “Physics is an organized body of knowledge about nature, and a student of it says that he is learning physics, not nature. Art, like nature, has to be distinguished from the systematic study of it, which is criticism.”

      This, it seems to me, is the basis behind DTW’s continuing praiseworthy commentary on the external appearance of various motor vehicles and those who take credit for such.

  4. A little bit of restraint and having a clearly defined market and objectives (and sticking to them) go a long way. People chatter on about things being ‘authentic’, but this has just that quality.

    I wonder if they were actually helped by having to pare it down a bit due to costs / selling price; the Volkswagen up! seemed to benefit from that.

    By the way – thank you, Richard, for using ‘fulsome’ correctly – I can’t recall when that last happened, sadly.

    1. Bill: Funnily enough I’d read that essay and drew from it the idea one should be cautious when deploying the word. Bryson (1997) links the word to “foul”. Mostly my experience of the word is a) seeing it misused and b) seeing the subject of discussions about its use.
      Google presents a definiton where the negative meaning is presented first and the positive meaning second.
      M-W presents them the other way around. Oxford starts with the negative definition.
      The relation to “foul” is noted by Bryson and discussed a little. I’d call the link ambiguous or tenuous which is a downgrading of my estimation in the light of your comment and my further reading.

  5. I have already noticed the new Jimny – it has appeard on a nearby dealer’s forecourt. It actually has the same lime green colour as the cars shown here: a great choice, emphasizing the fun part and going quite well with the black addenda.
    What I wondered: has it grown much in length, compared to the previous generation? It somehow seems longer and lower as the predecessor. But this may also be due to the horizontal structuring of the body.

    All in all, I have to agree with most what has been said here: a great design, ringing the SJ 410 bell without being retro. It’s just a timeless and logical shape. Congratulations, Suzuki, I’m sure this car will boost sales here in the Alps.

    1. The size impression really seems to be deceiving: according to Wikipedia, the dimensions of the new one only differ by a few milimetres to the old one. Especially lenth and wheelbase seem to be identical. It’s also said there that we will miss the convertible version in the future (I haven’t seen a lot of them lately, it seemed to be much more common some twenty or thirty years ago).

  6. Apparently, calling a car ‘green’ is still a no-go. The colour shown here is ‘kinetic yellow’ with the roof in ‘bluish black pearl’. There is also a very nice bright (sorry: ‘brisk’) blue available.

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