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.
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:
Back to the new Jimny:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.