Defin itive 4x4s ren ewed

by Huw Thomas, vice chairman, Welsh Motoring Writers

IF a good pedigree is the result of sound heredity and careful husbandry then the new Suzuki Jimny and Jeep Wrangler are a case in point. Both have a cult following from those who want “the real thing” when it comes to four wheel drive and off‐road ability.

SuzukiJimny:£15,499 (SZ4)‐£17,999 (SZ5)

The 1 9 7 0 Jimny might have been inspired by the 1 9 4 5 ‘CJ’ (Civilian Jeep) rather than descended from it like the Wrangler but it has established an identity of its own. Pitched as a utility vehicle the original LJ1 0 was the only true 4 x4 in Japan’s mini‐car sector. Smaller even than the wartime Jeep it weighed just 6 0 0 kg (doors were zipped canvass items) and its 2 ‐cylinder 3 6 0 cc engine produced all of 2 5 ‐bhp.

Core attributes were established however: Separate ladder‐frame chassis; beam axles; low‐range transfer box. ‘David’ rather than ‘Goliath’ it might have been but it could reach places others couldn’t and demand beyond a ‘working’ clientele grew.

Enclosed bodywork and larger engines began to feature and Series II (SJ410‐1981; SJ413‐1984) introduced a 5 ‐speed gearbox, power steering and coil springs (rather than semi‐elliptics). Chassis improvements on 1 9 9 8 ’s more stylish Series III in 1 9 9 8 addressed stability and handling aspects. Switching from 2 ‐wheel drive to 4 WD High Ratio could now be made on the move. The scene was set for Jimny IV.

New from the ground up, claimed torsional chassis rigidity is 1 .5 times greater and power comes from a 1 .5 ‐litre, 1 0 1 ps engine. Stance and proportions are remarkably well executed and the cabin a distinctly more habitable place. Best regarded as a 2 +2 , room in the back is really for ‘infants’

and ‘juniors’. Load‐space rear seats up is minimal but they split 5 0 ‐5 0 and fold down flat yielding then quite a bit of room for kit.

Off‐road agility clearly apparent, mechanical diff locks are not offered but the Jimny’s electronics facilitate traction (wheel‐braking) with Hill‐Hold and Hill‐Descent control. Approach/departure angles are outstanding but a 3 2 cm wading depth unexceptional.

On‐road, recirculating ball steering is less direct than rack and pinion (if suitably less shock‐prone off it) and ride quality is not the Jimny’s strong suit. Potholes are felt and handling as expected of body‐on‐frame. However, as throughout, a lot better than before ‐ its size as much an asset tackling the urban jungle as in the rough stuff.

Petrol 1.5 the only engine on offer and transmission choice is 5‐speed manual (shift quality could be slicker) or 4 ‐speed auto (£ 1 ,0 0 0 extra). Diesel torque characteristics do suit a 4 x4 and the loss is felt here ‐ lower gearing can only compensate so much. It could also do with a 6‐speed gearbox. Trying to change up from a lowish 5th on an open road became an all too common experience, if only to let the engine relax a bit.

Not that any of this would put off a 4 x4 enthusiast or anyone else looking for a small yet credible dual‐purpose 4 x4 . There is nothing like it for the price. Posh SUVs four times more expensive can glide past in anonymity but the Jimny gets the attention. Authenticity is a rare commodity these days but this Suzuki has it in spades.

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