The Jimny is one of Suzuki’s most iconic and longest-lived models, yet across the three generations sold here thus far it has retained a formula that is best described as “stubbornly basic”.
A ladder frame chassis, live axles at front and rear, and a proper 4x4 driveline with low-range gearing have been common elements throughout the Jimny’s history. Now, with the Australian arrival of the fourth generation now confirmed for late this year, get set for a Jimny that treads a more modern path.
That’s not to say those rugged fourbie underpinnings are on the way out. Not by a long shot. The new Jimny might sit on a brand-new (and more rigid) chassis, but there’s still a three-link live axle at each end and a dual-range transfer case in the middle. It’s one of very few off-roaders to still boast such a configuration.
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The real changes occur elsewhere. Some are subtle, like the body mounting bushings that are soft in a vertical direction for better comfort, but stiffer laterally to reduce pitching and rolling of the cabin. Others are more obvious, like how the tail lamps have been relocated to the bumper to enable a 1015mm wide and 850mm tall rear door opening.
There are more dimensional tweaks elsewhere, many of them quite significant. At 3645mm the new Jimny is actually 30mm shorter than the outgoing third-gen model, while at 1645mm it measures 45mm wider. Height is 15mm greater at 1720mm, while the 2250mm wheelbase is identical to the old car. At 1075kg empty, it’s just 10kg heavier than its predecessor.
Off-road credentials also improve. In Japan the new Jimny Sierra (which forms the basis for the Australian-market Jimny) boasts 205mm of ground clearance – a 15mm advantage over the car it replaces. Its approach angle of 36 degrees and departure angle of 50 degrees are 2 and 4 degrees better than before, though the new car’s breakover angle of 28 degrees is a backward step from the current Jimny’s 31 degrees.
There are gains under the bonnet too. With a 1.5-litre displacement, the 2019 Jimny’s K15B naturally-aspirated four-cylinder has grown in size compared to the third-gen Jimny’s 1.3-litre M13A engine. Its 75kW of power offers 20 percent more urge than the old car’s 62.5kW engine, though it remains hooked up to a comparatively low-tech pair of transmissions: a five-speed manual, or a four-speed automatic. Both gearboxes have been homologated for Australia.
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The manual may be lacking a cog relative to most modern three-pedal gearboxes, but the shifter mechanism is now more direct for better shift precision. The automatic’s lock-up torque converter should also improve shift feel and transmit more power to the road, while a steering damper on the front axle reduces vibration and steering wheel shimmy at high speeds to enhance stability. The turning circle remains an ultra-tight 9.8 metres, kerb-to-kerb.
Driver assist features (which in the old car were limited to technology like ‘headlamps’ and ‘rear vision mirrors’) are bulked up, with the new Jimny available with hill hold control, hill descent control, an off-road optimised traction control system (which also works in low range), auto highbeam and autonomous emergency braking.
There’s also a refreshingly low-tech feature that should prove handy off-road: a pair of convex mirrors under the passenger wing mirror that give the driver a view of exactly where the front and rear wheels are, without requiring any fancy camera displays. We can only hope that feature is offered in Australia.
Inside there are now six airbags (front, front side and full-length curtain) rather than the old car’s primitive two airbag set-up. That’s vital to the success of the new Jimny in this country, given importation of the old car has been limited to just 100 vehicles per year since 2017 thanks to the absence of side airbag protection. In the last full year before the restriction kicked in, the Jimny sold in excess of 500 cars nation-wide. The year prior, just under 1100 rolled out of Suzuki showrooms.
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The steering wheel only adjusts for tilt, but the cabin is now more spacious thanks to the 2019 Jimny’s upright, flat-sided glasshouse. The rear seats fold flush with the boot floor, at long last, and the 1300mm wide boot area can easily accommodate a large golf bag – or, you know, more useful off-road gear. A boot-mounted 12V outlet can power camping fridges and other accessories, and the hard plastic boot floor and folding rear seatback is designed to be durable and easily-cleaned. An under-floor storage bin is also offered.
Then there’s the retro-fantastic styling. The public’s reaction to the new Jimny’s boxy homage to classic Jimny styling cues has been almost universally positive, with flattering comparisons to Benz’s G-Wagen also being thrown in the direction of the Jimny Sierra and its flared guards. Suzuki is capitalising on that nostalgia, offering in Japan a bevy of retro-inspired decals and stripe packages. Whether they’ll also make it into the dealer-option brochure of Aus-bound Jimnys has yet to be determined.
Local pricing is another unknown. Speaking with WhichCar earlier this year, Suzuki’s local boss Michael Pachota said he was keen to introduce a two-tier lineup, with an affordable entry model pitched at off-road enthusiasts and a high-feature counterpart sitting above it aimed at city-dwellers. Don’t expect it to be quite as cheap as the current model, which is priced from $21,990 in manual form, but we’d be surprised if the range-topper breached the $30K mark – even in more expensive automatic trim.
Expect pricing and specifications for the Australian market to firm up over the coming months, ahead of the car’s local arrival at the end of the year and official start of sales in early 2019.