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We need more short-wheelbase 4x4s in Australia

By Matt Raudonikis, 23 Dec 2019 Opinion

Return of the short wheelbase 4x4 opinion

A drive in Suzuki's little Jimny has our editor pining for the return of the Shorty.

The Jeep versus Jimny drive we did in 4x4 Australia's Summer 2019 issue was interesting … and a lot of fun. These are the only two short-wheelbase, two-door 4x4s available on the Aussie market today, when 30 years ago there were plenty of them. In fact, there were more two-doors than family wagons back then.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to add the Land Rover Defender 90 to make it a trio of two-doors by the end of 2020 and, who knows, maybe Ford will be persuaded to let us have the new Bronco in SWB guise in 2021.

Driving the Jeep and the Jimny made me think how much more, or less, could be done to these vehicles to make them better. The Jimny feels like the Jeep should; it’s small, nimble, capable, has a small engine, a whine in the drivetrain and is a lot of fun. If you could take the roof off, as you should be able to on a Suzuki 4x4, I imagine driving it would be a bit like pedalling an old WWII Jeep.

The JL Wrangler on the other hand feels fat, luxurious and overdone. It’s like a Cadillac compared to the little Suzuki. At least you can take the top off the Wrangler, though.

Do you think there would be a place in the market for a stripped-out, no-frills Jeep Wrangler with a small four-cylinder engine, that would be more akin to those original MB and CJ Jeeps? Hello Mahindra Roxor; now there’s a basic 4x4 we could have fun with. Unfortunately the Roxor is so stripped-out it won’t meet any highway safety standards. Not that the new Wrangler or Jimny do well in the safety stakes.

Heading the other way, do you think there would be a place in the market for some bigger variants of the Jimny? A two-door soft-top, a long wheelbase four-door wagon and a cab-chassis ute like the old Suzuki Stockman? We reckon there’s potential there.

Jeep revitalised the Wrangler when it launched the JK model and introduced the four-door Unlimited model, giving the iconic brand much broader appeal with buyers. It has stepped it up again with the JT Gladiator mid-size truck; a four-door ute with a removable roof. Could Suzuki do something similar with its ripping little Jimny?

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