Evergreen but never stuck in a rut: Alan Candy road tests the Suzuki Jimny

Suzuki Jimny - minor detail changes for the evergreen, value-for-money 4x4
Suzuki Jimny - minor detail changes for the evergreen, value-for-money 4x4

When does a car become iconic? It’s a question Suzuki 4x4 fans should have no problem in answering – especially when it’s an SUV now into its 43rd anniversary.

That’s how long the Japanese value for money manufacturer has been manufacturing a small bodied 4x4.

In 1998, it morphed into the new Jimny – a jolly, fun character that really hasn’t changed much ever since.

You can compare models from 10 years ago with today’s offerings and have to squint hard to spot the difference. And reassuringly, virtually all of them are still in great shape.

As a Jimny owner myself, I had the same problem finding what had changed with the latest facelift. The answer is mostly up front, where Jimny boasts a new bumper, grille and bonnet design (a power bulge, since you ask). There’s also a freshen up in the colour range, with Breeze Blue Metallic introduced. Inside, Jimny now boasts new front and rear headrest designs, new seat fabric on the cheaper SZ3 model and ISOFIX child seat anchorages.

The top SZ4 model, which I have been testing, also now has synthetic leather/cloth front seats with ‘Jimny’ logo emblems, air con, alloys, leather trimmed steering wheel and rear privacy glass.

The test car, in brilliant white, looked self-consciously clean and a little anaemic – it’s a trendy colour but doesn’t really suit the Jimny.

The vehicle’s enduring charm is its incredible value for money, its longevity and the strange pleasure in finding that it hardly ever changes. While other manufacturers tweak and hone, Jimny resolutely goes about its business dressed in its usual clothes.

The fact that it still looks perky and cool is testament to its timeless design – a sit up and beg stance, boxy body, high ground clearance, four-barred grille, round headlamps and roof bars.

Global sales of 2.8 million across 188 markets tell their own story of drivers seeking the reassurance of four-wheel drive at an affordable price.

The only disappointment, for me, is that there still isn’t a diesel in the range. The 1.3, four-cylinder petrol engine is well proven and reasonably economical, with combined 39.8mpg. But a 55mpg + diesel would surely attract so many more buyers.

On the road, Jimny’s progress is leisurely, with 62mph coming up in 14.1 seconds and a top speed of 87mpg.

Overall comfort levels are good, the high driving position excellent and views panoramic, thanks to huge glass areas.

Steering is reasonably involving and the five-speed manual gearchange change a bit vague and clunky – the auto transmission is much smoother.

Best of all, of course, is that Jimny is a genuine off-roader with a choice of two or four-wheel drive, plus low crawler gears to really get you out of trouble. They’re easily selected via buttons on the dash.

Jimny’s functional but steadfastly sober dashboard holds no secrets. Don’t expect high tech gizmos here, gimmickry or anything flash.

To me, Jimny is refreshingly honest. It’s not the greatest 4x4 in the world but it’s certainly one of the most enduring and arguably still the best value for money in class. Pure functionality.

Long may it continue charming its millions of fans. I’m hanging onto mine in the knowledge that it gets me everywhere safely, whatever the British weather can throw at ti.

Fast facts:

Suzuki Jimny SZ4 £12,900 (prices start at £11,995).

Powered by 1,328cc four-cylinder petrol engine producing 85PS @ 6,00rpm and max torque of 81 lb/ft @ 4,100rpm.

0-62mph in 14.1 secs, top speed 87mph.

CO2: 162 g/km.

Economy: combined 39.8mpg.

Max towing weight – braked 1,300kg.

Key features: New front bumper, grille and bonnet design; top SZ4 model features air conditioning, synthetic leather/cloth front seats with ‘Jimny’ logo emblems; alloy wheels; leather trimmed steering wheel; rear privacy glass.