It was the interior light that got me.
Nothing about this odd little car’s oppressively grey cabin is at all modern – not the brittle plastic dash, nor the thin and scratchy carpets – but the interior light is from another age altogether. Rather than sitting flush against the headlining, the Suzuki Jimny’s cabin lamp is a clumsy, blocky lump of clear plastic that hangs down from above like an illuminated prolapse.
In fact, every corner of the Jimny’s cabin is comically out of date.
You wouldn’t believe it was even possible to find a supplier who could manufacture such state-of-the-ark manual heater controls today. But here it is: a brand new 67-plate car with the kind of interior you haven’t come across since you were carted to school in short trousers.
When it was a shiny new model, though, Suzuki’s mini off-roader probably felt right up to date. Because, believe it or not, the third-generation Jimny is now 20 years old. For all these years, it’s gamely plodded along like a faithful old Labrador, watching on in bewilderment as the world changed around it, as whole new sub-genres of 4x4 emerged and interior lights receded elegantly into headlinings.
Only now is the Jimny set to be replaced. Suzuki is poised to reveal an all-new Jimny, only the fourth iteration to appear since the original made its debut way back in 1970. This isn’t a story about how miserable the car’s cabin is, though; Instead, it’s a fond farewell to an unsung hero, one last hurrah for this venerable 4x4.
So why the Range Rover?
Clearly the two aren’t direct rivals. In fact, the optional extras fitted to this £100,000 Range Rover Autobiography cost significantly more than the Suzuki. But for most people, myself included, a Range Rover is the epitome of the off-road vehicle. The benchmark. And we could think of no better way to wave goodbye to the Jimny than to demonstrate exactly how brilliant it is at scrabbling through mud. What we’re about to witness is perhaps the cheapest, and certainly the oldest, off-roader on sale going toe-to-toe with the most prestigious and sophisticated 4x4 money can buy.