Ah yes, the new one. However strong a case Mitch puts forward, would the Jimny be here if Suzuki’s latest fourth-generation model had been a bit ugly, a bit bloated, a bit me-too?
Yet that Suzuki has got it so right, again, shows just what an icon the car is, and also how regulations can force positive creativity in the industry once in a while. The first Jimny, launched in 1970 and back then called the LJ10, was the first 4x4 built to Japan’s dinky kei-car regulations. It still meets those regs today, meaning the Jimny’s footprint will likely never grow. How often can you say that about a modern car?
The LJ10 was not only the first 4x4 kei-car, it was also the first model Suzuki had global success with. It looked like a little Jeep, performed like a little Jeep and was as customisable in its body as a Jeep, with hard and soft tops, no tops and pick-ups all part of its range.
Suzuki launched the second-generation car, badged SJ30, in 1981. By this time it was known as the ‘Suzuki Jeep’, due to that SJ code (to list all the different badges and acronyms the Jimny has had over the years is like learning another language).
The SJ of the 1980s was also responsible for the most infamous period in the Jimny’s history, when the Samurai version sold in the US toppled over in Consumer Reports tests. It destroyed the car’s reputation among the wider US public (although not with hardcore 4x4 enthusiasts) and brought with it a court case that would rumble on into the 2000s. Yet the Jimny survived, and has gone on to thrive.
The third-generation car of 1998 (note how the generations of Jimny actually get longer each time) was the one you’ll probably know best. It stayed on sale for two decades, and near the end of its life was the longest-running model, outlasting the previous Land Rover Defender and Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen.
Throughout its time on sale, it offered something few to no other cars can offer: character, and real mechanical simplicity. No other car maker made such a compact, capable 4x4 – something that’s still true today, with the just-launched fourth-generation Jimny.
The small, lightweight Jimny, with its ladder-frame chassis and lowratio transfer box, allows you to go more places for less money than any other car, and has done for almost 50 years. It cements the Japanese firm’s position as one of the world’s most modern and innovative car makers. And the better the Jimny gets, the more fondly the older ones are remembered, too. That’s why it’s an icon.
Click here to vote for the Suzuki Jimny to be named our 'icon of icons'