Where the Jimny’s ladder frame and rigid axle suspension have allowed its predecessors to go further off road than many larger and more sophisticated – not to mention more expensive – SUVs, they’ve been equally responsible for the little Suzuki’s trying on-road manners.
And while this latest model may have arrived some 20 years after the third-generation Jimny first went on sale – and while in some ways it might have sugared the pill, which we’re about to describe – that same trade-off is still alive and well in 2018, much as the car’s disarming looks would make you wish otherwise.
It’s at low speeds where the Jimny’s ride and handling is at its most frustrating, particularly on the craggier stretches of road that are so prevalent here in Britain. Its ride is busy and unsettled, with sharper edges especially capable of sending reasonably forceful jolts into the cabin.
At a brisk open-road trot, the ride settles down a touch and the suspension begins to iron out longwave compressions with a decent sense of pliancy. But there are also times when vertical body movements are so sudden, pronounced and under-damped that it can feel as though the car is about to lift itself clear of the surface of the road – and so it’s best to maintain some awareness of the Jimny’s on-road limitations at all times.
As for the steering, Suzuki has elected to fit the Jimny with an electrically assisted recirculating ball rack. At 3.9 turns lock to lock, it’s particularly slow-geared because that’s how you’ll want it to be off road; and so, back on the road, it tends to require a generous scale of input from the driver. The slow gearing does have the effect of making the Jimny more stable at motorway speeds than it might otherwise be, though. Equally welcome is the rough but helpful impression that the rim provides as to how hard the front tyres are working.
Off the road is where the Jimny’s manoeuvrability really shines. Its lack of weight, tight turning circle and small footprint lend it impressive nimbleness on tricky terrain that would catch heavier 4x4s out, with only the harshest of surfaces proving a challenge. Wading depth is perhaps a bit meaner than you might hope (320mm), but it’s more than enough for the sort of work your average Jimny driver will likely require.
It’s on Millbrook’s Hill Route where the Jimny’s off-road friendly underpinnings and box-on-wheels body design really do their best to undermine its stability.