Looking back towards the future of the Suzuki Jimny

By Aida Sevilla-Mendoza Philippine Daily Inquirer April 04,2019


Will the 2019 Suzuki Jimny repeat history?  Will it attract the biggest crowds at tomorrow’s Manila International Auto Show (MIAS), as it did at the Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS) in October last year?


The 2019 Jimny All-Grip Pro was the star of the Suzuki Philippines, Inc. (SPH) booth despite being one of the smallest cars on display during the 2018 PIMS.


The younger viewers there were probably unaware that the Jimny has a Philippine history, having been marketed here as the Sumurai in the 1980s.


Speaking of history, the SUVs and 4×4’s of today can be traced all the way back to the 2nd World War when Jeeps from Willys-Overland, Ford and Bantam were originally designed as multipurpose vehicles for assorted use in the war effort.


When the war ended, the Jeeps paved the way for civilian versions intended for non-military use.  The versatile Jeep caught the attention of other car manufacturers around the world.


Some early examples of Jeep-inspired 4×4 vehicles that emerged in the 1950s were the Land Rover series, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Nissan Patrol.


THE 4×4 KEI CAR. Meanwhile in Japan, Suzuki Motor Co. Ltd. was already an established manufacturer not only of motorcycles, but also of small, light vehicles known as the “Kei” car.


Kei was a vehicle class designed to comply with the Japanese government’s regulations that included meeting certain dimensions and engine size.


As the Kei market began to grow over the years, Suzuki decided to introduce a Jeep-like 4×4 concept to the Kei car category.  The first model, launched domestically in 1970, was the LJ10 (Light Jeep 10) and was named Jimny.


At that time, most 4×4 vehicles were large and heavy, so the Jimny’s unique mini size was seen as refreshing and it became the first widely manufactured 4×4 in the Kei car category.


SAMURAI.  In 1985, the Jimny, rebadged as the Samurai, arrived in North America, and was the first commercially marketed Suzuki car in the United States.


Its low price compared to bigger SUVs made it the ideal starter 4×4.  In the United Kingdom, the Jimny began to develop a cult following as it looked and drove like a miniature version of the Mercedes G wagon.


Also in 1985, production of the Jimny began in Spain and in India, where it was known as the Maruti Gypsy.  Overseas production made the Jimny a truly global off-roader.


By 1987, total production had hit one million units.  The Jimny is sold in 194 countries, and through three generations total sales worldwide reached 2.8 million units.


4 GENERATIONS. The Jimny All-Grip Pro is the fourth generation of the model.  After the first generation was launched in 1970 in Japan, the second generation, code-named the LJ80, appeared in 1981 with a choice of a 550 cc, or 660 cc 3-cylinder engine.


In 1988, the third gen was launched with a rounded, more modern design, a 1.3 liter petrol engine, and Drive Action 4×4 system that allows the driver to switch from 2WD to 4WD on the move.


In 2018, 20 years later, the fourth gen Jimny arrived on the global market with a new 1.5-liter engine, ample body angles and ground clearance, ABS with Brake Assist and Electronic Stability Program, hill hold and hill descent control, 3-link rigid axle suspension, and a wide range of new color choices like Kinetic Yellow, Jungle Green and Chiffon Ivory.


Hiroyuki Yonezawa, chief engineer for the fourth gen Jimny, said it was crafted to exceed all expectations with the functional beauty of a vehicle that can endure all terrain.


The all-new Jimny’s square body more closely resembles the Mercedes G-Class than the third gen, and its bonsai dimensions allow it to maneuver through tight urban spaces, narrow mountain trails and dense forests, while its slender 1,100-kg weight lets it drive through muddy pits, over sand dunes, and up slippery slopes where heavier vehicles tend to bog down.


LADDER FRAME. The 2019 Jimny is solidly built on a strong, more rigid cross-braced ladder frame chassis, and its 37-degree approach angle, 28-degree ramp breakover angle, and 49-degree departure angle and high ground clearance, plus All-Grip selectable 4WD system allows it to climb over rocks, ridges, and steep hills without scraping its underbody.


A second shift lever in front of the handbrake allows the driver to shift between three modes – high-range 2WD for tarmac, high-range 4WD for slippery surfaces, and low-range 4WD for grueling low-speed work.  In rough road conditions, the combination of hill hold control, hill descent control and brake limited slip-differential (LSD) traction control enable the wheels to maintain speed and better control.


More extensive use of zinc-coated steel translates into greater dependability while a more effective floor undercoating and sealer coatings at panel edges protect it against rust caused by river crossings.  You can wash the floor with a water hose after an off-road adventure.


The new, naturally aspirated, 1.5-liter petrol engine with a choice of 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic delivers more torque at all RPM than the preceding Jimny’s, while reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH.)


MINIMALIST. The interior reflects the minimalist, practical exterior with a plain black color theme, center switches and dials in metallic colors, a scratch- and stain-resistant instrument panel, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a bigger, user-friendly 9-inch touchscreen featuring off-line GPS navigation and off-road audio guide.


Small wonder that the “Tonka meets G wagon exterior” and tough off-road capability of the Suzuki Jimny All-Grip Pro have generated online fan clubs and a worldwide cult following.  Its diminutive stature and light footprint off-road have driven its appeal during its 48-year history.


It is a fun-size off-roader and because of its low price starting at P975,000 for the GL M/T, the 2019 Jimny is an authentic 4×4 for the masses.


Being a micro SUV, the Jimny is not meant for family use.  Nonetheless, as there is still a market for back-to-basics off-roaders with less of the creature comforts found in today’s SUVs, the 2019 Jimny All-Grip Pro looks set to carry this Suzuki nameplate to the 3 million sales mark.

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