By on June 18, 2018

Suzuki’s automotive division may have retreated from the American landscape, but it left a lasting impression. While not overabundant in goodness, it did have a few bright spots and the Jimny was one of them. Of course, not everyone will recognize the name. But they’ll know the vehicle, even if they don’t realize it.

While the Jimny and Vitara (also known as the Escudo) have grown apart in more recent years, there was a time when the duo was responsible a multitude of incredibly small off-road vehicles sold in North America. You know them as the Suzuki Sidekick, Suzuki SamuraiChevrolet/Geo Tracker, and Pontiac Sunrunner (if you’re Canadian). They’ve had other names in other parts of the world but, regardless of where they were sold, the models were usually the cheapest way to hurl a small vehicle at some rocks.

This remained true for the Jimny, even as the Vitara evolved into a crossover and distanced itself from the wild modifications of dirt-obsessed enthusiast. Unfortunately, that left the Jimny stuck in its third generation since 1998. That’s twenty years of the same car, but Suzuki says the new model is just about ready. 

Globally, the Jimny has the kind of loyalty one might see here for the Jeep Wrangler — and you remember how important it was that FCA appease its fan base. Suzuki is in a very similar situation. It has even gone so far as to developed the fourth generation using the feedback of existing Jimny owners as a blueprint. Their overwhelming concern seems to be that the car might follow the Vitara/Escudo into pursuing friendlier road manners at the expense of its off-road capabilities.

Suzuki said that on-road performance will be improved but noted it understood the Jimny’s biggest selling point was its ability to scuttle over nasty terrain as efficiently as possible. The model’s identity as a scrappy off-roader will be carefully preserved.

Since the little SUV hasn’t had its official debut (due later this year), the preamble details are limited. We do know that the 2019 Suzuki Jimny will come perched atop a ladder frame with solid axles and part-time 4WD with a low range transfer gear.

The model could still attempt to sideswipe the mainstream consumer market with new creature comforts, but we kind of doubt it. Cruise control will probably be the pinnacle of standardized tech and we doubt the options list will advance too far beyond a push-button starter. If you’re shelling out extra cash on a Jimny, it’ll probably be for a roof rack, raised suspension, or nastier tires — and that’s fine. The Vitara already has the mainstream market pretty well covered, and Suzuki has mentioned things like designing the Jimny’s interior to make sure all the important functions can be used while a driver is wearing gloves (something we wish touchscreen obsessed manufacturers would at least consider).

Still, Suzuki is considering larger, more highway worthy, engines for the model’s European launch. Japan probably won’t even get a full liter of displacement with the base model (looks like 660cc) but the rest of the world could see the 1.5-liter or even a forced induction mill. It won’t make it a powerhouse, but the idea is enough to have some of us wishing General Motors would renew its partnership with the brand and build a few of them here.

Would they sell? The cynical part of me says no but my heart says yes. The number of times I’ve heard someone who’s passively interested in cars say they wished manufacturers built a modestly sized, basic vehicle that can do everything is staggering. There is no company in the world better suited for that task than Suzuki. But saying you want something and actually buying it are two different things. We also don’t know how the Jimny would have to change in order to meet U.S. regulations.

My fandom is probably peeking through at this point. Watching the 1996 Suzuki Escudo Pikes Peak hill climb solidified my love of motorsport forever. During college, I replaced my Harley Davidson with a Suzuki without regrets. I kind of like Suzuki and, while they built some of the most boring and bland cars ever sold on any continent, they also produced some real gems — scrappy little underdogs that were so beloved by a small subset of the populace that they managed to stick around far longer than seemed reasonable.

The fourth generation of the Jimny could be one of those and, if so, wouldn’t it be nice to see it parked next to a well-maintained Geo in your quirkiest neighbor’s driveway?

[Images: Suzuki]

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41 Comments on “Jimny Crickets: Suzuki Finally Readies Fourth Generation of Its Little Off-Roader...”


  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    Someone please explain how this is fault of the chicken tax or the 2.5% current tariff for imported cars that we can’t have those in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      It isn’t because of the chicken tax, it’s because of our crash standards and certification.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        surely those same crash standards and certification would apply to light pickups built outside of NAFTA zone even if the chicken tax was repealed?

        One might not get that impression given how many times the chicken tax gets blamed for the Hilux not being available in the States, around these parts.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          And that argument falls flat when you realize that Ford pays the tax on the Transit Connect, yet still finds a business case for continuing the model here. You can’t possibly convince me that the margins are higher on the little van than they would be on a Toyota pickup truck.

          Besides, Toyota counts the Tacoma in with HiLux sales globally, and you can see it right on their (non-U.S.) website.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            John do Little.
            The Transit sells in large enough volumes in the US that makes it viable to make Transits to US standards.

            This is why in Australia we can sell vehicle that move as few as 500-1000 vehicles per year, because globally that vehicle might sell 50 000, they are all the same so its easy to support the product and testing/certification needs to be done once as all UNECE signatories recognise the results of other nations as testing is standardised.

            You can see why I think the US needs to modernise its vehicle regulatory framework instead of its protectionist stance.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            LMAO @ BAFO

            That has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with what I stated. Try reading next time.

            Btw, Ford sold 34,473 Transit Connects in the U.S. last year. That is hardly a high volume model, unless you’re Rolls Royce, Bentley, Morgan, Ferrari or Lamborghini.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Johnny do do.
            Actually the Transit is platformed shared.

            You need to understand the industry a bit more. There is more to cars than nameplates.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            That also has absolutely nothing to do with what I said in either post. I guess your point is that the global and U.S. midsize Toyota trucks share nothing? Or that somehow platform sharing is unique to Ford? Frankly, I don’t care, mostly because you have no point. At least, not one that can be argued without changing the subject or making up some fake facts.

            Besides, you just blew a giant hole in the point you tried to make in your previous post. Lol, I couldn’t make this stuff up! Its gold, Jerry, GOLD!

            What’s next, are you going to “prove” your point by saying water is wet? No, let me guess, wheels are round. That’s it. Please, ramble away about a bunch of unrelated crap that has nothing to do with my arguments. Its what you do best. Can’t argue my points? Pretend the subject is something completely different, then state either obvious facts or make up new ones to babble on and on about. You did this before with your other screen name. It didn’t work then and it isn’t working now.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        FWIW the Ecosport apparently passes the crash standards, and I think it was not designed with North America in mind.

        In this age of mini utes blossoming sales, this thing just might succeed here. I’d give a 4-door version even better odds.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Speaking of the unfortunate EcoSport, thank God that Ford is planning a small utility with real off-road ability for our market. Let the college girls buy the EchoSport, we can have a mini-Bronco.

    • 0 avatar
      tnk479

      Awesome! I love it.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Two Belugas,
      The US has many instruments that are used to make imported vehicles harder to get. These are called non-tariff barriers. A simple one is the US has different design regulations compared to the rest of the world, its on its own.

      This impacts you guys getting lower volume movers as the cost to meet different US standards makes them uncompetitive. Oddly many countries will allow US vehicles in even though they are a different standard.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        You *might* have a point if our market was as tiny as Australia’s. As it is, if the vehicle is good enough to sell here, chances are it’ll sell well enough that it is worth designing with U.S. standards in mind from the start.

        The fact is that Suzuki has absolutely no dealer network/sales channel in this country any more, after pulling up stakes a few years ago. If that wasn’t the case, you can bet this vehicle would be designed to meet our standards as well (if it won’t meet them as it is, which it may very well do for all we know). That is the reason we won’t see it, nothing to do with regulations or protectionism. Suzuki shot itself in the foot by flooding our market with terrible cars (rebadged Daewoo cars before GM’s money made them worth a sh¡t), only to give us the good (well, decent at least) stuff that was too little, too late. Add in a major global recession and it just all went down the drain for them.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Johnny do do,
          Your market was by far the greatest. Now its the smallest. Remember the rest of the world uses a better option that facilitates trade.

  • avatar
    gtem

    The latest Vitara (that we thankfully don’t get in the US) is a sad shadow of its former self. It’s basically a SX4 underneath, just another hateful exercise in marketing. But if that’s what it took to preserve the Jimny as a BOF+solid front/rear axle offroader, then I understand. Kind of how Toyota made a Highlander and let a 4Runner continue being a “real” SUV where others relented and a nameplate like the Pathfinder is a sad-sack CVT suckmobile.

    • 0 avatar

      Stupid SX4 and Vitara XL-7 nonsense.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “Vitara XL-7” was still the hardy offroader, when it went to a belly-dragging Theta crossover setup it simply became the “XL7.” It hasn’t exactly been a 4Runner in terms of reliability, but my brother’s ’02 Grand Vitara XL-7 has been a great utilitarian vehicle for him. Surprisingly competent, dare I say fun, on-road and likewise surprisingly decent MPG in mixed driving (23-25mpg with the 2.7L V6 and stick).

  • avatar

    Love it. Like the styling, and the simple, direct interior. It’s very obvious what it is and what it’s for, without any flim-flam.

    And the motto is what I want to tell most people in life. “Just go [away].”

    I do think it was the Asuna Sunrunner in The Canada though, and not a Pontiac.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      It was both. I think the Pontiac Sunrunner came after they killed the Asuna brand. I see Asunas fairly often but only saw the first Pontiac in my life a few months ago. There was a GMC Tracker at some point also which is probably rather than either of them.

      • 0 avatar
        formula m

        I lost my G1 learners permit in 1998 at the age of 16 driving my 89’ GMC Tracker. 4×4 5spd manual with all metal roof. White paint with all steel roof and boxy black tinted windows. It was originally from Quebec and came with Miami Vice inspired turquoise, pink and black “4×4” splashed paint body graphics and pinstripes. So much fun on the streets in 2-wheel drive and the stick shift. Light weight, paper thin doors that can’t be safe

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Don’t go away sad.
      Don’t go pre-fab.
      Don’t go be bad.
      Don’t go away mad.
      Just go away.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Can’t OUR chickens pass the crash/safety tests ?
    BTW- I already have one of these in the guise of an Isuzu Trooper long version- and I love it.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Friend had one. He liked it because he didn’t care if it got banged up so he beat it to death and then threw it away.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Jeep could take a Renegade, shorten it and built it as an entry level model. It would probably do well in the same markets as the Suzuki.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Bring back the “Samurai” name and it will sell.

  • avatar
    TW5

    It’s a short wheelbase light truck with poor fuel economy. CAFE 2025 has already signed the death warrant for these kinds of vehicles. I don’t see how it could arrive on US shores.

    It turns out 23mpg fullsize trucks do less damage to the environment and the US current account than 23mpg small offroaders.

    Without the genius of Washington DC, we would never have known.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Well, a larger vehicle that gets the same mileage as a small one is more efficient. Doing more while using less (or the same).

      Not that I fully support or agree with CAFE, but a larger and more capable vehicle that gets similar MPG as a small one is actually more efficient. I don’t see how that is so hard to understand.

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        The average vehicle occupancy in the US has nearly declined to 1, and if autonomous cars take over, it will be much lower. The multi-passenger argument is not relevant from a macro standpoint.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      TW5,
      You appear to be only considering the US market.

      There are many global options that work. Maybe, just maybe they might be worth considering.

      How is it the world functions okay with the vehicle mix they have? Why is it the US will struggle using more efficient alternatives?

      Now, don’t get me wrong, I would buy a new Hemi powered Ram. But I would need to find a use to justify having one. If I power, why would I want so much weight in a sh!t handling package? If I want work a diesel is by far a better option, but then again why not buy a global diesel flat bed that will carry more on a larger bed? If I need to tow, again a diesel. If I want to tow alot, buy a real truck.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I would love to have this vehicle here, but it just won’t happen. The best we can hope for is a repeal of the 25 year rule regarding importation of used cars. Dialing it back to, say, 10 years would allow us to get something like this before its old enough to be a classic (in other words, too old to enjoy like it was meant to be enjoyed).

    My ex’s twin brother had a Samurai, it was very fun to take off road, at least until the starter died as we were high centered on a sand dune, lol (he had turned it off, and when we got ready to leave, it was “click, click, click”). Took about an hour and a half of pushing and digging until we got it in a position to be compression started. Still a fun day, though.

  • avatar
    hamish42

    My Suzuki Sidekick was one of the most fun cars I ever had. Probably the most. It had manual hubs, which was a bit of a pain, but otherwise terrific. I used to love dropping the clutch and burning out in 4WD at snowy/icy stop lights while the guy beside me spun his wheels and swung slowly sideways. Lots of fun for moderate off-road, too. Good quality, reliable build also.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I saw those old Sidekicks all over Costa Rica, both the boxy earlier 90s ones and the rounded 2nd gen trucklets. Perfect little rig for over there. You don’t need much power out there, maneuverability and durable suspension and good traction is just the ticket. A true low range in the t-case as well, which is the one thing I was kind of missing from our rental Terios.

  • avatar
    Garak

    Can’t wait to test drive that trucklet, Jimny’s the only small vehicle sold here capable of handling the roads I have to drive on. The glove-friendly controls are also a godsend.

    There’s going to be a 1.0 turbo and 1.2 NA engine available, and automatic transmission for at least one of them. Merging on the freeway might be tricky.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I would like to see the Suzuki Jimny come with a little turbo diesel.

  • avatar
    NG5

    I’d love one of these. Don’t care how slow it is. A small, simple, capable 4×4!

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      NG5,
      We have these little Suzukis in Australia and they are good off road, very good in fact.

      On the highway is a different story. I think 75mph is flat chat. But for around town they are okay, if a little uncomfortable.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I thought the Jimny was what we called the Samurai, not the Sidekick. This far more resembles the Samurai to me. In fact, I think Suzuki could return to NA successfully on this one vehicle. No dealer network needed, just sell them through Cabelas or some such outdoorsy place.


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