Jimny Crickets: Suzuki Finally Readies Fourth Generation of Its Little Off-Roader

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
jimny crickets suzuki finally readies fourth generation of its little off roader

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 Samurai, Chevrolet/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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4 of 41 comments
  • NG5 NG5 on Jun 19, 2018

    I'd love one of these. Don't care how slow it is. A small, simple, capable 4x4!

    • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Jun 19, 2018

      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.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Jun 19, 2018

    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.

    • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Jun 20, 2018

      Lightspeed, In Australia they have been called the Sierra. GMH's version was called the Drover, but they have been long gone.

  • Dukeisduke Why the hell doesn't Farley just resign? Why hasn't Bill Ford fired him? I lay all this at Farley's feet.
  • Dukeisduke I tried watching the livestream (I'm a MT+ subscriber), but after 15 minutes of jawing by the presenters, I got bored and turned it off. I may watch it this weekend, when I can fast forward through that stuff, to get to the reveal.
  • Dukeisduke Electric power steering, I assume. First-gen Chevy Cruzes can suffer from similar issues, usually traceable to a flaky battery negative cable, a $10 OEM part. Weird, huh?
  • Kwik_Shift Once 15 Minute Cities start to be rolled out, you won't be far enough away from home to worry about range anxiety.
  • Bobbysirhan I'd like to look at all of the numbers. The eager sheep don't seem too upset about the $1,800 delta over home charging, suggesting that the total cost is truly obscene. Even spending Biden bucks, I don't need $1,800 of them to buy enough gasoline to cover 15,000 miles a year. Aren't expensive EVs supposed to make up for their initial expense, planet raping resource requirements, and the child slaves in the cobalt mines by saving money on energy? Stupid is as stupid does.