QOTD: Planning Your Great Escape?

qotd planning your great escape

If you haven’t noticed, disillusionment is spreading rapidly through the population, and it’s afflicting young people the most. It’s based around a particular inequality in America that people in overseas countries can’t quite fathom. To them, it’s hard to believe Far Western governments would deny their citizens such a freedom.

We’re talking about the Suzuki Jimny, of course — a wee little Japanese body-on-frame, live-axle, two-door utility vehicle that’s just now entering its fourth generation. It debuted in 1970. A week’s perusal of social media posts tells me a subset of youngins don’t want glitzy show cars and promises of autonomous driving and touchscreens as wide as a sumo wrestler’s midriff. They want a small, basic, considerably inexpensive utility vehicle with respectable ruggedness and capability, but they can’t have it.

No. Fair.

We’re not getting the Jimny here, and it’s foolish to think a car company that threw in the towel earlier this decade would attempt to place its foot back in the door.

Now, it’s quite possible that, even if the plucky, Defender-on-a-budget Jimny was available here, the groundswell of desire for this vehicle would prove an illusion — a phenomena confined to the auto journo bubble, not unlike the tired “brown manual wagon” trope. Thing is, I feel it, too. And unlike overpriced Eurowagon shooting brakes that tempt car lovers with style and precision and snobby Continental refinement, the Jimny, if priced right, might just satisfy a larger group of buyers than we realized.

The fourth-gen Jimny adds refinements its bare-bones predecessors lacked, but keeps its utilitarian, go-anywhere DNA. Without those solid axles, ladder frame, and two-speed transfer case, it would cease being authentic. Beneath its hood, at least in export markets, lies a 1.5-liter inline-four making a very modest 100 hp and 95 lb-ft, enough to push around a vehicle weighing roughly as much as an early 80s K-car. A five-speed manual sings its siren song to lustful putrists on the far side of the Pacific, but you can hand over shifting duties to a slushbox if you wish.

It all sounds great — not unlike a Japanese Lada Niva. Still, maybe we’ve grown too soft, too used to independent suspensions and four doors and acres of room and a digital assistant to boss around in an attempt to retain a few shreds of our dying masculinity. Too used to wanting — and getting — a vehicle large enough to feel invincible behind the wheel. The days of the American-market Suzuki Samurai, which was itself just a second-gen Jimny, are long past.

It’s too bad I have to suffer the torture of watching a third-gen Jimny, shod with diplomat plates, driving around my neighborhood. I’ve tailed it just out of curiosity and longing. Guess the fellow behind the wheel either made use of Canada’s 15-year import rule or received an exemption through his work visa.

So, if not the Jimny… what else? Subcompact crossovers offer four doors and limited room and so-so power for a price usually starting below $20k, but just barely. And you won’t get four-wheel motivation for that base MSRP. Is there room at the bottom for something completely different?

Would you be interested in a Jimny, and, if so, what’s the price ceiling you wouldn’t go above? Bonus question: If the Jimny’s not your bag, what minimalist small SUV, real or imagined, would you like to see in its place?

[Images: Suzuki UK]

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  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Oct 04, 2018

    Whenever I see a fully loaded 4 seat ATV towed behind a Lightning I think, why not just rehab a an old Samurai and save 15 grand? Or better yet , off road in the Lightning.I'm not an off roader , but I think I'd prefer something that treads lightly, and runs cheaply. I think I may need to re-watch the Top Gear jungle expedition.

  • Vehic1 Vehic1 on Oct 04, 2018

    ScarecrowRepair: Who needs thet ther GubMint Nanny States 'n All? Who needs dag-gone Food Safety, Workplace Safety, Child Safety? - ah laks th' Free Morket, so Let 'er Rip, yawl! Mah 5-yar-old kin work at a 2,4-D bottlin' plant, make me some extry beer $ - an' life is great! Privit Corparashuns luv us - they wouldn't do nuthin' wrong, er hurt us'n jist to save a buck!

  • Marky S. To: article author: My Pleasure! I just don't want to be seen as a "know-it-all". There is a good detailed article on Wikipedia about the poor Edsel. Many believe that Ford gave up on it too soon, although there are a variety of reasons why Edsel was not popular. It actually sold respectable well, considering that this NEW nameplate was introduced during a Recession.
  • EBFlex "I've only filled the gas tank three times in 2500 miles"Assuming you went from 0 gallons to full (17.2), you have averaged almost 50MPG over those 2500 miles. 50 MPG in a Jeep Wrangler. To all of you EV nut jobs, tell me again how PHEVs are not the absolute best thing to happen to automobiles since the wheel. And tell me how they don't make EVs look like the awful play toys that they are.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird The Buick 215/3.5-liter aluminum V8 was one of GMs great engines. Unfortunately GM being GM in one of their greatest mistakes was selling off the tooling to BL. If they kept it around and improved upon it it would have been a fine motor for their compacts and midsize models through the OPEC oil crisis.
  • Chris P Bacon Not sure why a '21 is getting reviewed, because there have been improvements to the 4xe. I've got a '22 4xe Sahara. May 2022 build in High-Velocity yellow with a soft top. As soon as it was announced I knew I wanted to try it, not for the fuel mileage, but for the technology. I don't have a Level 2 charger, it charges fully overnight on the included Level 1. I see an indicated range of 27 miles regularly. Today it indicated 29 when I unplugged. I've only filled the gas tank three times in 2500 miles, a full charge costs me about $3 based on my current electricity supplier. I don't experience the rough transitions between electric and gas, so maybe Jeep figured it out? It's stupid fast when using all the power off the line. So much so that it will break the rear wheels loose when you stomp on it. I agree that plugin hybrids are the future. I see no need for a pure electric. This is the way to go.
  • RHD The word B R O N C O written in contrasting paint on the dashboard is quite unnecessary. The passenger certainly knows what kind of vehicle he or she is in. That detail is a big fail. The red and white Bronco looks great, especially with tires that have honest-to-goodness sidewalls on them.