This Japanese 4×4 Is the Most Endearing Off-Roader Ever Made

The Suzuki Jimny has been a staple in the Japanese motoring culture for many decades. Similar to the Jeep Wrangler in the states the Jimny’s roots stretch back to a crude military machine that sacrificed everything for simplicity and practicality. Although the Suzuki Jimny has changed a good deal over the years, in spirit, it’s still the same cramped, unrefined, rascal it’s always been, and that’s fine with me. 

Although the Suzuki Jimny has made a name for itself across the globe and surged in popularity with the 2020 model, it has still only graced the shores of the U.S. as a benefactor of the 25-years-or-older import laws. The Japanese Jeep has all the makings of a great off-roader, but outside of a small cult following, it has never been here as a Jimny. We did get the Samurai for a while, but there were some significant quality differences and aesthetic variety.

America vs. the world

It’s no secret that Americans like big stuff. We like big cars even more than anything else. But, certainly, the 2020 Suzuki Jimny’s size can be overlooked for its rugged charm and dedication to off-roading, right? 

MotorTrend details that the 2020 Suzuki Jimny still, at its root, is a simple and no fuss short fall from the apple tree. They report that the original Jimny called the LJ10 and the 2020 Jimny still share a similarly simple ladder frame, front and rear, live axles, selectable four-wheel drive, and a low-range transfer case. Unlike the original, the 2020 Jimny has traded in the leaf springs for a modern coil spring suspension. 

2020 Suzuki Jimny specs

Nato green colored New Suzuki Jimny 4x4 is seen in Otomin
Suzuki Jimny | Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The changes don’t stop there. Probably the most significant difference for the modern Jimny is it now has a grown-up motor. The original was an air-cooled, two-stroke motor that made a modest 25 hp. Until now, the most horses Suzuki ever saw fit to provide the Jimny was 59 in the early ‘90s, 660cc three-cylinder trucks. Thankfully that motorcycle engine mess is behind us. The 2020 Jimny gets a 1.5-liter inline-four making around 100 hp. OK. OK. It’s not much better, but it’s enough for the Jimny’s small frame. 

The Suzuki Jimny still may not have earth crunching power, but it doesn’t need it. The Jimny measures 143.5 inches long, 64.7 inches wide, 67.9 inches tall, and weighing just 2,500 pounds. See, that 100 hp looks a little different on such a cute little thing. MotorTrend gives context for the Jimny’s stature compared to a two-door Wrangler. The Wrangler is 23.3 inches longer, 9.2 inches wider, 5.7 inches taller, and 1,500 pounds heavier than the Jimny.

Jimny Vs Jeep

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The Suzuki Jimny boasts a ground clearance of 8.3 inches, giving it a 37-degree approach angle and a 49-degree departure angle, according to MotorTrend. Again, when compared to a Wrangler, you have to get the Rubicon to beat the approach angle and match the brake angle. The Jimny’s departure angle still is unbeaten. Those are serious stats considering the small Japanese 4×4 costs about half as much as the Wrangler Rubicon.

On the road 

The Suzuki Jimny has never been great on the tarmac. They have always suffered from a lack of power, a ride so shakey it’ll rattle a filling loose, and a cramped cabin. The 2020 Jimny is better in all categories, according to MotorTrend, but still has echoes from its past.

Unlike the older Jimny that toped out a 60-65 mph depending on wind direction, the new Jimny can hang at 75 miles per hour all day. The road noise and transfer case, in particular, are annoyances, but its an off-roader after all. 75 miles per hour seems excessive anyway. *looks around to see if I got away with that*

Suzuki Jimny in Moab. Pete and Neal
1994 Suzuki Jimny | Henry Busby 2019

Although the Jimny is a great little off-roader, that isn’t why we love it. We are in no shortage a great 4x4s these days, but we are lacking cars with charm and heart. If the new Jimny has half of the charm, simplicity, and endearing nature as the older ones did (with a smidge more power), then I’d say keep all the giant American trucks and let’s give our hearts what they want, a tiny, loud, and slow Jimny.