Although it’s now primarily known in the US for motorcycles, Suzuki did once sell cars here. And elsewhere in the world, it still does. One, in particular, the Suzuki Jimny mini-SUV, has been remarkably well-received. It’s been tuned, turned into Bronco look-a-likes, and taken on heavyweights like the G-Wagon. However, it’s still not available in the US. But even if it was, would consumers buy it? YouTube team The Straight Pipes wanted to find out.
Suzuki Jimny pros
On the outside, the Suzuki Jimny resembles a shrunken-down Jeep Wrangler. Which, given the Wrangler’s popularity, is a genuine selling point. And, as Jalopnik discovered, the Jimny isn’t too far behind the Wrangler in terms of off-road capability.
It has a body-on-frame design, solid axles, and four-wheel-drive with transfer case. True, the Wrangler has 1.5” more ground clearance, and a better approach angle. But, the Suzuki Jimny’s departure and break-over angles are better.
The Jimny is also noticeably cheaper. In the UK, it retails for roughly the equivalent of $18,000. That’s only slightly more than a Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris. A base 2-door Jeep Wrangler starts at $10,000 more. And upper-level Jimny trims do offer premium features. In addition to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Suzuki offers the Jimny with heated front seats, a digital inclinometer, and navigation. It also gets cruise control and blind-spot monitoring.
Furthermore, despite its smaller size, the Suzuki Jimny is actually safer than the Wrangler. In European crash tests, the Wrangler received 1 star out of 5. In contrast, the Jimny received 3, Top Gear reports.
However, there would be some downsides to driving a Suzuki Jimny on American roads.
Suzuki Jimny cons
Although the Suzuki Jimny may be light and small, it’s also fairly slow. Its most powerful engine is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder rated at 101 hp and 96 lb-ft. Although it now does have an automatic option, the Jimny is not really good on the highway. The engine needs to be revved for meaningful acceleration, which means more noise. Plus, while its boxy design is great on off-road trails, it isn’t the best for high-speed stability. Though, admittedly, the Wrangler has a similar issue.
Speaking of boxes, the Suzuki Jimny isn’t a particularly big one. There’s essentially no rear cargo space unless you fold the rear seats down. Those rear seats also don’t offer extensive legroom. Plus, with only 2 doors, rear passengers may struggle to get in and out.
That being said, Roadshow spent some time with a Suzuki Jimny on US roads and came away very impressed. Especially on city streets, the tiny SUV was a lot of fun to drive. There, the Jimny’s small size would give it a distinct advantage over other SUVs. Which makes some sense, considering European and Japanese cities offer similarly driving conditions.
Would it ever come to the US?
Unfortunately, Autoblog reports, Suzuki has no plans to re-enter the US automotive market. So, unless something drastically changes, the Suzuki Jimny won’t ever be sold here. Complicating things are the differences between American and European crash standards. It’s possible the Jimny would have to be re-designed to meet US regulations, which would likely raise the price too high.
However, if Suzuki could resolve the power issue, or add additional gears for quieter highway cruising, the Jimny might find itself in an interesting position. In terms of size, budget, and curb appeal, the Kia Soul would arguably be a Jimny rival. But the Soul doesn’t offer 4WD or AWD on any trim.
Jeep has allegedly been considering making a US-market Jimny rival. In a way, it already has one, in the form of the Jeep Renegade. It has more powerful engines, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, and a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. And it also offers 4WD with a transfer case. However, although the Renegade has the better interior, it’s actually in some ways down on options. A base Renegade 4×4 Sport starts at $24,120. But the cheapest trip that can option heated front seats is the $26,140 Latitude.
It seems then, that the Suzuki Jimny would best satisfy only a particular niche: the low-budget 4×4 segment. Which, considering the Renegade’s recent sales, doesn’t appear to be doing too well. But, if that’s something you’re interested in, 25-year-old JDM models regularly sell for less than $10,000.
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