Suzuki has presented the next-generation Jimny in European spec at the Paris motor show. It's due on sale in 2019, with just one engine, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol.
This naturally aspirated unit replaces the outgoing Jimny's 1.3-litre engine. It produces 101bhp and 96lb ft of torque for a claimed top speed of 90mph.
No diesel version of the Jimny is planned, with Suzuki having recently cut all diesel options from its line-up.
Talking to Autocar UK, Suzuki’s UK boss, Dale Wyatt, said the brand has so far had 4500 UK buyers sign up on the website as “interested” in the Jimny - the first time it has had such a level of interest.
That’s 150 percent of the previous model’s best annual sales volume; the last Jimny ended at 1100 units annually in UK after 20 years. The problem is going to be volume supplied, says Wyatt. Demand in Japan, where the Jimny is made, has been “staggering”. Wyatt sees scope in allocating 1100 cars for the UK in the new Jimny's first year, then 2000 subsequently.
The Jimny will offer five-speed manual and four-speed automatic gearboxes, with a part-time four-wheel drive system channelling power to the rear wheels normal use and with high and low-range modes. Suzuki swapped the manual low-range gear selector in the latest Vitara for an electric rotary dial, but the new Jimny sticks with the former system to maximise its off-road adjustability.
Like its predecessor, the new Jimny is built on a ladder-frame chassis, but it now has additional cross-members to increase rigidity. It also gets three-link rigid axle suspension for off-road agility. The fourth-generation model has been developed with the feedback of existing Jimny owners in mind, who rank its effective off-road capabilities and robustness more highly than on-road performance.
Suzuki claims the Jimny can drive up inclines with a 37deg approach angle and a 49deg departure angle. Ground clearance is 210mm.
The car's design reflects its 4x4 status, taking influence from earlier Jimnys through the simple, box-shaped body, vertical grille and round headlights with separate indicators. Much of the design appears similar to that applied to the latest Mercedes-Benz G-Class, such as the squared-off wheel arches and tail-lights located low on the bumper.
The Jimny's interior, meanwhile, gains modern features such as a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth. However, the overall design remains chunky, with function favoured over form to enable users to operate controls and buttons while wearing gloves.
New safety systems have also been added, including automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and traffic sign detection, the latter being a first for any Suzuki model.
Two folding rear seats allow for up to 377 litres of luggage space, which is 53 litres more than in the old Jimny. The new model rides 20mm higher on 15in alloy wheels, but overall length has reduced slightly to 3480mm.
The 2019 Jimny is due to go on sale in the UK early next year, following a Japanese launch this autumn. Prices are expected to be slightly higher than those of the outgoing model, which cost around £14,000 before it went out of production in April.
The larger Vitara is currently Suzuki's best-selling model, achieving UK sales of about 12,000 units per year, and further growth is expected.
The brand's decision to ignore the temptation to build a more mainstream Jimny should ensure that sales remain small compared with those of other compact SUVs. Around 1200 Jimnys are sold per year in Britain - a figure that has remained consistent since the outgoing version launched in 1998. The new car is expected to comfortably beat this while leading a charge to grow Suzuki sales by 20 percent.