I’VE been excited about quite a few cars arriving for me to test - Porsches, RS-badged Audis, six-figure SUVs, you name it - but I don’t mind admitting Suzuki’s Jimny was arguably the one I was most looking forward to driving.
Stop laughing over there - it’s true. I’m absolutely not joking and if I tell you that there’s been long waiting lists in the UK for a new one, that should tell you all you need to know about the widespread anticipation this little mountain goat has created.
It doesn’t surprise me - it’s a mini Mercedes G-Class and looks absolutely brilliant in my eyes. It’s tiny, it’s intriguing and most of all it oozes charm in a way I can’t ever recall a new, sub-£20,000 car doing so.
New Jimnys don’t come around often. The version prior to this fourth-generation model was on sale for nigh-on two decades by my reckoning, which is why the name has such a cult following and why customers remain loyal to Suzuki whenever a new one comes to the market.
It’s one of those utilitarian, do-all icons like the Land Rover Defender and the G-Class, lapped up by people who need an all-terrain car to perform come what may. This version - the LCV - has two seats and a large-ish loading bay in the back, so it’s about as agricultural as is possible.
It’s far from perfect to drive - in fact it’s pretty horrendous on the road and especially so on a motorway commute - but it’s a car that makes you forget every negative, somehow, because of how utterly unique it is.
The first time I sat behind its steering wheel, perched high on its unsupportive seat, was an experience I’ll never forget. I completely understand that you might be reading this thinking I’m pulling your leg, but I’m genuinely not. My grin was child-like - almost like the expression my one-year-old daughter makes when I put Peppa Pig on the telly - and it never once diminished on the 20-mile journey home.
When I arrived, ears ringing and spine in tatters, my other half - who I admit has witnessed a lot of car-related daftness on my part - thought I’d finally lost the plot when I wouldn’t shut up about just how much I loved the experience.
I also like the Jimny because of the world we live in, so let me explain a bit more. ‘Trendy’ SUVs have a habit of being bought by mums with plumped-up lips and wrinkle-free foreheads - none of who have any intention of taking their off-roaders off-road - and so the former appeal of a proper SUV has been dumbed down by somewhat dumb people.
The Jimny, on the other hand, is a car for people whose lives depend on using off-road tracks and it makes no excuse for that, as it’s what it has always been about. Its road-going capabilities are basic to say the least, so from the off you have more respect for it as it’s stayed absolutely true to its roots.
Power comes from a 109bhp 1.5-litre engine, which does without a turbo, and in truth it’s a pretty good match for the 1,090kg Jimny. Its five-speed manual gearbox is as you would expect - a bit vague with its action - and vies for the crown of the worst component of the package with the steering, which is about as aloof as could be.
Motorway journeys become a bone-shaking, ear-bleeding experience and it’s desperate for a sixth ratio as its engine is verging on 4,000rpm at 70mph - bad for your sanity and indeed its fuel economy. That missing extra gear would be a most welcome addition.
It follows HGVs’ indentations in the surface and wobbles like a blancmange over cats’ eyes, becoming extremely unsettled when most cars would shake it off and shimmy over without any protest, but I still found myself waxing lyrical about how cool the Jimny is to anyone who would listen.
The fact that it’s arguably one of the worst cars I’ve ever driven, but it still won a place in my hard-to-win heart says everything you need to know about it.
Cult cars are never the best to drive but they’re absolutely always the coolest; unforgivable traits in ‘normal’ cars, yet undoubtedly a mere quirk in something as lovable as the Jimny.
If you can buy one, do it - you’ll love it as much as I do.