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It may be an Urban Car Award winner but the Suzuki Jimny is fine offroad, helped by a low-ratio transfer case. (Suzuki) 

What we're driving: 2019 Suzuki Jimny

“What we’re driving” is SAE Automotive Engineering’s series of quick-strike vehicle reviews.

It may seem a conflict in terms, but the all-new, pint-sized 2019 Suzuki Jimny SUV, winner of the Urban Car category in the 2019 World Car Awards, not only has selectable all-wheel drive (Allgrip Pro) but also a low-ratio transfer gearbox to complement its standard 5-speed manual transmission.

It could be argued this ostensible “capability overkill” would be useful for getting along city side streets that don’t rate priority clearing in deep snowfalls, or tackling steep house driveways—and, well, probably something else. 

Certainly, the new Jimny is urban-car sized, measuring a modest 3480 mm (151in.) bumper-to-bumper on a wheelbase of 2250 mm (88.6 in.) and only 1645 mm (64.8-in.) wide. But at 1725 mm (67.9 in.) tall, it offers good visibility for a such compact car. With low-geared, electrically-assisted recirculating ball steering and a tight turning circle, parking the Jimny is a piece of cake.

Luggage capacity, however, is a mere 85L (3 sq. ft.) with the divided rear seats in place; with both seats folded, there’s a maximum 830L (29.3 sq. ft.), so this ute’s not exactly a big load carrier. 

The car really is more appropriate for offroad use. Its ladder-type body-on-frame chassis with stiffening crossmembers is made for taming tough going and the 3-link rear suspension is happy in mud, ruts and much worse. Ground clearance is 210 mm (8.3 in.)—and there’s that low-speed transfer case, too. On-road, ride is just plain hard. 

Performance figures include 0-100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration in a little over 12 s.; top speed is 145 km/h (90 mph). Curb weight is a relatively modest 2505 lb. (1135 kg), though, making the Jimny feel livelier than its acceleration number suggests.

Power comes from a naturally-aspirated 1.5-L 4-cyl. gasoline engine that makes 100-hp (75-kW)  and maximum torque of 95 lb-ft (130 Nm) at 4000 rpm. This doesn’t sound like much, but it actually delivers with “character,” a bit like a 1970s/1980s noisy-but-enthusiastic powerplant and it is impossible not to respond to its chirpy urgency. Gearshift quality is satisfying in an agricultural way. Mechanically, the Jimny in some senses reminded this author of his long-ago Series IIIA Land Rover, which had an immensely endearing character. 

But the Suzuki Jimny does have great street cred with its square and functional yesteryear styling, delivering the sort of image in which some younger aspirants will bask. 

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