When it comes to niche players, Suzuki fits the definition in the automotive world.
The range is built around small to medium-sized vehicles, with the largest now the medium-sized Vitara.
Its latest offering is the little Jimny 4×4, launched this week at the Mt Cottrell based Melbourne 4×4 Training Grounds.
The complex offers a mix of artificial and natural slopes and inclines, and with the Werribee River coursing through the bottom of the canyon — a water crossing as well.
The 2019 Jimny, priced from $23,990, is a mix of styling cues that go back to the first and second generation models.
This includes the circular headlights and separate indicators, a clamshell bonnet, flutes in the sheet-metal behind the bonnet, a ladder chassis, and separate tail lights located below the vertically hinged rear door.
The chassis itself has been reinforced further with extra cross members and an X-shaped cross member that provides extra structural rigidity.
Power is provided by Suzuki’s elegant 1.5-litre petrol engine.
There’s just 75kW and 130Nm, but that’s enough for a car with a Gross Vehicle Mass of 1450kg.
Kerb weight for the manual is 1075kg, the auto just 15kg more.
Economy is rated at 6.4L/100km for the manual, 6.9L/100km for the auto — from a 40-litre tank
Transmissions is via a 5-speed manual or, disappointingly, an old school auto with just four cogs.
There is however a transfer case with proper high and low range gearing, operated via a lever in the comfortable cabin.
At 3480mm in length, and with a wheelbase of 2250mm, off-roading is a doddle.
Departure angle is a startling 49 degrees, approach an almost as impressive 37 degrees, with break-over a more than handy 28 degrees.
Ground clearance is 210mm.
The training grounds have some steep inclines designed to test a vehicle’s ability to climb or descend slopes.
On a 30 degree concrete ramp, the Jimny crawled up the slope with no issues at all in low range first and with 3000 revs on the dial.
An immediate left turn at the top of the ramp shows the vehicle has a much wider turning circle in four-wheel drive mode.
With Hill Descent Control engaged, and left to its own resources, Jimny eased itself gently down again.
Hill Hold Control will engage the brakes for up to two seconds before release.
The river crossings were also tackled in low range.
Although ground clearance is rated as 210mm, forward momentum is enough to get the small machine through depths of up to 30 centimetres without issue.
Part of this comes from the 15 inch alloys with high profile 195/80 rubber.
Three-link rigid axles front and rear with coil spring suspension ensure a planted footprint.
Black poly body mouldings on the fenders, front and rear bumpers, and grille surrounds, add good looks and safety.
Suzuki hasn’t forgotten about the interior either. It’s a classy, if somewhat slightly spartan cabin.
Trim is black on black, and hides six airbags. There’s the standard Suzuki 7.0-inch touchscreen with satnav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, climate control, and reverse camera.
The rear seat backs are coated in plastic, that allow dirty, grubby items such as scuba gear, flippers, and kids bikes — to be stored without damage.
The dash is a black coloured affair, with two square binnacles that house elegantly designed dials.
These contrast nicely with the six exterior colours: Kinetic Yellow, Brisk Blue, Chiffon Ivory, Jungle Green, Medium Grey, and Superior White (the first three are paired with a roof coloured Bluish Black Pearl).
Autonomous Emergency Braking, the aforementioned Hill Descent Control, Lane Departure Warning, and Weaving Alert, are standard safety items.
But it gets only three stars from ANCAP, with structural and design weaknesses, poor protection of pedestrians and cyclists, and lack of effective safety aids.
Recommended retail pricing is as follows:
5-speed manual transmission: $23,990
4-speed automatic transmission: $25,990
With an additional paint charge of $500 for metallic and $1250 for two-tone.