The Suzuki Jimny is an off-road mini 4x4 or J-segment vehicle manufactured by Suzuki Motors since 1970 to the present time. In Japan, it is referred to as a Kei car, which is their category for the smallest street-legal vehicle. In almost half a century and amidst the multitude of car makes and models marketed worldwide, the Suzuki Jimny has never completely left. It’s still very much around in 194 countries. Suzuki Motors is close to selling the three millionth Jimny before the nameplate turns 50 in 2020.
The Suzuki Jimny has worn various badges through four generations, including the Holden Drover, Suzuki Sierra (for which this website has a separate article), and Chevrolet Samurai. More Jimny models will be introduced in each relevant generation. In Australia, there were years when the Jimny was not available. One thing is certain, though, it’s definitely back in its old charming boxy build with a long waiting list of eager buyers.
That’s going forward a bit too fast, though, so let’s take the back roads to 1967 where it all started.
History of the Suzuki Jimny
In 1967, a Japanese automaker (called Hope Motor Company) started manufacturing small three-wheel two-seater off-road vehicles, which were powered by a Mitsubishi 360-cc two-stroke M24 engine. These off-roaders were called HopeStar ON360. Only about 15 units of the HopeStar were sold, which led the owner of the Hope Motor Company to offer the venture to Mitsubishi first, who declined, and to Suzuki next, who bought the innovative 4WD design in 1968. That year marked the early beginnings of the Jimny.
1st Generation: LJ10-SJ20 (1970-1981) Suzuki Light Jeep
The first-generation Suzuki 4x4 was known by many names, except Jimny that is. They were named Suzuki Light Jeep (orLJ) such as LJ50, LJ55, LJ80, Suzuki Eljot, and Suzuki Stockman. The very first 4x4 produced by Suzuki was the LJ10 in 1970. It was a 359-cc two-stroke engine, the first descendant of the HopeStar ON360.
Several engines and design enhancements brought forward the LJ50 (code SJ10), which was marketed in Australia from 1974 through 1978. It was driven by a 539-cc 3-cylinder petrol engine attached to a 4-speed manual gearbox (24 kW, 56 N⋅m). Two versions were available in Australia—the soft-top variant with soft roof/doors and rear-mounted spare wheel and the hard-top variant with metal roof/doors and external spare wheel.
Three years and several iterations later, the LJ80 (code SJ20) arrived in Australia, selling alongside the last of the LJ50. It was packed with a 0.8L 4-cylinder petrol engine mated to a 4-speed manual transmission (31 kW, 60 N⋅m). The LJ80 is often referred to as the original Jimny or Jimny 8. In export markets, they wore the badge of LJ80. It had a pickup truck version, coded as LJ81, which was also referred to in Australia as the Stockman. The LJ80/Jimny 8 sold until 1981, overlapping with the second-generation Jimny.
2nd Generation: SJ30/SJ40/JA/JB (1981-1998) Suzuki Sierra
The second generation was a series of models coded SJ30, SJ40, and prefixed with JA and JB. They were the first series of Suzuki 4x4s officially introduced as the Jimny. In Australia, this generation was marketed as Suzuki Sierra and Suzuki Sierra Stockman (pickup version).
The SJ series was mainly produced for Suzuki’s home market and was fitted with either a 550-cc or a 660-cc engine. However, those produced for the export market were powered by bigger engines and built slightly bigger than the LJ80. Aside from the Suzuki Sierra badge, the SJ series was also called by other names, including Chevrolet Samurai, Holden Drover, Maruti Gypsy, SJ410, SJ413, Suzuki Caribian, Suzuki Katana, and Suzuki Potohar.
The Suzuki Sierra and its Stockman variant were distributed in Australia from 1981 to 2000. For a complete account on the Suzuki Sierra and the other second-generation Jimny models, please refer to our separate article on the Suzuki Sierra.
3rd Generation: JB23/JB33/JB43/JB53 (1998-2018) Suzuki Jimny Sierra
For the first time, the Jimny nameplate was used for the Australian-released mini off-roader. By this time, it was already officially marketed worldwide as Suzuki Jimny. However, there were still name variations in the market, including Chevrolet Jimny, Mazda AZ-Offroad, Suzuki Jimny Wide, and Suzuki Jimny Sierra.
The new Jimny premiered at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show. In the export markets, both hard-top and canvas-top variants were available. The different models in this series were fitted with the following engines:
- Model code JB23 – 658 cc K6A I3 petrol
- Model code JB33 – 1,298 cc G13BB I4 petrol
- Model code JB43 – 1,328 cc M13A I4 petrol
- Model code JB53 – 1,461 cc K9K TD I4 turbo diesel
The Jimny model that reached Australia was longer, wider, and lower than the outgoing Sierra 4x4s. The two-door four-seat vehicle was offered in two trim levels and was fitted with a 1.3L engine with the following specs:
- 1298-cc G13BB I4 petrol engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission (59 kW, 104 N⋅m)
The JX (base) trim came with air conditioning, cloth trim, and a trip computer. The JLX trim, on the other hand, was packed with the same engine but available in either a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. Its standard equipment and accessories also of the base trims are a 4-speaker radio cassette, a compact disc player, central locking remote control, power mirrors/windows/steering, and a roof rack.
A new variant was added this year, the JLX Freestyle, which was powered by a new engine with the following specs:
- 1328-cc M13A petrol motor mated to either a 4-speed auto or 5-speed manual transmission (60 kW, 110 N⋅m)
The JLX Freestyle was equipped with air conditioning, fog lights, and roof rack in addition to the base which was enhanced to include a 4-speaker radio/CD, dual front airbags, central locking remote control, engine immobiliser, and power mirrors/ steering/windows.
The Freestyle variant was discontinued, but the M13A engine (60 kW) has completely replaced the previous G13BB (59 kW) in both the JX and JLX variants. For the JX model, only the 5-speed manual transmission was available.
The JX version was discontinued in 2006, while a sport version was introduced in 2007. The sporty version was fitted with the same engine as the previous year and came equipped with fog lights, leather steering wheel, and 15-inch alloy wheels in addition to the standard offering for the base model. For the rest of this generation, the Jimny was powered by the same drivetrain.
Appearance-wise, the second generation sported a more rounded look than the previous versions, though still designed with the prominently vertical A, B, and C pillars. The corners were less angular, with arcs and curves incorporated in the exterior.
4th Generation: JB64W/JB74W (2018-present) Suzuki Jimny
The new generation, coded as JB64W/JB74W, was launched in 2018, and it has brought back the icon that was the Jimny. Gone were the soft curves of the third generation. All sides were squared off, the hood was level, and it was all boxy again. This new “old” look brought nostalgic smiles to Jimny owners of old. Not long after the first teaser of the 2019 Jimny came out had prospective buyers queued up to be waitlisted.
Only the base model arrived in Australia in 2018, powered by a 1.5L engine with the following specs:
- 1462-cc K15B I4 petrol engine, attached to a 4-speed auto or 5-speed manual transmission (75 kW, 130 N⋅m)
While the latest Jimny evokes images of its ancestor, nothing in its equipment is antiquated. It is equipped with modern gadgets, including a touchscreen control display, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition system and many more. Safety features include dual front and curtain airbags, anti-lock braking system, autonomous emergency braking, adjustable speed limiter, brake assist, cruise control, child seat anchor points, ISOFIX anchorage system, and engine immobiliser, to name only a few. It also has automatic air conditioning and climate control.
When the Jimny hit the market back in the 70s, it positioned itself in an unoccupied market segment. Buying out that HopeStar design proved to be a stroke of pure genius on the part of Suzuki. But what’s really amazing is that fifty years later, with almost three million units sold, people are still excited about it. It’s true that every once in a while a car comes by and makes an indelible mark to people. The Jimny has.
By Jeannette Salanga