Ian Lamming stands out from the crowd in a bright coloured Suzuki.
PICTURE the scene. It’s speech day and parents arrive in their droves, dressed in their Sunday best, to watch their young people collect a table-load of accolades for their efforts.
The Chelsea tractors line up on the lawns, an impressive array of Range Rovers, Porsches, Volvos and Discoveries. But one car stands out among the crowd and it puts a smile on every face that looks its way.
Standing between two black Range Rovers, absolutely and indefatigably resplendent in the brightest of neon yellow-greens, is the new Suzuki Jimny, like the lettuce in a rye bread sandwich – with the crusts cut off, by the way.
After the laughter drops people are genuinely interested to hear what the little 4×4 is like to drive as they peer inside at its cute interior.
Well? It’s strangely endearing with that Suzuki charm that transcends normal driving dynamics. It is a great feeling driving along watching the reaction of people as their heads swing inexorably your way. It cheers the day and sends them glassy-eyed to their memories of open top jeeps they hired on holiday to ply the roads of Spain, Greece and France. It’s just that sort of car.
I love the new look, which is unashamedly boxy, well-proportioned and Jeep-like with a capital J.
The inside is different from most SUVs with the most made of limited space. It is a bit austere but better for it with a stripped back minimalist feel. There is no boot to speak of with just millimetres to spare between the back door and the rear seats, which are comfy enough.
The dash is just fine and features the now familiar touchscreen and specification is exceptional. Expect climate control, satnav, Bluetooth, LED lights, heated seats and door mirrors, 15in alloys, rear privacy glass, steering wheel mounted controls, DAB radio, cruise control and lane departure warning, to name a few.
Ride and performance are like small 4x4s of yesteryear and the Jimny is strangely nostalgic to drive. It’s not especially refined and the motor is a tad raucous at speed and lacking in power. It feels happier at 60mph than it does 70mph and the ride is hard and bouncy.
The gearbox is challenging but there is a low transfer box for ultra-low speed tasks and the Jimny is remarkable off the road and in the dirt. It even has hill descent control.
It’s not clear cut with the Jimny. If you analyse the way it drives then in some situations – such as motorways – it doesn’t feel entirely comfortable. But somehow it overcomes this shortcoming with a cheery, lovable nature that you simply can’t ignore.
There is also just so much pleasure to be had from being the centre of attention on speech day and in town even if you are sometimes lost for words.
Suzuki Jimny SZ5 Allgrip
Top speed: 90mph
Combined MPG: 41.5
Transmission: Five-speed manual
CO2 g/km: 154
Price: £19,149.00 (including options)