The Little Off-Roader That Could
I’m Delighted to Inform You That the New Suzuki Jimny Has Won a Design Award
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The Good Design Awards — which you can think of as Japan’s take on the Red Dot Award — just announced its list of 100 winners for this year, and I am truly delighted to inform you that amongst the winners is the newly redesigned Suzuki Jimny. The Jimny previously had gone a good 20 years without a redesign, and when the fourth generation was revealed earlier this year, it garnered pretty much universal praise for its handsome retro aesthetic. Some even compared it to the Mercedes G-Wagen, a comparison I resent because 1) the Jimny’s design is a clear nod back to the original of the 1970s and not the Mercedes and 2) the G-Wagen has become a status symbol while the Jimny retains its everyman appeal. It’s a good design for the masses, arguably the best kind of good design.
But I digress. The organizers of the Good Design Awards don’t seem to give any specific insight as to why the Jimny, in particular, was bestowed with such an honor, but as a true Jimny Evangelist, I’m willing to offer my own two cents. For one, there’s the fact that this is an accessible car, but more to the point it’s also a very practical one, especially for its size — keep in mind that in Japan the Jimny is marketed as a kei car and thus fits into a very small amount of space. What’s more, the boxy elements of pseudo-retro styling don’t detract from the car’s function as a utility vehicle — if anything they make the most out of the car’s tiny footprint — thus promoting that promoting that grand design ideal of an intrinsic link of form and function.
The fact that the Jimny is winning freaking design awards makes it all the more egregious that it will sell pretty much everywhere in the world save for the United States, a market that Suzuki pulled out of back in 2010 amid slow sales. This is a point recently driven home by a story in Autoblog in which a representative for the brand at the Paris Motor Show simply replied, “no comment,” on whether or not the Jimny would come to the United States.
But if Suzuki were hypothetically going to mount a US comeback, the Jimny would be a great way to do it. Consider the increasing interest in small, two-door off-roaders in the US. The Wrangler is one of the most popular cars here, and automakers like Ford and Land Rover are soon debuting their own small off-road vehicles. What’s more, the Jimny’s compact size and now certifiable design-iness would make it a big ol’ hit with the city-to-mountain crowd (they’d also probably love the optional ’90s-style strip packages they sell in Japan). It’s low price (it starts around $19,300 in the UK) meanwhile, would certainly be appealing to businesses and workers in need of an affordable utility vehicle.
Admittedly the car hasn’t fared the best in Euro NCAP safety ratings, and that might make it a tougher sell, but to the enthusiasts who are pinging for a handsome, capable and humble little 4×4 that would hardly be a deterrent. Unfortunately for us, this seems like it’ll be another car we’ll have to wait 25 years to get our hands on.