THE WRANGLER NEEDS COMPETITION

The Suzuki Jimny Isn’t Sold in the US, and That Really Stinks


December 11, 2018 Cars By Photo by Suzuki
Op-Ed-Suzuki-Jimny-gear-patrol-slide-1
Op-Ed-Suzuki-Jimny-gear-patrol-slide-2
Op-Ed-Suzuki-Jimny-gear-patrol-slide-3
Op-Ed-Suzuki-Jimny-gear-patrol-slide-4
Op-Ed-Suzuki-Jimny-gear-patrol-slide-5
Op-Ed-Suzuki-Jimny-gear-patrol-slide-6
Op-Ed-Suzuki-Jimny-gear-patrol-slide-7
Op-Ed-Suzuki-Jimny-gear-patrol-slide-8
Op-Ed-Suzuki-Jimny-gear-patrol-slide-9
Op-Ed-Suzuki-Jimny-gear-patrol-slide-10

Suzuki abandoned the American car market in 2012. Let’s be honest. You weren’t burning a candle for the Japanese automaker. We won’t quiz you on what models were on offer. The important point is this means there is just about zero chance the new Suzuki Jimny will make an appearance in the United States. That stinks. It’s an awesome car. It could have filled a niche in the American market.

Car folk love the Jimny, with good reason. In a car market that awards mediocrity at everything, the Jimny excels at something. It is a simple, tough, purpose-built off-roader with a true 4×4. It won’t offer the comfort of a Range Rover. But, the little guy will go everywhere a Range Rover can go and a few places where it can’t. It’s built to withstand a mud-splattered beating day-in and day-out for a decade or more.

Normal folk love the Jimny too. It’s cute. It’s boxy. The small off-roader is a proven commodity. About the chicest classic car one can own is a vintage (and probably artfully customized) Land Rover Defender or Toyota Land Cruiser. The Jimny is the closest modern production car in spirit, if not in appearance, to those classics.

There’s a hole in the market for the Jimny. The Jeep Wrangler has no competition. Jeep has ramped up the profit margins by making the Wrangler a de facto luxury car. Sure, you can buy one for under $30,000 if you forego a hard roof and avail yourself of the “air conditioning bypass” option. That cost of entry improves little with age. Wranglers have the highest resale value of any cars in the U.S. What if the Jimny was there to offer similar looks and similar off-road chops for a cut-rate price?

Yes, the Jimny has its flaws. It’s relatively loud. It’s bumpy. The steering is soft. It has no trunk space with the seats up. Even with a curb weight of just 2,400 lbs (less than a Fiat 500), 100hp and 96lb-ft of torque from the 1.5-liter engine are not much. The Jimny will feel somewhere between moderately and woefully underpowered on the highway. That sounds unbearable. That’s also almost the precise description of the base model YJ Wrangler I had in high school, the most fun daily driver I have owned. I say almost because the heat on the Jimny probably works.

So, we have a charming, plucky little off-roader that looks like a Defender, is a beast off the pavement, is as bullet-proof as a Subaru, earns plaudits from critics and commoners and comes in at a low price point. With the right marketing, it’s hard to see how that wouldn’t be successful. Though, if Suzuki knew how to market cars to Americans, they would still be here.

With tariffs and technological change afoot, the present seems about the worst time to re-enter the U.S. car market. American Jimny fans will be left to cruise Instagram and wait 25 years to import one or emigrate.

Read our review of the last-generation Jimny here: The Suzuki Jimny Is the Best Bad Car I’ve Ever Driven

Today in Gear

The best way to catch up on the day’s most important product releases and stories. Read the Story