PROJECT CARS: Meet Project Jimny (aka ‘Tina’)

Meet ‘Tina’ – another cult car, in the iconic, boxy, diminutive Defender shape of a Suzuki Jimny – our latest, neatest, tiniest member of the Road Magazine fleet, aptly named by the Road Magazine child testing department, obvs.

She’s here to provide reliable, sensible, fun, all-weather family car transport, replacing the unreliable, non-sensical, fun, fair weather, middle-aged-man car transport, Project 944, who is with us no more.

But, such is the immense character, charm and charisma of Tina, not one of the family misses the idiosyncratic, ageing, money pit Porsche. In fact, we all much prefer the cool and capable cult car that is our Suzuki Jimny JLX+ – which is nice.

Why Jimny? Well, with the forth generation Jimny now hitting the showrooms, we felt the time was right to pick up a car we’ve wanted for eons, since falling in love with them seeing them dotted all over our beloved Greek island of Corfu, often in quirky rag-top form.

What’s the appeal… I hear some rude, uneducated readers ask? Well, to understand (without driving one on Corfu’s dusty gravel, or across a boggy field in France, or up a muddy green lane in Blighty) you need to grasp a few basic Jimny facts.

  1. What is now brand Jimny started in 1970 and ran to 1981 as the utilitarian, lightweight, uncompromising LJ10, JL20 & then SJ10. This evolved into the second generation SL20, SJ30 & SJ40, running to 1998 and introducing the Jimny name. The third gen car has run, pretty much unchanged for two decades, making it the micro 4×4 with go (literally almost) anywhere credentials legend that’s now become one of the world’s longest running production vehicles, selling millions globally.
  2. Laugh at it at your peril in your lardy Landy, elongated, over-sized pick-up or indeed any off-roader. All lighter and agile Jimnys are pukka 4x4s with a ladder type chassis, dual-ratio transfer case, proper differential and switchable transmission, default in 2WD rear-drive, with 4WD high-range and 4WD-L low-range at the pull of a lever/ push of a button.
  3. Since the 1998 generation three was born (of which Tina is the range-topping JLX+, with part leather, air con, alloys, electric windows, tinting, roof rails, power steering, power-adjustable exterior mirrors etc.), the car created a class all of its own as a mini SUV with genuine off-roading ability to rival much bigger, more expensive and legendary mud-pluggers, even like the mighty Defender it echoes.
  4. Brand Jimny is about to go gigantically global off the back of modern Suzuki (Ant & Dec-backed) car sales, with the ice cool, still true to its roots 4×4 core DNA forth generation. But it’s a different beast, loaded with tech & infotainment. To us, the third generation is the epitome and essence of Jimny – simplicity itself.

We bought ours at local 4×4 specialists Ben Kemp – who could not have been more helpful to be honest, and have a ton of quality 4x4s of all the usual suspects in stock. And they prepped the Jimny with a full MOT and full service and pre delivery inspection via their own workshop and MOT test bay facilities. Best of all, there’s a trick steering damper fitted that eliminates the Jimny’s jelly-mould-wobble driving experience, making it far far nicer – and safer – to drive. That’s product knowledge and customer service for you.

Naturally, me being me, within a few days of ownership, we’ve further enhanced our purchase…

First up? Is there a K&N panel filter in? Yup. And does it make a difference, even on a teeny little 1.3-litre, 16V, 85bhp lump like Tinas? You bet it does… enhancing the rate of acceleration, improving the throttle response and maybe even releasing a pony or two, even VS a brand new stock filter Kemps fitted. Just look at the difference in thickness, material (K&N is cotton, not paper) & design over standard OEM equipment…

The simplicity of Tina’s air box design also made fitting the K&N the simplest swap I have ever done – four clips and bosh, done! Magic. It took longer to unwrap the parcel the K&N came in than it did to fit it and liberate a few bhp. Fabulous.

Best of all, our K&N is guaranteed for 1,000,000 miles – which, much as I love our Tina, is highly unlikely to happen. But we can certainly count on high air flow with exceptional filtration – for up to 50,000 miles before any cleaning is needed and it’s a lifetime unit, with proper cleaning.

So, our renewable air filter is as green as the lanes Jimny will be gracing…

Speaking of green lanes. Our Jimny may well be at home in such an environment with its low weight, hardcore suspension and proper 4WD system… but, as with any car, whatever its chosen habitat, it’s only ever as good as the rubber making contact with the ground below…

Enter Falken, and our choice of all-terrain, LANDAIR LA A/T T110 – proper rubber.

The tech boffins at Falken carve their rubber designs through extensive testing and research, in harsh, uncompromising environments – like the Nordschleife, for their race and road rubber. And in the deepest, darkest woods, longest beaches, ruttiest rock tracks and beyond for their off-road and SUV offerings.

Speaking about their LANDAIR A/T T110 – designed for outstanding wet and dry performance – they say the tyre offers:

  • Great dry handling and responsive wet braking on all roadway surfaces
  • High-precision on-road response and directional stability
  • Improved noise emission
  • Superb mileage and even wear life

The tyres are also loaded with a host of Falken-specific tyre technology, like symmetrical tyre tread, silica-rich count compound and abrasion resistant sidewalls, reaping a whole host of benefits like…

What this all translates to on the road is quite remarkable. Tina came with A/T rubber from more expensive “premium brand” manufacturers – two different types, in good condition as it goes. And our so called “mid-range” Falken tyre out-performs them, hands down.

Ride quality is the most noticeable initial difference – with the Falken rubber being quieter and more comfortable.

But the rewards keep on coming.

The silica-rich compound tech, stiffer sidewalls and the cool-as-ice symmetrical tread pattern create such incredible contact with the road surface, grip levels – wet, dry, icy and snowy tested so far – are massively improved.

Tina also now changes direction far, far better that she ever did (or even has a right too TBH) and feels like she’s sitting up, stiffer, more agile and yet comfier and more refined (relatively speaking… it is a Jimny!) too. Superb.

Just the off-roading test to come… but that’s another story for another day.

For now, I’m off to enjoy another drive in Tina… a vehicle that really brings a smile to your face and you relish the prospect of hopping up in and look forward to driving… far, far more than some ratty old Porsche it has to be said.

Happy days.


Falken Tyres

K&N Air Filters UK

Ben Kemp 4×4