Tiny Jimny punches above

its weight

HOW about this for a Suzuki car sales pitch: "We don't put any effort into selling them."

As a bald statement it might drive the car maker's marketing department into a frenzy until you hear the rest of the statement from the mouth of a senior Suzuki person: "We always sell 1,000 of them every year because there's nothing else like it."

When you learn this steady - and apparently easy - seller is Suzuki's tiny but off-road focused Jimny you may begin to understand why there's little reason to push the car into the salesroom spotlight.

For the Jimmy is clearly not a car for everyone. Not for most people, to be honest, but for that loyal band of Jimny believers nothing else will do. No wonder most of them keep their cars for seven or eight years - before swapping for a new one.

This is the sort of loyalty a car maker can normally only dream about, although they'd be happier if the cars were chopped in for new ones a bit sooner, of course.

And there really is nothing like a Jimny to meet a very specific set of requirements. Put simply, a Jimny must drive pretty much like a road-focused car yet cheerily scamper off road at its master or mistress's command.

Crucially, too, it must not cost too much to buy or run. How about £12,999 for starters, which buys a car with pukka four-wheel drive capability, right down to a low ratio gearbox that lets this light and modestly dimensioned machine skip over ruts and wade through streams with the near certain knowledge it will emerge like an eager spaniel; shrugging off the mud and eager for the next challenge.

The Jimny is but part of a Suzuki range that takes in five models with differing degrees of off-road competence, all bearing Allgrip badges on the back but coming with three levels of expertise in the wild.

At the top of the Allgrip tree sits the Jimmy with its ‘Pro' rating, taking in the already mentioned low ratio gears and adding a locking differential - the sort of kit that singles out the truly committed mud plugger.

One down in the Allgrip hierarchy comes ‘Select', which lets the driver put the car (selected Vitara and S-Cross models) into mud or snow settings via rotary controller between the front seats and turn them into the sort of vehicle that will tackle a slippery hill (up or down) without panicking driver and passengers.

Around one in three Vitara and S Cross buyers take their car with the Allgrip option, a figure that drops to fewer than one in ten when we move down the range to Ignis and Swift models, which come with Allgrip ‘Auto'.

This demands no extra actions from the driver but will push drive from front to rear wheels if it detects slipping from the front. It all works so unobtrusively you'd never know anything was happening, but you'd be glad it was there on snowy school run.

But back to the Jimny. Slipping into the driver's seat is almost like entering a time warp, when cars were simpler and smaller. There is a pared down feel to the Jimny's dashboard and not a hint of executive style plushness. Rather, it is solid and simple and feels like it would last forever.

You quickly get used to the lack of width, discovering that there really is enough space between you and your passenger on one side and the door on the other. This intimacy pays off in spades when the rock strewn track ahead narrows to a couple of donkeys' width.

Keeping front and rear wheels close to one another makes the Jimny delightfully maneuverable, the downside is a ride on the rough stuff that quickly turns choppy; you can feel the car urging you to take it easy, please. Good advice, of course, for any off roading.

As well as with its size the Jimny shows its age with a 1.3 litre petrol engine that puts out enough CO2 (162g/km) to earn it a stiff £500 tax slap on first registration and provides modest performance on the smooth stuff.

A top speed of 87mph and 0-62mph time of 14.1 seconds put it firmly in the slow lane - which simply doesn't matter for all the Jimny owners who love their cars. They're also unlikely to be bother by an official fuel consumption of a less than sparkling 39.8mpg.

Every Jimny comes with DAB radio, heated door mirrors and front electric windows. The higher spec SZ4 (£14,299 or £15,299 with automatic transmission) adds air con, leather and cloth front seats, alloy wheels and tinted glass in the rear.

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