The Jimny is back in Light Commercial Vehicle format. We tried it in the wild…
By Nic Cackett / Tuesday, August 17, 2021 / Loading comments
Let your enthusiasm get the better of you in the Jimny LCV, and there’s a fair chance it will choose to warn you about excessive sway. Which is somewhat ironic when you consider that the Jimny is in perpetual motion from the moment you climb aboard. Give your hips the faintest waggle when stationary and the ladder chassis and elongated springs will cheerily mimic the gesture. So palpable is the leeway granted by the fixed-axle suspension that the Jimny was probably the least tacked-down car you could buy when it launched at the end of 2018.
This did nothing to temper anyone’s enthusiasm. The Jimny already enjoyed a healthy cult following, and Suzuki embellished the popularity of previous generations with a cleverly squared-off appearance for the newest one. People said it looked like a downscaled G-Wagen. This was rather wishful thinking on their part, although undeniably the Jimny ran counter to the current vogue for compact SUVs, which requires that they all look like raked blancmanges.
Partly as a consequence, Suzuki had trouble keeping up with demand. And then last year they gave up trying. Turns out the Jimny’s modest 101hp 1.5-litre petrol engine was punching an immodest hole in Suzuki’s fleet CO2 average, so the dinky off-roader had to go. Or it had to take a timeout, at any rate, while its maker boned up on its EU vehicle definitions. Lo and behold it discovered Category N1, which doesn’t merely access the more lenient regulations that cover commercial vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, it also removes any obligation for the manufacturer to add its CO2 contribution to its fleet total. Who knew!
Thus we get the Jimny LCV. It is tempting at this point to pause and consider all the other cars that might have been turned into Light Commercial Vehicles to save them from an untimely demise, but let’s not get sidetracked. Suffice it to say that any hatchback would likely have been fair game, as Suzuki only had to go to the trouble of removing the Jimny’s back seats and fitting the kind of fixed bulkhead that vans get to prevent any cargo from ruining the afternoon of anyone sat upfront.
Apparently there is 863 litres of space on offer now, which sounds like a lot until you consider that even a humble Ford Fiesta Sport Van delivers 960 litres and a 1,283mm load length. Suzuki has had to move the Jimny’s front seats forward very slightly just to provide the 900mm needed to qualify as a commercial vehicle. And it has retained the rear windows that make filling the car to the roof a rather precarious idea. Not that you’ll be doing that with anything heavy anyway because the LCV’s payload is limited to 150kg. The Fiesta will accommodate half a tonne.
So right out of the gate it’s not much of a van in the traditional sense. Which is a shame because the utilitarian vibe suits the Jimny predictably well. Some of the more questionable fixtures and fittings that limited its appeal as a passenger car can now be deemed just the kind of scratchy, super-robust plastic you need when there’s work to do. Ditto the absence of an infotainment screen and the reliance on simple, analogue dials and physical switchgear. With allowances for air con, cruise control and a DAB stereo, the LCV wants to appear as rudimentary as a clockwork radio. Which is at the very heart of its appeal.
On the road, of course, the Jimny would lose a foot race to the Sport Van in virtually every scenario imaginable. Its four-cylinder petrol unit remains unencumbered by turbochargers, which means it is disinclined to endow the LCV with much in the way of performance. Even if it did, you’d be reluctant to chase it much, given the wanton springiness of the happy-go-lucky ladder chassis. You must be content going everywhere at the Jimny’s pace, which treats the national limit as a distant target.
Realistically, the only way to justify the LCV is to do what it was made to do, and head off-road. The Jimny’s reputation in the UK is founded on its faculty for green lane work, and in this regard no Fiesta can touch it. Pause a moment to work the mechanical transfer box lever and engage 4H, and you’re ready for pretty much anything that will fit under 210mm of ground clearance or cling to its 15-inch Bridgestone Dueler H/T tyres.
Much like it did in the passenger car version, and much as it does in an old Defender, a muddy byway makes immediate sense of the Jimny’s rough-and-ready underparts. It is very satisfying to feel the rigid axles plodding up and down in search of better surface contact, or mete out exactly the right amount of power from an obviously atmospheric engine, or wind on just the right amount of lock on a dutifully slow steering rack. Any modern all-wheel-drive compact SUV would plough a righteous furrow through the same byway mud, but none would let you do it with a rubbery five-speed manual, or so brilliantly telegraph the available grip through the pedals.
The LCV, by virtue of its spartan interior, works to amplify all of these sensations while alleviating the previous suspicion that the car should probably be a bit quieter or more accommodating. Who cares about the gearbox whine when there’s a job to do? Moreover, it is hard not to revel in the back-to-basics aura of it all, or the obvious suitability of the Jimny’s tiny footprint when tackling lanes more commonly used by trail bikes. Obviously there are limits to the car’s off-road prowess – the option of low-range gearing will only get you so far – but the sensation of being in it together and relying on your own judgement rather than blithely charging at obstacles as you would in any modern Land Rover delivers its own kind of reward.
Does this help make the LCV an effective Light Commercial Vehicle? Not really. Its use case is still too obviously limited by attributes that would otherwise be regarded as virtues: the Jimny is too small and lightweight for seriously demanding activities, even away from tarmac. Perhaps if your loadspace requirements were very modest and your off-road requirement extensive you might consider it – but you’d still have to make peace with the car’s asthmatic performance on-road at some point. Any number of second-hand serious 4x4s would do a superior all-round job.
On the other hand if you have nowhere to get to very quickly, or enjoy taking a rarely used scenic route, or have a couple of dogs to walk somewhere remote, the LCV is arguably just the ticket. It makes so few concessions to what 2021 expects of a compact SUV that it’s hard not to love it a little. What it lacks in creature comforts or power output it amply makes up for in off-beat, mud-chewing character. Clearly a sizeable audience were already convinced by the merit of the Jimny way – if anything, the LCV does it better.
SPECIFICATION | SUZUKI JIMNY LCV
Engine: 1,462cc, naturally aspirated 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm
Top speed: 90mph
MPG: 41.5 (NEDC, passenger version)
CO2: 154g/km (NEDC, passenger version)
Price: £16,796 (£19,999 with VAT)
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