The Suzuki Jimny is motoring’s mouse-that-roared, a mighty atom, a small wonder, a midget gem. There is nothing else quite like it on or – better still – off the road.

We spent a week in the little Japanese 4x4, reacquainting ourselves with this mini-masterstroke of functionally-honest design and robust engineering. There was no opportunity to hit the dirt, but I have previously put this car through its paces on a truly testing off-road route and it takes on the tough stuff with alacrity. 

The Jimny features a part-time 4WD system with low range transfer gear, which can be easily switched from 2H (2WD-high gear), 4H (4WD-high gear) and 4L (4WD-low gear) modes by a manually operated shift lever directly connected to the transfer gear. 

Compared to the 4H mode, the 4L mode can transfer more torque to the wheels when in lower gears offering better traction on steep slopes and rough terrain.

When two wheels diagonal from each other lose traction, the Jimny’s new-design traction control automatically brakes the slipping wheels to redistribute torque to the other side and allow the car to gain grip.

On the road, you will have to be ready to compromise a little, as the ladder chassis, long-travel suspension and steering designed to minimise whip-back from rocky terrain makes for interesting progress. Just don’t expect sophistication, and you’ll adore it.

I certainly do. For, there is something about this plucky little car that wins both hearts and minds. And I’m not alone as a raft of awards testifies including Best Budget Apocalypse Survival Tool from BBC Top Gear Magazine and the latest one, Best-Off Roader for 2020, from authoritative motoring handbook Parkers.

Asian Image:

Perhaps the best vote of confidence in the Jimny is a total of almost three million sales since launch in 1970. 

The car’s robust qualities are signalled by its strong, square design, with a simple retro appeal which has undoubtedly extended its range of admirers, including hip urban types to the roster of rural fans.

The unfussy styling aids driving too, as more upright A-pillars and a flat clamshell bonnet enhance visibility from the windscreen, while the dipped driver and passenger window lines provide a good view from the side windows.

No Jimny is badly equipped, with entry-level SZ4 versions getting the likes of air conditioning, cruise control, electric front windows, automatic lights, fog lamps, Bluetooth connectivity and, of course, four-wheel drive.

Upgrade to SZ5 trim (our test car) and you add features including 15in alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, LED headlights, climate control, heated front seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and a touchscreen infotainment system.

Asian Image:

The former 1.3-litre engine has been replaced by a 99bhp 1.5-litre petrol unit, giving a top speed of 90mph and fuel consumption of 41mpg (maker’s figures). It delivers higher torque than its predecessor with ample torquey-muscle available at low revs which enhances driving performance off-road where a low engine speed is often needed. Our car had five-speed manual transmission, and an automatic is available.

Safety features include dual sensor brake support, and lane departure warning and weaving alert function which help the driver stay alert, while high-beam assist supports courteous night-driving by automatically switching the high and low beams at speeds of 25mph and above.

The inside story is one of charming functionality. The cabin has room for four but luggage space is titchy. The load area can be expanded by folding the rear seats, creating a 377-litre luggage space which is 53 litres larger than its predecessor.

The rear seats fold fully flat and the backs of those seats and the luggage space floor are coated with plastic for easy removal of dirt or stains. There are five hook points fitted on each side under the quarter windows along with four luggage hooks around the floor area for flexible usage of load space

The Jimny is the only authentic off-roader that is small and lightweight, but still retains its core dirt-digging performance. In an increasingly bland motoring world it is a beacon of highly-usable individuality.

Prices: From £18,749.