The demand for large family-oriented SUVs has skyrocketed in the recent past. This sparked a chain reaction, forcing the automotive industry to mint iterations of similar SUVs to chase sales figures. This uptick in demand has birthed categories like crossover SUVs, Compact SUVs, and of course, the Luxury SUV.

The entire concept of a sports utility vehicle has also shifted slightly, from being rugged, functional, and cheap to run, they are now bathed in expensive materials and tech, usually used to ferry passengers around cities in complete luxury, comfort, and silence. So in a world where even the Land Rover Defender has become a bit of a status symbol, the Suzuki Jimny seems to have hit the sweet spot for many enthusiasts. The Jimny, with its compact but immediately recognizable design, has left its potential customer base charmed.

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Is The Suzuki Jimny Really Worth The Hype?

Suzuki Jimny action shot
Suzuki media
The Suzuki Jimny cruising on a motorway 

The Suzuki Jimny represents a dying breed of minimal, short, and highly capable 4x4 off-roaders aimed directly at true enthusiasts. It has a classic body-on-frame design with a ladder on frame chassis. This coupled with solid beam axles on both ends, makes the Jimny more durable but also allows for easy modifications, especially since this has become synonymous with off-roading.

The short wheelbase of the Jimny makes it nimble and reactive over tough angles, and although the rather cute 1.5-liter engine producing 101 horsepower may feel like bringing a retractable knife to a gunfight, its weight of 2,400 pounds gives it just enough horsepower per ton to make it a fun off-roading experience.

Suzuki Jimny main
Front three-quarters shot of a blue Suzuki Jimny

All in all, with a small and durable body, ladder-frame chassis, its AllGrip Pro 4x4 system mated to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic - The Suzuki Jimny offers an unadulterated and stripped-down experience that only true enthusiasts would recognize. It is, in many ways, comparable to the Jeep Wrangler, arguably the only other short wheel-base offroading experience within financial reach.

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Suzuki Jimny Vs. Jeep Wrangler, Which One Would You Pick?

Red Jeep Wrangler
A front shot of a Jeep Wrangler crossing a shallow stream

While glossing over the various specifications between these two 4x4s, it becomes apaprent that they both belong to two very different brackets, under the umbrella of good and cheap off-roaders. The Jeep Wrangler has a 3.6 liter V-6 engine that produces about 281 horsepower with 255 pound-feet of torque. Looking at just the engine specifications, one may think that the Jeep is twice the car, but it is also, twice the money. The Suzuki Jimny, if officially on sale in the U.S., would cost a buyer approximately $14,500, just about half the asking price of a Jeep Wrangler which starts around $30,000.

You can also argue that under specific conditions, the Suzuki Jimny may come off as the more capable offroader, especially on steeper terrain. This is mainly due to its superior departure, approach, and break-over angles over the Wrangler. Overall, it is safe to say that, if the Suzuki Jimny was put on sale in the U.S., Jeep would definitely have a lot to worry about. At this price point, it offers a very similar off-roading experience to that of the Jeep Wrangler, and especially in the world of off-roading, cheap, practical, and easy to fix are the words enthusiasts look for.

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Why Can't You Buy A Suzuki Jimny?

Suzuki Jimny front three-quarter shot
Suzuki media
The Suzuki Jimny in a dense forest 

If you are a resident of the U.S., chances are you already know that even the new 2023 Suzuki Jimny will not be made available in showrooms across America. While there may be many speculative reasons for this, one of the most evident ones is that Suzuki simply does not believe in its US market share, especially within a saturated segment. Since Suzuki Auto America filed for bankruptcy in 2012, the with the Japanese automaker ending sales of cars in the U.S. altogether.

In addition to this, the U.S. car market is governed by some of the most stringent safety and emission standards. Regulatory organisations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) closely monitor and enforce these criteria. The Suzuki Jimny, as it is produced, does not meet any of these regulatory standards, although the efficacy of the same as compared to European standards like the NCAP is debatable.

Suzuki Jimny interior
Suzuki media
The small but usable interior of the Suzuki Jimny

For Suzuki to justify the massive monetary liabilities of ensuring that its cars meet these standards, they need to be convinced of the demand, which in reality, simply does not exist in the U.S. market. While it'd certainly appeal to enthusiasts, the lack of mass-market demand itself can be attributed to the general perception that big, loud and fast cars do better in America whereas Suzuki builds cheap, small, light and more often than not, slightly underpowered cars for high-density countries like Japan and India.

On paper, therefore, it simply is not worth the investment for Suzuki, so for now, they’re sticking to prioritizing sales in other countries instead of risking investment against potentially lean returns in the U.S.

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Is It Really Impossible To Buy One?

Suzuki Jimny rear three-quarter view
Suzuki media
The Suzuki Jimny on a tough off road trail 

While a customer living in the U.S. may not be able to buy a new Suzuki Jimny from a showroom, despite Suzuki’s partnership with Toyota, there are ways in which you can acquire a Jimny, should the inevitable intervention of the law seem worth the effort. There are listings in the used car market that advertise the sale of the Suzuki Jimny at a massive and unchecked premium over its original price anywhere else in the world. However, it remains unclear how these garages have managed to procure the same. It is rumored that some car dealers have resorted to buying the Suzuki Jimny in North Mexico and bringing it into the country.

It is, however, not advisable to go down this road, mainly because the paperwork for these “imports” are going to be a sketchy nightmare, but also because you will never get to drive your Jimny on the road. They simply don’t comply with U.S. standards and will always be subject to immediate seizure as soon as you get onto a public road. In addition to this, the price ceiling on these counterfeit Jimnys completely nullifies the main USP of the car - its affordability. Some Suzuki Jimnys have been listed as a Suzuki Samurai at almost twice the price of the original car. It would be almost criminal to pay a premium for a car that thrives on getting the most bang for your buck. The other route ofcourse would be to get a classic JDM example that is over 25 years old instead.

So for the time being, as a consequence of statistics and finances, Jeep can continue to enjoy its steadily rising share in the rugged off-roader market, but it will surely keep a keen eye on the success of the Suzuki Jimny across the rest of the world. The day Suzuki decides that the US market is worth the risk, rest assured, one of the first cars they will put on sale in the US will likely be the Jimny. You never know; they do say good things come to those who wait.