Suzuki has announced a starting price of $23,990 for the market's tiniest 'proper' four-wheel drive. Expect waiting lists to grow...

The 2019 Suzuki Jimny with its retro styling and hardcore four-wheel drive credentials is launching now, priced from a reasonable $23,990 before on-road costs with a manual, and another $2000 for the automatic.

That's pretty sharp considering the Jimny starts at £15,499 pounds in the UK ($27,960)

At least 320 cars from the 1100-unit allocation for 2019 (Queensland excluded, given it has a separate Suzuki distributor) are spoken for, and the waiting list is expected to top 12 months before supply headaches out of the Japanese factory begin to ease.

This plant can only make 60,000 units per year and is already working overtime to supply ravenous markets at home, and across Europe and Asia, as well as ours.

One of the Jimny’s major selling points is the fact it remains a proper body-on-frame, rigid-axle off-roader with low-range gearing that sets it apart from every other small SUV on sale.

It’s also the first all-new Jimny since 1998, given its predecessor’s 20-year life span. This pair both hark back to the SJ (Sierra) sold between 1981 and 1998, which in turn followed the LJ sold between 1970 and 1981.

Indeed, elements of the Jimny’s styling reflects all three of these, specifically the LJ headlights, SJ bonnet and Mk1 Jimny grille.

This new model is in fact 30mm shorter (3645mm) than before on the same wheelbase (2250mm), reducing those pesky overhangs even more and giving it approach (37 degrees), departure (49 degrees) and break over (28 degrees) angles few can match. Clearance is also up, to 210mm, and body width is up by 45mm.

The little boxy body has more zinc-coating, and still sits on a ladder frame, replete with a few more cross-members and an x-shaped brace to improve torsional stiffness.

It also has an old school three-link rigid axle suspension system that has a 30 per cent stiffer housing, and a part-time four-wheel drive system with manually-engaged 4H and 4L (low-range) gear sets.

In lieu of a locking differential there’s a brake limited-slip differential function to stop wheels spinning freely and redirects torque to where traction is possible. There’s also a hill-descent control and a hill-hold system for the manual versions.

In an era here every other small SUV is a monocoque, and usually front-wheel drive, this is a real point of difference.

Engine-wise, the old 1.3-litre petrol engine has been flicked in favour of a multi-point injected 1.5L, making 75kW at 6000rpm and 130Nm at 4000rpm. This is matched to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic, both of which look a little like throwbacks.

Clearly it’s no rocket ship, though the 1075kg kerb weight means the engine doesn’t have much mass to move around. Fuel consumption is a claimed 6.4L/100km for the manual and 6.9L/100km for the auto and the tank is 40L.

The upright interior sports front seats with 70mm wider cushion frames, that slide back 45mm further than before. That said, there’s not seat height adjustment or steering-column telescopic adjustment. There are also two rear seats, which fold flat to take cargo space from a pointless 85 litres to 377L.

Equipment levels are reasonable for the outlay, including a 7.0-inch touchscreen with reversing camera display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satellite navigation, cruise control, LED headlights, 15-inch alloy wheels and rear privacy glass.

Safety-wise, beyond the unflattering three-star ANCAP crash score, there are six airbags, autonomous emergency braking controlled by camera/laser inputs (though you should watch this video), lane-departure warning and aid, and automatic high-beam headlights.

There are six colours to choose from: Kinetic Yellow (black roof), Brisk Blue (black roof) and Chiffon Ivory (black roof), or Jungle Green, Medium Grey and Superior White with matching roofs.

If you service the Jimny at a Suzuki dealer, you get capped-price servicing with six-month intervals, and a five-year warranty.

2019 Suzuki Jimny pricing

  • $23,990 manual
  • $25,990 auto

All prices exclude on-road costs.

Tech specs

  • Engine: 1.5 petrol 75kW/130Nm
  • Transmissions: 5MT or 4AT
  • Fuel economy: 6.4-6.9L/100km
  • Fuel tank: 40L
  • Length: 3645mm
  • Width: 1645mm
  • Height: 1725mm
  • Wheelbase: 2250mm
  • Kerb weight: 1075-1090kg
  • Ground clearance: 210mm
  • Approach angle: 37 degrees
  • Departure angle: 49 degrees
  • Break over angle: 28 degrees
  • Construction: Body-on-ladder-frame
  • 4WD system: Part-time with 4H/4L
  • Brakes: Disc front, drum rear