It seems like almost overnight, Suzuki design became funky and fresh again. Sadly for our North American Curbivores, that happened shortly after Suzuki withdrew from the US and Canadian markets. For the rest of us, however, we can enjoy the spoils. Those of us in Japan can enjoy even more.
Earlier today, we looked at the outgoing Jimny. This is the all-new 2019 Jimny, only the fourth generation of Suzuki’s off-roader since its debut in 1970. The fourth iteration is as rugged as the Jimny has always been, riding a ladder-frame chassis and featuring live front and rear axles and a dual-range transfer case.
While there have been some modern additions, including a touchscreen infotainment system, autonomous emergency braking, and four additional airbags (to a total of six), the Jimny is still a refreshingly old-fashioned 4×4. As before, there’s a Kei-class version for the Japanese market that loses the fender flares and features a smaller, 660cc turbocharged three-cylinder engine.
The export model, to be sold in Japan as the Jimny Sierra, now has a 1.5 four-cylinder with 100 hp, mated to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. Dimensions are almost identical to the last Jimny, the new model being an inch shorter, twenty pounds heavier, and just over an inch wider.
The fourth-generation Jimny loses the ever-so-slightly curved look of its predecessor and wholly embraces its heritage, boxy aesthetic. In that respect, it’s like the Mercedes G-Class… if the big Benz cost as much as a Toyota Yaris. If you don’t like the look of the new Jimny, wait 20 years. Although it probably won’t look much different even after the next redesign.
It’s rather sad Americans have missed out on the Suzuki Swift for so long, and even sadder that Canadians endured a Chevrolet Aveo wearing its name. The real Swift has long been one of the most impressive cars in the B-segment, being well-built, economical and fun-to-drive.
The current Swift’s exterior design has only subtly evolved over the past three generations but, while it may look innocuous in photos, it looks very charming in person. The engine lineup consists of a 1.2 four (88 hp, 88 ft-lbs) or a turbocharged 1.0 three (109 hp, 118 ft-lbs).
Even more impressive is the Swift Sport. It borrows the turbocharged 1.4 four from the Vitara crossover, good for 140 hp and 169 ft-lbs. Matched with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission and a curb weight of only around 2000 pounds, the Swift Sport is a delightful, rorty little hot hatch that can hit 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. The most impressive part is how Suzuki managed to shed 286 lbs of weight with this latest generation.
The Baleno sits above the Swift in the Suzuki line-up. While it looks bigger than the Swift, it’s only around six inches longer and roughly the size of a Ford Fiesta. Perhaps because of its country of origin – it’s manufactured by Suzuki’s Indian subsidiary, Maruti Suzuki – it’s a tad more conservative than Japanese Suzukis. Interestingly, Maruti Suzuki exports the Baleno throughout the world, even to Japan.
This is my favorite Suzuki design: the Ignis. I’m starting to see a lot of them around town and they look fantastic in the metal. The upswept beltline is reminiscent of Suzuki Frontes and Cervos from the 1970s but this is one example where a retro throwback design actually looks better than its forebears. It’s also a lot more interesting than other cars in its segment.
It’s marketed as a crossover even though it looks like a tall hatch and is almost identical in dimensions to the Mitsubishi Mirage. However, there is the option of all-wheel-drive. There’s only one engine available, Suzuki’s 1.2 four mated to a five-speed manual transmission or a CVT.
While the 2005-vintage Grand Vitara trudges on with no sign of a replacement, the Vitara nameplate (sans Grand) is now used on a subcompact crossover roughly the size of a Honda HR-V. Its styling mightn’t seem too far out of the norm but Suzuki allows you to customize your Vitara more than other crossovers, with your choice of various two-tone paint treatments and colorful interior trim.
Based on the less funky S-Cross (which replaced the SX4), the Vitara is no longer the off-road warrior the old Vitara/Escudo/Sidekick/Tracker was but you can still option it with Suzuki’s ALLGRIP 4WD system. There’s also the option of a turbocharged “Boosterjet” 1.4 four-cylinder from the Swift Sport, providing a decent bump in power from the standard, naturally-aspirated 1.6 four.
While those of us outside of North America have this wide range of Suzuki models to choose from, Japanese consumers have even more.
Suzuki is a huge player in the Japanese kei car market, being the first Japanese automaker to offer a kei-class car, and offers myriad cars in this segment including the Spacia, Wagon R, and the pictured Wagon R Stingray (yes, really). These follow the common tall-box aesthetic of kei cars that lends itself so well to packaging. There are a couple of Suzuki keis, however, that look a little different.
One of them is the Lapin, the name being the French word for rabbit. Since the first generation debuted in 2002, the Lapin line has had the same boxy, retro hatchback look, somewhat reminiscent of a modern-day Renault 4.
It has a bright and airy interior, comes in a range of funky pastel colors, and is apparently very popular with Japanese women.
The related Alto treads a very different stylistic past. Where the Lapin is cute, the Alto is a touch more aggressive, representing a marked change from decades of inoffensively-styled models wearing this nameplate.
Nowhere is that more apparent than on the Alto Works. Dusting off the celebrated Works nameplate – as seen in Gran Turismo 2 – the new Alto Works features various cosmetic enhancements, firmer suspension, Recaro seats, and a standard, five-speed, short-throw manual transmission.
It’s a kei car so displacement and power is limited – 64 hp and 74 ft-lbs from a turbocharged 660cc three-pot – but it’s apparently a real hoot to drive. There’s even the option of all-wheel-drive.
There’s also the Hustler and its bigger, non-kei companion the XBee (pronounced “cross-bee”).
These two offer Mini Countryman-esque crossover styling, the larger XBee using the same Heartect platform as the Ignis, Swift and Baleno and using their optional 1.0 turbo triple with an exclusive mild-hybrid system.
There are other Suzukis sold throughout the world, like the SX4-replacing S-Cross and the Celerio city car and various Indian and Indonesian-specific models. None of them are bad cars but they aren’t quite as funky as Suzukis like the Ignis and Alto Works.
Tell me: do you feel like you’re missing out?