Semper etubique. All-wheel-drive vehicles, always and everywhere, have made Japanese car brands known worldwide. What Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi with large off-roaders already succeeded shortly after the Korean War, wanted Suzuki repeat 50 years ago with a 2,98 meter short minivan. To this end, the successful small car manufacturer bought an off-road concept of the financially failed Japanese manufacturer Hope and developed from it the first Suzuki Jimny LJ. A jeep-like (LJ = Light Jeep) field hobby for leisure, forestry and military, which peacefully conquered the whole globe in the 1970er years and is built on various evolutionary stages to this day.
From 1980 onwards, under the advertising slogan "Oops, now I come!", The Jimny sparked a hype in Germany that the all-wheel drive scene had not thought possible. Suzuki temporarily became the largest off-road brand in Germany and made the off-road success model the founder of an entire 4 × 4 family. These include cool boxes such as the early Vitara as a pioneer in SUV and the current Ignis as the first micro SUV, but also weird crossover types à la Vitara X-90, confidently advertised by Suzuki under the slogan: "Love it or leave it."
It was Jimny who made Suzuki the largest minicar manufacturer in the world. Like the forefather of all modern off-road vehicles, the American jeep, the Jimny still relies on ladder frames, leaf-sprung rigid axles and switchable all-wheel drive with off-road reduction - now in its fifth generation. The secret of success of the Suzuki also includes the puristic design and the ultra-short dimensions, because at less than three meters in length and 1,30 meters in width, the Jimny LJ 10 and LJ 20 were the first four-wheel drive vehicles to correspond to the so-called kei car, which is legally privileged in Japan until 1975 -Great. But the further development of the Jimny LJ 80, with which Suzuki started 30 years ago in Germany, hardly required more floor space than the original versions of the tiny Fiat 500 or Mini.
And just like these cult small cars, the LJ 80 became a favorite of young people and women thanks to its almost cute design language. To which the nicknames Jipsy and Eljot created by Suzuki contributed as well as the advertising in comic form, above all fantastic stories like the Grand Prix of Matschhausen: “Helmet on! With a few simple steps, Lothar Lehmann transforms his wife's shopping car into a rally-ready off-road vehicle ... 800 cc, 39 hp, 3,17 meters short, 825 kg light ... In front of and next to him, the powerful engines of the bulky off-road vehicles roar. And off we go, but some are too long, some are too heavy and others are fated! ” With the mediation of joie de vivre and open-air lifestyle at a price that was unrivaled at the time, it was easy for the LJ 80 and the somewhat larger successors SJ 410 (from 1982) and SJ 413 (from 1984) on the European all-wheel drive and convertible market to drive forward. Affordable convertibles were almost extinct in the early 1980s. The inexpensive Suzuki roof carriers immediately hit the mark - provided that their crew did not fail due to the tedious procedure of removing the tarpaulin and roof frame.
Who does not remember the film spot from 1986, in which an Audi quattro climbed a steep ski jump? A performance that the Suzuki SJ 410 achieved in print advertising five years earlier. Under the slogan "Where there is a Suzuki SJ 410 there is a way", the co-pilot asks: "Erich, did you also switch to all-wheel drive?" Erich very cool: "Why, the road is dry." : "Daddy, we have now dropped the sports car from Italy." Which was only possible on the hill, because Germany's most popular off-road vehicle at that time was very difficult to speed up to 110 km / h. Which is why the SJ 1985, which was introduced in 413, had almost a performance increased by 50 percent to 47 kW / 64 PS, just enough to keep up with the traffic.
Really acceptable temperament offered only the 1988 introduced evolutionary stage SJ Samurai. But announced another problem with the samurai. The SUV came in the US in a debate about overturning in evasive maneuvers and accidents. Suzuki was able to avert a sustained damage caused by the rapid presentation of the larger and safe model Vitara. The SJ Samurai, however, received only 1998 a successor - in the form of the current Jimny generation. For the first time, the small off-road vehicle can now officially call Jimny in Germany. Maybe a good omen for the seemingly ever-young off-roader, who has remained without any serious competitors until today.
The situation is different with the Vitara, which was introduced in 1988 as the first SUV from Suzuki under the motto "All you need is life". Lifestyle and chic shapes for trips across city boulevards or to the mountain hut, that's what the Vitara stands for four generations and almost 30 years later. As with other SUVs, all-wheel drive is only available as an option today, but initially the off-road qualities of the Vitara with ladder frame, switchable 4 × 4 drive and reduction gear were just as unique as its overall victory in 1996 in the legendary Pikes Peak mountain race in the USA.
In essence, Suzuki has always focused on its role as the world's largest Minicar brand, but this does not exclude occasional escapades. About 2003, when the Vitara was stretched to almost five meters and mutated into the Grand Vitara XL-7. The right drive: An 135 kW / 184 PS strong, but thirsty 2,7-liter V6. Even diagonal detours the Vitara never shied away. So he drove 1995 as a two-seat X-90 in the limelight and at the same time in a dead end. With shrill colors, indicated streamline, removable T-Roof and bold rear spoiler, the X-90 showed all SUV competitors, which brand has the most creative expertise in compact four-wheel drive models. "Certainly not for everyone," the ad rightly said. In the end, it was too few who "prefer to swim against the tide".
A fate that did not have to fear the complacent four-wheeler SX4 from 2006 and its 2013-launched modern successor SX4 S-Cross, these compact crossover yet meet the mass taste. Which ultimately also applied to the striking mini-crossover Ignis, the 2001 was launched and initially even achieved considerable rally successes. The first two Ignis generations as well as the SX4 were produced for the European market in Hungary. In contrast, offered since January 2017 third Ignis is again a real Japanese, which is perhaps reflected in the forms of this 3,70 meter short micro-SUVs. The design quotes past kei-car heroes, who are hardly known to Europeans, but who made Suzuki the greatest constructor of small climbing artists.
(Tungsten nickel / SP-X)