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Road tests

New Suzuki Jimny by Twisted review

The new Suzuki Jimny by Twisted is expensive, but it provides enormous amounts of fun

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

Of all the adjectives that could describe the Suzuki Jimny by Twisted, “sensible” would be right at the bottom of the pile. By almost any measure you can think of, this is a silly car, but the world is all the better for it existing. The looks, the noise and the finish of the cabin will be more than enough for some buyers to just fall in love with it. It’s pricey, but we’re unlikely to have more fun behind the wheel of another car all year.

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At Auto Express, we tend to think that we’re pretty pragmatic when it comes to our car reviews. We want to offer diligent car buyers and devoted readers alike sensible advice on whether a car is practical, competent on the road, and good value for money.

Sometimes, though, we need to throw all of that out of the window, and focus on how fit a car is for its intended purpose – even if that purpose is pretty daft. And this is very much one of those occasions. 

Meet the Suzuki Jimny by Twisted. The North Yorkshire-based firm famous for modernising and glamourising Land Rover Defenders has now turned its customisation hand to the smaller (but no less rugged) 4x4. In standard form, the Jimmy has some fantastic qualities, but also quite a few flaws – many of which add to its charm. Twisted has sought to improve upon many of the latter while maintaining what makes the standard car such a unique machine.

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The mini Mercedes G-Wagen look has been toughened up on the outside thanks to a set of Twisted’s own 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in beefy 215-section BF Goodrich off-road tyres. If you prefer a little more precision, then road tyres will be offered. Elsewhere on the outside, the front grille and door mirrors are finished in body colour, and our test car featured some Twisted decals to make the little Jimny even more of a head-turner. A Twisted Yorkshire plaque is added to the tailgate – perhaps the most understated of all the upgrades.

But it’s the cabin that gets the most dramatic glow-up. Many of the cheap and scratchy plastic surfaces on the dashboard and door trims have been retrimmed in soft, quilted leather, and the same goes for the seats. The steering wheel has a new leather-trimmed boss which gains the Twisted branding, and the headlining is now black Alcantara. There’s only so much that some lavishly trimmed grab handles can achieve in the Suzuki’s workmanlike cockpit, but in a way that makes all the effort that Twisted has gone to all the more amusing.

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It’s not all for show, though. Behind all the new hide, there’s extra soundproofing in order to improve refinement on the move, while a double-DIN touchscreen, complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto has been installed. Our test vehicle is based on the Jimny Commercial, so there are no back seats. The bulkhead behind the front seats has been removed, so in effect you just get a two-seater with a big boot.

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On the road, the standard Jimny has a number of flaws. It’s slow, it’s vague, and it isn’t the most stable thing to drive. It doesn’t take long to see that each of those areas has been given attention, and the Jimny has become even more enjoyable for it. 

While lift kits will become available at a later date, for now there are two suspension upgrades that help the driving experience. The key one is a new rear anti-roll bar. As standard, the Jimny doesn’t have one at all, and that can be felt through corners as the outer rear wheel loads up heavily through a turn, effectively taking some mass away from the front inner corner. The new setup adds noticeably more stability. 

Bilstein dampers also add a degree of competence in the corners and suppleness to the ride that the standard car lacks. It’s no Caterham on a B-road or 7 Series along the straights, but the changes make small, positive steps.

The off-road tyres certainly add a little vagueness and squirm to the steering, but only so much of the blame can be placed on the rubber. In the standard Jimny, turning into a corner requires one movement to wait for the steering to take up a little slack, and another to actually direct the car through. Blame the recirculating ball steering – it helps reduce kickback on difficult off-road terrain, but it compromises the feel on asphalt. However, Twisted is exploring the possibility of installing a more precise rack-and-pinion setup at a later date. 

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It’s already done more than enough for the engine though, and the route-one approach to adding power has given the Jimny a more distinct character than any other Twisted add-on. Put simply, the 1.5-litre petrol engine has gained a rather chunky turbocharger, which has lifted the power output from the standard 100bhp to 165bhp, slashing the standard 13-14 second 0-62mph time to roughly 8.5 seconds in the process. 

Accelerate, and you’ll initially wonder where the extra shove is. But stick with it, because the turbo boost doesn’t arrive until fairly late – around 3,500rpm – and once it does, the Jimny is fired forward at a fairly startling rate for such a tall, narrow car with a short wheelbase. Shifts through the (exceptionally sweet and precise) standard five-speed gearbox arrive much sooner than you think.

But the performance is a mere sideshow to the noise it makes. Every burst of acceleration is accompanied by the whooshes and chirps that come with forced induction, causing you to giggle with every squeeze and release of the throttle. It’s completely juvenile, but then this car isn’t meant to be sensible.   

Which is something that you need to consider when looking at the price. You’ll need to fork out £49,500 plus VAT for one, which is serious money in anyone’s book. But Twisted knows its market; as well as suiting the rough and ready Yorkshire Dales, its second UK dealership is in Kensington. We can’t think of many cars better suited to London: compact enough to be usable, but eye-catching and distinctive enough to appeal to the wealthy buyers in the area.

Model:Suzuki Jimny by Twisted
Price:£49,500 plus VAT
Engine:1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo
Transmission:Five-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power:165bhp
0-62mph:8.5 seconds (est)
Top speed:N/A
Economy:31mpg (est)
CO2:N/A
On sale:Now
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Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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