Jimny history – how we got here (an Australian perspective)

There’s always a lot of divergence of opinion as we look backwards at history, but I wanted to collect a bunch of the articles and things relating to the Australian history of all things tiny Suzuki 4wds. To a large degree a generation 4 Jimny leans heavily on its heritage – not just on its styling, but its underpinnings – so understanding how we got here is useful to understand why things are how they are.

This piece of research leans heavily on journalistic sources of the time. I used the National Library’s wonderful Trove tool to dive back into newspapers and magazines, as well as sourced some physical magazines myself. I have reproduced this work here as fair dealings under Australian copyright for research/study, criticism/review and also they relate to news reporting in newspapers and periodicals. If you believe material you are a copyright holder for has been unfairly reproduced, I can be contacted through the Team Ghetto Racing group on Facebook in the first instance.

This page is very image heavy, but I wanted to reproduce the articles in their basic form; some have had some minor reformatting to make them fit the page better.


Generation 1 (1970-1981)

LJ50/generation 1 Jimny being put through its paces (Modern Motor Magazine, Jan 1975).

The first generation of Jimnys begins in 1970 with the LJ10; I couldn’t find evidence of it directly being brought in but the LJ20 was here in the early 70s, with the official launch of the model coming with the LJ50 in 1975. The larger LJ80 came to round out the model run through to 1981.

Generation 2 (1981-1998)

Generation 2 Jimnys, known as the Sierra, brought larger engines, more performance and more body options to the Jimny (Wheels Magazine, October 1981)

The quest for more power and better road manners was addressed by the update to the generation 2, the Sierra or SJ Jimnys. Staring off with a 1L engine, the engine then grew to 1.3L in 1985; accompanying this more wheelbases and body styles abounded and even a tie-in with Holden to rebadge the Sierra as the Drover occurred. Spanning 17 years, the last 2 years of the run saw an introduction of coil springs producing the ‘coily’; hotly debated amongst Sierra fans are the relative merits of the leafs versus the coils on and off road. This underpinned (quite literally) the transition to generation 3 in 1998.

Generation 3 (1998-2018)

Generation 3 brought a new millenium style and more modern features to the Jimny, and is the longest-lived generation of the car to date (Wheels Magazine, Feb 1999).

Generation 3 represented a style departure from the first 2 generations although with many elements to harken back to the earlier cars. It could also be seen to be a move to directly compete with Toyota’s wildly successful first generation Rav 4. This style departure was underpinned by significant re-engineering underneath, and brought with it more modern safety (airbags, ABS, and eventually ESP) along with better fuel efficiency. The car market, however, had moved to different styles of 4wds with a plethora of ‘lifted hatchbacks’ filling the small SUV segment, and the 3rd generation sold steadily but not at a rapid pace of the previous two generations of cars.

Generation 4 (2019- )

Generation 4 builds on the underpinnings of generation 3 with some minor and some major tweaks, and brings even more modern safety and technology plus retro styling (Image: Suzuki Australia).

A major styling departure and bringing much more modern safety features to the fore, the generation 4 Jimny built upon the foundations of the 3rd generation with revisions in terms of powertrains and interior and exterior designs. Some re-engineering also occurred to strengthen key parts of the car. With retro styling becoming a key automotive trend as people harken for simpler times, the introduction of this generation brought sales success.

Generational comparisons

Pricing across generations

This is a huge can of worms, especially as most reported pricing is exclusive of taxes, on road costs, dealer delivery fees and the like. The primary source of this data is Redbook, but I have verified major RRP pricepoints with primary sourced publications like those shown above.

Jimny pricing throughout the years in Australia: pricing data sourced primarily from Redbook but checked against primary sourced articles shown in the generational pages; inflation data for the 2nd graph comes from yearly inflation data from the RBA’s calculator.

Some of these price differences are surprising. The static generation 3 prices is a bit offset by the narrowing of the range over the years e.g. dropping some of the lower-spec models, and the price crept up after the introduction of ESP. Some of the largest jumps were at the introduction of either a new model (e.g. LJ80) or significant revisions (such as introducing the 1300 cc Sierra). The latest RRP becomes squirrely for the gen4 cars, and, it is likely that earlier on people were not always paying RRP but with supply far under demand for gen4 cars, it is less likely this sort of discounting happens. On-road costs have also significantly increased & I haven’t accounted for colour options etc.

Sales over the years

This is a lot harder to track. VFACTS data exists for generation 3 and 4:

VFACTS sourced data, as provided into one of the Australian JB74 groups. 17 343 Generation 3 cars were sold over 20 years, and to end of 2022 a total of 12 905 generation 4 Jimnys have been sold.

but it is harder to come by such data for the earlier cars.

In one of the generation 1 LJ articles I sourced it is noted ~25 000 cars were sold from the 70s till 1981 in Australia, and we have firm sales figures for generations 3 and 4. I’ve not been able to source quite the same info for Sierras, however.

Worldwide, the media kit provided by Suzuki Australia provides the following figures:

  • Generation 1: 243 thousand (over 11 years: ~22k units per year)
  • Generation 2: 1.693 million (over 17 years: ~100k units per year)
  • Generation 3: 918 thousand (over 20 years: ~46k units per year)

If we assume the Australian figures are proportional, generation 4 sold at an average rate of 3226 units a year, and generation 3 sold an average 867 units per year or a multiplier of about 3.7x based on rate of sales.

Going off the worldwide total numbers, the generation 2 cars sold 1.85x as many as generation 3, so perhaps 32 thousand Sierras were sold in Australia. The alternative estimate, also based on worldwide total numbers, is that Sierras outsold LJs about 7.9x. This would imply an upper bound on Australian Sierra sales of nearly 200 thousand cars, which is roughly in line with the 5% of the 4wd market seen in some contemporary press figures.

If anyone’s got concrete numbers let me know!

Specs over the years

This is an area in development, it’s a bit challenging to bring it all together!