Need a load bay and a tough-as-nails 4x4? Suzuki teases new Jimny bakkie concept
Suzuki’s Jimny was undoubtedly the most anticipated vehicle of 2018. The diminutive Japanese two-door SUV was met with unbridled approval and demand for it has been immense, overwhelming Suzuki’s product planners.
What could Suzuki possibly do in 2019, to harness the marketing momentum and brand cachet it established with the fourth-generation Suzuki in 2018? Well, a leaked image from Japan provides the answer.
At a forthcoming Japanese specialist auto show, Suzuki is expected to reveal its Sierra concept: a Jimny bakkie. Japanese manufacturers have always been the unrivalled leaders in producing compact bakkies. Nissan is renowned for its evergreen 1400 and current NP200, whilst Suzuki has an oft-forgotten bakkie history of its own, too.
The Japanese compact vehicle specialist is aware that globally the bakkie segment is one automotive sales channel that isn’t adversely influenced by the success of SUVs.
Image: GT Rider
And nobody has tried to market a capable off-road grade compact bakkie. Suzuki has identified this opportunity to test consumer and industry reactions with its Sierra.
With its lifted stance the Sierra bakkie has an even more purposeful presence than the Jimny SUV it evolved from. Suzuki’s opted for a late 1970s colour sensibility in respect of its paint and finishes: bronze lacquer with pseudo-woodgrain panelling.
The wheels are dual-tone steel (ivory and chrome) and roll what appear to be oversized commercial specification off-road tyres, with larger lugs, which should enable even better traction than a standard Jimny’s footwear.
Other notable features on the Sierra bakkie are its quad spotlights, mounted atop the roof, a retro-style grille (complete with period Suzuki badging) and two oversized recovery shackles embedded in the front bumper.
Image: 4x4 Australia
What is the significance of this Jimny bakkie? Well, Suzuki must be doing a feasibility analysis around leveraging the immense popularity of Jimny by offering different body styles – as it has in the past.
In markets where the compact off-roader can truly show its abilities – Australia and South Africa – bakkies are also incredibly popular. The logic is simple: why not possibly offer a bakkie version of the Jimny, for those who don’t require the rear seats, but would like easier load space access?
The name is an indication that Suzuki is pondering right-hand drive markets as the sales destination for a production version of its bakkie concept. In the early 1990s, the Jimny was marketed as a 'Sierra' in Australia, a market very similar to our own in terms of product segmentation and driving climate.
There is no doubt that a slightly less 'stylised' version of the Sierra bakkie would be hugely popular and Suzuki has the heritage to trade on here. In the late 1970s, it marketed a bakkie version of the first-generation Jimny.
Built on a lengthened SJ20 platform it was called the 'Stockman' in Australia and established the tiny Suzuki 4x4 as a credible mechanical foundation for a conversion to bakkie re-purposing. The Australians would continue to be a primary export market for Suzuki’s compact bakkie ambition with their demand for a chassis-cab version of the Jimny.
Suzuki’s second-generation Jimny, the SJ40, also saw a bakkie development within its portfolio of five body styles, but since the late 1990s, you’d only have the option on the Caribian Sporty as a loadbin configured Jimny. And that’s a vehicle mostly limited in its sales geography to Thailand.
For those who have always pined after a modern reinterpretation of Suzuki’s bakkie legacy, the Sierra concept has been a very good start to 2019.