AS I approached the Suzuki Jimny in the car park of the Sofitel Hotel at Heathrow airport to make my return drive to Rotherham it felt as though I was about to embark on a trans-Atlantic flight in a two-seater Cessna.
Two nights earlier I’d driven the 160-miles to the airport on the outskirts of London and the compact, high sided off roader as it uneasily revved, bounced and bucked its way along the M1 and M25 motorways at what I’d normally consider a sensible cruising speed.
When I arrived, I felt as though I was crawling out of a washing machine after that vigorous 60-degree cycle that we only use for my rather putrid gym kit.
My elbow ached from bracing the steering wheel, the short wheelbase proving too fidgety and lively for 70mph...
Quite simply, the Jimny is not set-up for speed, nor is it an ideal family car, with reasonable room for four people but a boot capacity of just 85-litres with the rear bench in place.
Fold the back seats to create a neat, flat-bottomed load space and that grows to a Volkswagen Golf-rivalling 377- litres… but then you’ll only have the two seats.
As I found out on the UK launch last year, it is very much a vehicle at home off-road.
The Jimny’s ladder frame chassis combines with short overhangs which mean it can tackle inclines with an approach angle of 37-degrees and declines of 49-degrees and a 210mm ground clearance to make it a real off-road weapon.
At 3,675mm long, the Jimny is almost 4cm shorter than a Ford Fiesta and it fair scampered between trees in a dramatically undulating, turning and muddy forest off-road route.
An old-school stubby second gear lever gives access to the low-range transfer gear too, locking the differential and delivering genuine go-anywhere credentials despite being powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine delivering just 101PS and 130Nm of torque the Jimny will haul itself up gnarly rises and roll in controlled fashion down steep drops slowly but determinedly, without so much as a touch of the throttle, when switched into its most extreme off-road setting.
Out on the road, the Jimny feels less at home.
Suzuki quotes a top speed of just 90mph, CO2 emissions of 154g/km (with the five-speed manual gearbox) and fuel economy of 41.5mpg.
Not particularly impressive for a small car with a kerb weight of just 1,135kg.
The Jimny is fun, light and biddable, though. The easy shift of the five-speed manual gearbox (an automatic version is also available), its compact dimensions and a tight turning circle make it a breeze to drive around town, where that lofty driving position and clearly visible extremities make placing the car a breeze.
At anything over 50mph, however, the Jimny will feel ill at ease.
This honing towards lower speed driving even extends to the infotainment system, the seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto equipped item fitted to the range topping SZ5 spec model tested here barely delivering enough sound from its speakers to conduct a hands-free phone conversation at motorway speeds.
With SZ4 (£15,499) and SZ5 (£17,999) specifications of Jimny available it is well-equipped, though.
While rather plasticky, the Jimny’s interior is undoubtedly purposeful, with large, easily-located controls designed to be functional with heavily gloved hands in the same vein as those found in a Land Rover Defender.
Large dials with digitised central displays tweak the air conditioning, while rocker-type switches located in the lower part of the centre console operate the electric windows and hill descent control system.
Cruise control is also standard and operated via the multi-function steering wheel.
SZ5 Jimnys like the one tested here also get larger alloy wheels and heated seats.
These are the Jimny’s concessions to a breed of modern motorists unaccustomed to compromise.
The Jimny is compromised but, for those of us who crave a car with character and a car that focuses a very specialised set of talents in a certain area while very much standing out of the crowd, it could be ideal — a modern day Mini Moke, an automotive toy that won’t threaten your licence through speeding fines.
It is also the most capable affordable 4x4 on the market. Period.
Few cars have elicited such unbridled enjoyment from my kids in recent times and the Warren Vale Recycling Centre employee who ended up jumping behind the wheel for a closer look was also sold on the little off-roader’s charms.
My week with Suzuki’s cult hero would have been great too…had I just found that off-road shortcut from Heathrow to Rotherham.