The second-generation Suzuki Jimny was introduced across Japan in 1981. Like its rudimentary predecessor, the Jimny was classified as a kei car in its home market so it was initially offered exclusively with a two-stroke three-cylinder engine. A turbocharged three-cylinder was added to the lineup a little later in the production run, while the two-stroke three was phased out and replaced by a four-stroke unit in the late 1980s. This makes the Jimny Japan’s last two-stroke-equipped mass-produced car.
Suzuki introduced the Jimny to the United States market with the Samurai moniker in time for the 1986 model year. The Samurai looked like the Jimny when viewed from most angles but it was wider, it had beefier bumpers on both ends and it ditched its Japanese sibling’s three-cylinder mill in favor of a four-cylinder unit that was better adapted to the local market.
Over the years, Suzuki offered several variants of the Jimny including soft and hard top models as well as short- and long-wheelbase variants and even a pickup. The Jimny was a true global car that was sold in a variety of countries all around the world under the Chevrolet, Holden, Maruti and Santana nameplates.
In Europe, the Jimny received a mid-cycle upgrade in 1989 that brought a more modern look (pictured below), an updated interior with added creature comforts and – for most countries – the Samurai nameplate. In the United States, the Samurai carried on essentially unchanged until it was phased out in 1995 and replaced by the Sidekick that was introduced locally in 1989.
The Jimny / Samurai stayed in production until it was replaced by the third-gen model in 1998. The Jimny is still a popular off-roader in its home country of Japan and values remain relatively strong in both Europe and the United States but finding a clean, stock example that hasn’t been destroyed off-road is getting increasingly difficult.
Will the second-generation Suzuki Jimny / Samurai follow Toyota’s iconic FJ-40 into the world of collectible off-roaders, or will it remain the go-to option for folks looking to go off the beaten path on a budget?