That Twisted recently announced it was turning its attention to the Suzuki Jimny came as a surprise. The company has forged such a reputation for optimising Defenders over more than 20 years that it was hard to imagine it doing anything else, like Singer building something that wasn’t rear-engined or Alfaholics creating a car that wasn’t… well, you get the point. But the more you think about it, the more a Jimny by Twisted makes sense. Like the classic Land Rover, it’s an old-school, unashamed off-roader, one with an instantly recognisable look and a legion of loyal fans. Crucially, too, when it comes to modifying, there’s plenty that could be improved about the little Suzuki when it comes to interior ambience and driving manners.
Of course, you could argue that a reworking of the Jimny compromises its very appeal as a back-to-basics and quite rudimentary 4x4. The same argument applied to the quilted leather and uprated stereos that found their way into Defenders, too. But the success of Twisted over the past couple of decades has proven beyond any doubt that there’s a voracious market for cars that retain their retro styling while introducing additional performance and usability. On that basis, a Jimny by Twisted makes complete sense. And just as was the case in 2016 with the final Defenders, there aren’t that many now to go around; even the LCV variant that circumvented CO2 rules is advertised under ‘while stocks last’ on the Suzuki website, inviting buyers to request a callback. So there’s never going to be very many of them because there aren’t many Jimnys - and we all know how persuasive rarity can be.
To the car in question. Like Twisted’s Defender upgrades, the Jimny will be offered as a complete turnkey build like the silver one we drove, or with a catalogue of parts for buyers to build up along the way. Or create something of their own. This is just the start for Twisted-tuned Jimnys, furthermore; CEO Charles Fawcett says they’re still doing R&D on Defender parts to see what can be improved even after all these years, so we can expect extra bits in time for the Suzuki as well. The team is currently working on the caster to improve the initial steering response, for example.
In the metal, it’s a lovable little terrier of a car - beefy, but still so tiny. The Jimny is almost like a scale model 4x4, complete with all-terrain tyres and body cladding all in miniature. If we accept that the cars leaving Thirsk are about making an impression visually as much as anything else, the Jimny strikes exactly the right note. It’s not standard, it is something different, but it’s not completely out there in, say, the Liberty Walk Jimny way.
To begin with, the driving experience is utterly dominated by the turbo that has been fitted to the 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine. Its huffing and puffing and chuffing is completely hilarious because it’s so incongruous. Like Fast & Furious meets Countryfile. You’ll grab a higher gear, give it a full throttle and lift just to hear it sneeze out all that gas again. Twisted has worked with a team in Dubai on the turbo conversion; apparently, there are guys out there uprating the internals and cranking the boost to create 300hp dune bashers, which must be quite the experience. Here it’s rated at 165hp (up from 101hp as standard), and presumably a whole lot more torque than 95lb ft.
Twisted claims the 0-60mph time has been ‘reduced by nearly half’, and certainly this a far, far spritelier Jimny than we’re used to. The turbo torque makes short work of North Yorkshire’s hills, able to pull with some conviction up steeper sections in third and fourth. A standard car would never do that, and it helps massively with confidence. Overtakes can now be executed on more than just farm machinery, for example. Despite the sound evoking some deranged JDM kei car tuner special, the Jimny’s performance uptick feels pleasingly linear; its best arrives from 3,500rpm onwards, where the turbo rush is replaced by the four-cylinder thrash, though it feels meaningfully faster from idle. Don’t underestimate the joy, either, of overtaking sports cars in a little silver shed of a Suzuki - it’s a whole lotta fun.
The fact that the Jimny by Twisted experience is not entirely defined (or indeed overwhelmed) by the turbo is perhaps the biggest achievement. There’s additional sound deadening, for instance, so it cruises with much-reduced hubbub - even if you won't be mistaking it for a conventional SUV. Having proper speakers for the stereo and some lovely leather for the two seats really lifts the interior, so you’re happy to spend time there rather than enduring the isolation. And where a standard Jimny can shock its driver with just how slow it’s going given the effort expended and sound created, here it’s a very different situation: that cute little analogue speedo, reading only to 100mph, is pointing right far more than might be expected. Only when a crosswind starts to wiggle the car off course do you check yourself and calm down a tad. A Jimny with a wodge more power and torque could have been a disaster, and it’s to Twisted’s credit that it’s not.
Indeed, such is the fun to be had from rasping through the gears that it takes a little while to realise that this is also a Jimny that rides and handles and goes about its business in a far more sophisticated fashion than standard. Again, this isn’t suddenly a Matchbox Macan, but the car no longer abandons its composure when presented with a corner, despite actually running an inch higher than standard here. It still requires some steering effort, mind - but Twisted’s performance suspension package (with Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers) alongside a rear anti-roll bar developed alongside the turbo in Dubai has delivered a Jimny that stays much flatter when asked to change direction.
Consequently, there’s fun to be had keeping up with keen folk in a car like this; the Jimny looks like it shouldn’t corner and yet - if you accept reasonable limitations of a short, high off-road car - it now does. And that’s on the all-terrain tyre, too - presumably those not too fussed about rufty-tufty driving could opt for something more tarmac-suited for the new Twisted wheels, and drop the suspension a tad. Then no hot hatch would be safe. Or the ride height could be raised for some proper mud-plugging.
Either way, it's a hoot - which is always something to cling onto in this day and age. Moreover, anyone spending £50k on a small, two-seat 4x4 (this one is LCV-based, so the VAT is reclaimable) isn’t likely to be doing so for purely objective, sensible reasons. Much as they wouldn’t have been spending six figures on a Defender. They’re buying into the Twisted thing because they love the idea, the look, and the personalisation possibilities on offer.
Employing proven methods on a car so much smaller and lighter than a Defender was almost guaranteed to make for a fizzier, sillier experience, and that’s exactly what’s on offer. The sound will keep a smile on your face, the additional refinement will keep you behind the wheel for longer, and the broadly familiar surroundings and familiar Jimny style keep much of the original appeal intact. It’s hard to imagine anyone was clamouring for a turbocharged, leather-lined Jimny, but Twisted's interpretation is so well executed that it's likely to find itself with no shortage of customers. Why have a big old Defender to run around a city in when you could have a Jimny?
SPECIFICATION | SUZUKI JIMNY BY TWISTED
Engine: 1,462cc, four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 5-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): c. 165
Torque (lb ft): N/A
0-62mph: quite quick actually
Top speed: +90mph
MPG: 41.5 (NEDC, passenger version)
CO2: 154g/km (NEDC, passenger version)
Price: from £49,500 plus VAT
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