We’ve been pining for a new Suzuki Jimny to be sent to America for years, and our lust only intensified when the newest model arrived this year. Here is a small, lightweight, four-cylinder 4×4 that’s basic and cheap, exactly what Jeep’s Wrangler used to be before it swelled to fit ever-swelling American bodies and the comfort and convenience items they demand. What makes the Jimny’s absence from our market hurt all the more is that its ancestor was long ago sold here. Remember the Samurai? Anyway, we managed to get our hands on a Kinetic Suzuki Jimny for a little test—and we do mean “little.”
Okay, if you’ve been looking at the photos here, you may have caught onto our gambit: The Jimny we tested isn’t exactly full-scale. It’s a 1/24-scale, remote-control version of the already tiny real thing—and it’s the only way to get a Jimny in the U.S. (Actually, the chassis is 1/24-scale—the body was inflated to 1/18-scale to fit it proportionally.) Like most of you, we’ve been holed up for the better part of 2020 avoiding, well, the year 2020. We got bored, and then we got a little less bored when we stumbled upon this Jimny model from Kyosho. Despite its miniature size (7.6 inches long, 3.8 inches wide, and 3.5 inches tall), the Kyosho Suzuki Jimny features a realistic coil-sprung, solid-axle suspension; true four-wheel drive; and a well-detailed injection-molded body that can be removed in order to service or modify the chassis underneath. It comes fully assembled, so you simply need to add batteries to the pistol-grip controller and the Jimny itself and go.
What Is a Mini-Z 4×4?
The Jimny hails from Kyosho’s new Mini-Z 4×4 line, an extension of its long-running Mini-Z line that until recently has consisted only of mini-scale R/C cars with rear- or all-wheel drive. (This author had an early version with a Toyota Altezza body—known here as the first-generation Lexus IS300—over a decade ago.) So far, the Mini-Z 4×4 lineup consists only of the Suzuki Jimny and a possibly even cooler first-generation Toyota 4Runner/Hilux Surf. Each one includes unique wheels and bumpers, along with separate officially licensed tires. The Suzuki rides on scale BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3s, while the Toyota gets Nitto Ridge Grapplers.
As its name implies, the Mini-Z 4×4 has four-wheel drive, and uses a unique chassis that mimics a full-size rig’s ladder frame. A centrally mounted 130-size electric motor spins a tiny gearset and little universal axles that extend to each axle. Those axles are each supported by two ball-jointed links and a central locating A-arm, and the front axle has linkages to a steering servo that lives above it on the plastic chassis. Despite coming fully assembled, the Mini-Z 4×4 is similar to larger-scale hobby-grade R/C vehicles in that it can be taken apart and modified or repaired, and it includes plenty of bigger scale-model features such as ball bearings throughout the drivetrain and a slipper clutch—a friction setup that allows the drivetrain to “slip” relative to the drive motor if the tires are rapidly slowed, say, when landing off a jump at full throttle, to prevent stripping gears in the transmission.
To take off the Jimny’s plastic body shell, one simply flips the vehicle over to locate four little pinch tabs made from flexible wires, and then squeezes them toward the center of the chassis. The body is then released from four peg mounts, allowing users access to the battery tray and electronics. Four AAA-size batteries are needed to power the Mini-Z 4×4, and easily pop into a tray near the front axle. We’d suggest buying rechargeable units, so as to avoid constantly purchasing new batteries; Kyosho claims the run time on a fresh set of batteries is about an hour. With the body removed, users also can flip a little tab to release the electric motor and change its pinion gear for a higher or lower ratio. Depending on whether you’re looking for more top speed or better crawling performance in the rough stuff, Kyosho includes an array of pinion gears with 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, or 20 teeth. The more teeth, the more top-end speed and less low-down squirt. We didn’t fiddle with this much, as the 10-tooth setup that came installed in our model felt right for mixed use.
Other than the Jimny itself, what else comes in the box? A Kyosho-branded pistol-grip transmitter. Like the Mini-Z 4×4 itself, this unit comes with a surprising level of adjustment for so tiny a model. The controller includes the expected steering, throttle, brake, and reverse controls (to stop the Mini-Z 4×4, you push the throttle trigger all the way forward, then return it pump-action-style to neutral and press forward again to trigger reverse). The steering wheel has nice foam padding, too. There also are adjustments for steering and throttle trim (you can dial in some throttle or left or right steering as default), steering dual rate (how much steering range there is), and a switch for operating optional LED headlights on the model itself. Compared to more involved R/C transmitters used on bigger models, the Kyosho unit is lightweight, which is probably great for kids but lends it a somewhat tinny feel for adults; even loaded with the required four AAA batteries, the controller lacks heft. Another net positive for kids, though, is the lack of an extendable antenna for the controller; they’d probably poke each other’s eyes out with such a piece, or just whip each other with it. So, um, it’s good that it isn’t there.
How Does It Drive?
Realistically. Thanks to its lifelike suspension, the Suzuki Jimny ambles around carpeted floors, hardwood, socks, dog toys, and whatever else you might have on your floor or desktop like a scaled-down 4×4. The suspension lacks anti-roll bars, so it’s fairly tippy over abrupt bumps, and the undamped coil springs are bouncy. According to Kyosho, the Jimny model has a 45.0-degree approach angle (better than both the new Ford Bronco‘s 43.2-degree and the Jeep Wrangler’s 44.0-degree numbers), so while it has only half an inch of ground clearance (compared to up to 11.6 inches for the real-life Bronco and 10.8 inches for the Wrangler), it can crawl over a surprising amount of household detritus. The four-wheel drive helps, as does the Suzuki’s low gearing.
Surprisingly, the suspension doesn’t heel over too much when cornering the Jimny at full throttle. There is some understeer, mostly because the four-wheel drive lacks a center differential, so it has a fixed 50/50 front-to-rear torque split, which is like driving a Jeep Wrangler around with its part-time four-wheel drive engaged all the time. There is some apparent binding on hard dry surfaces, but that fades in the dirt or on carpet. Unlike larger R/C vehicles, the Mini-Z 4×4 also does without differentials in its axles, so there is another source of mild driveline binding on hardwood or concrete. This is like driving a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon around with its differentials locked—something in the real world no sane person would do on pavement. The tradeoff, as we mentioned, is palpable traction and grip on dirt, in grass that reaches the Jimny’s side mirrors, or over shoes left on the floor.
The Mini-Z 4×4 Jimny is not fast. With its lowest-ratio pinion gear fitted, it’s good for 1.6 mph. Install the toothiest pinion gear, and the taller gearing can scoot the Suzuki to 3.3 mph. Your dog will easily be able to catch it. More to the point, the Mini-Z 4×4’s lack of speed ensures that it is easy to control, so you can kick back on the couch and let it buzz around without having to worry that you’ll have some kind of speed-related loss of control. And because the Jimny can crawl over tall-pile rug edges, thresholds, and more, those become fun low-speed obstacles.
At $199.99, the Mini-Z 4×4 Jimny (or Toyota 4Runner version) is well beyond toy R/C vehicle territory, and fairly deep into the larger-scale R/C realm (you can buy ready-to-run 1:10-scale models for similar money). But if your R/C enjoyment must be limited to a small area or indoors, the Mini-Z 4×4 brings those larger models’ complexity and dexterity to a much, much smaller footprint. This scale R/C car is fun, its realism impressive, and it is perfect for your home office—and given a lot of us are trapped in home offices these days, you’re far from bosses’ prying eyes. Just be sure to pause your off-carpet adventures during those Zoom calls, and limit terrorizing family pets with the Suzuki to a minimum. Plus, it’s pretty much the only way to get a modern Jimny in the U.S.
What Comes in the Box?
- Mini-Z 4×4 chassis
- Suzuki Jimny body (painted)
- 3 pinion-gear spacers
- 6 pinion gears (10, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20-tooth)
Not included? The eight AAA batteries needed for the controller and the Mini-Z 4×4 itself.
Want extra parts? Kyosho has a deep roster of replacement parts, as well as hop-up parts and other extras. Want the action to continue after dark? Kyosho offers a plug-in LED light kit that illuminates the Mini-Z 4×4’s brake lights and headlights; it costs $14.99. Buyers can swap out the Suzuki body for an unpainted version ($29.99) they can personalize, or choose from pre-painted Jimny bodies in other colors ($54.99). Kyosho also offers Sierra Green, and Chiffon Ivory (sand) and Brisk Blue (bright blue) options seem to be on their way. Or you can change things up and spring for the Toyota 4Runner body, as well as its specific wheel-and-tire package. There also are nifty little LEGO-style mini off-road terrain sets ($74.99) you can purchase and set up for scale crawling action.