North Yorkshire’s Twisted Automotive has developed a formidable reputation for building high-performance versions of the classic Land Rover Defender. But now it has turned its attention to something smaller: the Suzuki Jimny.
Choosing the Jimny was a very deliberate decision. Twisted founder Charles Fawcett has long been a fan of Suzuki’s compact off-roaders, making it a natural fit for the company’s portfolio.
Like the Defender, it uses a traditional ladder frame chassis, and comes with rugged utilitarian charm as standard. When launched in 2018, the fourth-generation Jimny became an instant cult classic, and boasted impressive off-road ability.
Twisted and turbocharged
The weakness in the latest Jimny’s armour has always been its 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine. Producing 101hp and 130Nm of torque, it made the car feel asthmatic, and woefully underpowered on a motorway.
Twisted has removed this Achilles’ heel in classic tuner fashion, by adding a turbocharger. The company spent countless hours investigating the best upgrades, creating a bespoke package of parts for the pint-sized off-roader.
The turbocharger is supported by a performance air filter, new oil feeds and a catch tank, plus a sports exhaust downpipe. Controlling everything is a custom Syvecs ECU, which is mapped to optimise output from the new boosted setup. The result is a total of 165hp, or a 63 percent increase in power compared with the regular Jimny. Torque has jumped significantly, too.
Having a hoot
In isolation, 165hp may not sound like a massive amount of power, but the Jimny’s modest mass is the important factor here. Tipping the scales at around 1,090kg, its power-to-weight ratio is certainly into sports car territory.
This quickly becomes apparent on the road, with surging acceleration and a feeling that this Jimny is more like a junior hot hatchback than a regular 4×4. There is little turbo lag, and the boost feeds in almost instantly with a pleasing ‘whoosh’. Lift off the throttle and the turbo does an impression of a small owl beneath the bonnet.
Such performance, and its aural accompaniment, quickly becomes addictive.The 1.5-litre turbo engine is happy to be revved, and is combined with the Jimny’s light and precise five-speed manual gearbox.
Living the higher life
Although the Jimny is four-wheel drive, this is reserved solely for off-road use. On tarmac, the Twisted Jimny remains rear-driven, which can bring the traction control into play when the roads are damp. In optimal circumstances, Twisted’s Jimny should halve the 14-second 0-60mph time of the regular model.
The Jimny will goad you into going faster, despite the slightly surreal experience of sitting so high-up off the floor. Thankfully Twisted has upgraded the car’s suspension, and fitted a rear anti-roll bar, but off-road tyres and the laws of physics will be the limiting factors when it comes to cornering.
On the inside, Twisted has transformed the utilitarian Jimny into a far more luxurious place to be. Leather covers most surfaces, with huge amounts of sound deadening added. It means you actually hear the upgraded infotainment system, which incorporates Apple CarPlay connectivity and a reversing camera. As with all Twisted creations, buyers can fully customise a Jimny to their taste.
Small and mighty
Twisted bases its conversion on the two-seat light-commercial vehicle version of the Jimny. The rear bulkhead is removed, creating a more spacious cabin, but the practical load area remains. Classed as a van, businesses can thus reclaim the VAT. Examples of the Jimny with four seats or an automatic gearbox can be supplied as a personal import.
The uprated Jimny starts from £59,400 including VAT. This does seem rather a lot for such a small 4×4, but the end result is brimful of charm. Twisted has removed the Jimny’s shortcomings, but not its character. For those who want the Twisted Defender experience, but on a smaller scale, this is a winner.
John Redfern writes for Motoring Research
PRICE: From £59,400
TOP SPEED: 100mph
FUEL ECONOMY: N/A
KERB WEIGHT: 1,090kg