If Santa could choose his own transport in the event of Rudolph being off sick he would probably choose the Suzuki Jimny.

This tiny SUV from Japan has been around for almost 50 years of which almost three million have been produced with satisfied customers from Bangalore to Basingstoke or Aberdeen to the Antarctic.

Ever since the first Jimny made its global debut in April 1970, it has been a masterpiece of Suzuki’s 4WD technology. It is the one and only authentic off-roader that is small and lightweight, but still retains its core off-road performance desired by professionals.

And now there is an all new model which is hitting the streets in January – admittedly a tad little late for Santa!

Twenty years have passed since the third-generation model made its debut in 1998 and the Jimny has now evolved to its fourth generation.

There is a beauty of simplicity and off-road functionality which are both realised with the Jimny’s robust exterior.

There is a strong square body which expresses its off-road ability and robustness as well as assisting with the driver’s situational awareness.

The Jimny has a loyal band of followers in this country who have driven their cars around the world in a variety of difficult situations. And every year up until now 1,000 are sold in the UK. Suzuki just wish they could sell more but production restrictions in Japan don’t allow for it.

There will be two model grades available from launch the SZ4 priced at £15,499 and the SZ5 priced at £17,999 with manual transmission and £18,999 with automatic transmission.

It is powered by a new 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an output of 101PS and this is now of lightweight construction for improved fuel efficiency.

New Jimny is 30mm shorter in overall length, 45mm wider and 20mm higher than previous model and ALLGRIP PRO selectable four-wheel drive is fitted as standard equipment.

It is the most technically advanced Jimny and it available with Dual Sensor Brake Support, Hill Descent Control, Lane Departure Warning, six airbags, and High Beam Assist all fitted as standard equipment. SZ5 grade features LED headlights as standard.

There is high standard specification for SZ4 to include air conditioning, cruise control, Dual Sensor Brake Support, CD player with DAB Radio, Bluetooth connectivity and front foglamps. The SZ5 adds 15-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, Climate Control, Navigation system with Smartphone Link, heated front seats.

The more upright A-pillars and flat clamshell bonnet enhance visibility from the windscreen, while the dipped driver and passenger window lines provide good visibility from the side windows.

The front grille is simple and black, highlighting the round signature headlamps, with 15-inch dark-metallic alloy wheels fitted on the SZ5 model accentuating the strong exterior even more.

Six body colours are available including a new colour developed exclusively for the new Jimny: a high-visibility Kinetic Yellow designed to stand out in bad weather or when in use on rough ground worksites. Metallic paint is a £485 option with dual tone metallic paint available as a £650 option.

Other functions include as standard equipment for both grades include Lane Departure Warning and weaving alert function which help the driver stay alert, and high beam assist supports relaxing and courteous night driving by automatically switching the high and low beams at speeds of 25mph and above.

The rear luggage space can be expanded by folding the rear seats, creating 377 litre space which is 53 litres larger than its predecessor. The rear seats now fold fully flat and the quarter trims and seats have been carefully designed to increase storage width.

The former 1.3-litre engine from the old Jimny is replaced by a 1.5-litre unit and that makes a lot difference on the road.

It delivers a higher torque which enhances driving performance especially while driving off-road where a low engine speed is often needed.

The new Jimny will easily give you 40 miles to the gallon and it handles extremely well. Suzuki haven’t revealed their 0-60mph figures yet – not that it matters really – but the maximum speed is said to be 90mph.

The Jimny incorporates the four essentials for serious off-roading — a ladder frame, three excellent clearance angles, 3-link rigid axle suspension with coil spring and part-time 4WD with low range transfer gear.

The new Jimny is one of the few authentic off-roaders equipped with a rigid axle for both front and rear. The front axle housing is now constructed of more robust high tensile steel and the rear axle housing is larger diameter with 30 per cent higher flexural strength for greater durability.

Jimny features a part-time 4WD system with low range transfer gear, which can be easily switched from 2H (2WD-high gear), 4H (4WD-high gear) and 4L (4WD-low gear) modes by a manually operated shift lever directly connected to the transfer gear.

Compared to the 4H mode, the 4L mode can transfer more torque to the wheels when in lower gears offering better traction on steep slopes and rough terrain.

When two wheels diagonal from each other lose traction, the Jimny’s new design brake LSD traction control automatically brakes the slipping wheels to redistribute torque to the other side and allow the vehicle to gain traction.