Since 1968, Suzuki has been manufacturing the Jimny—one of the best lines of off-road vehicles in the automobile industry. But in 1984, in order to meet the demands of the public for a much better version, the Jimny was revamped and was called the Samurai. Known for its affordable cost and reliable performance on many kinds of terrain, this vehicle line holds the record for the most number of debut-year sales of any Japanese car brand. Though its production already ceased, the Samurai continues to inspire many car manufacturers and enthusiasts around the world.
1985: First model
When the first model of the Suzuki Samurai was released in the United States in 1985 for the 1986 model year, it was powered by a 1.3-L four-cylinder engine that could produce 63 horsepower. Sold as either a hardtop or convertible, this off-road vehicle quickly became popular because of its reliable and good performance. Also, because of its reduced weight, the first model of the Samurai did not easily sink when driven on soft ground. Aside from these features, this vehicle was easily modified, therefore earning it a total of 47,000 unit sales in its debut.
1988: Second model
Dubbed as the 1988.5 Samurai, this model was redesigned so it would perform better on-road. Some of the significant changes done during this period were the installation of a bigger anti-sway bar for less incidents of body rolls and the revision of the suspension settings. The fifth gear was also lowered which gave way to better highway performance. Interior-wise, the Samurai became more comfortable because its seats and dashboard were redesigned.
1991-1995: Last US model
From 1991 to 1995, the Suzuki Samurai did not undergo many changes. Nonetheless, some of the notable improvements were the introduction of a new engine in 1991. The then new 1.3-L four-cylinder engine that came with a throttle-body fuel injection was able to generate 66 horsepower. In the same year, this vehicle was equipped with fresh transmission bearings and transfer case. For the 1994 model year, the rear seat was discarded. And in 1995, all models of the Samurai were sold with standard rear shoulder safety belts.
Unfortunately, in the same year, due to steadily declining sales, Suzuki decided to withdraw the Samurai from the United States markets citing the unfavorable review by Consumer Reports in 1988 as the main cause.
1995-1998: Model sold outside the US
Although sales of the Samurai already stopped in the United States after 1995, it was still sold in other countries. In fact, it received several updates such as the installation of a coil spring suspension, therefore earning this model the nickname Coily. Aside from the revamped suspension, this Samurai model received redesigned seats, doors, steering wheel, and dashboard. Engine-wise, most of the Samurais that were sold in export markets were powered by the 1.3-litre, G13BB, 16-valve engine that could produce as much as 85 horsepower.
However, not all models of the Samurai were improved. Some still followed the narrow design of the original version. Thus, after 1998, the third generation Jimny replaced the Samurai in many markets.