– Wallace Du Plessis. Photo: Exploring The Hidden Valley above Elgin in the Jimny. (Supplied)
Some cars I detest, others I like. I love the Jimny.
I really had to look quite hard to find the design issues or dodgy bits. To me they make the little off-roader even more endearing. So, be warned – a bit of positive bias is sure to have crept in.
The Suzuki JIMNY 1.5 GLX 4AT is a specialised vehicle – a horse for a very tough obstacle course, very much in a league of its own off-road.
The Jimny has been in existence in various forms since 1970 as the LJ10, which had a 359-cc, air-cooled, two-stroke, in-line two-cylinder engine. The next generation Suzuki SJ30 was released in 1998, the fourth-generation production commenced in Japan on 29 May 2018 at Suzuki’s Kosai plant.
Jimny is still based around a traditional steel, ladder frame chassis, but now has stiffer, supporting rigid front and rear axles with separate differentials and remains absolutely unpretentious. It is what it is. It now has a proper multi-function tilt adjustable leather covered steering wheel with cruise control and phone buttons, just like cars.
The Jimny can seat four adults. It can also offer 377 litres of luggage space. But it cannot do these things at the same time. In fact, with the rear seat backs raised, the boot would struggle to swallow a MacBook Air.
You can also fold the front seats near-flat and have them join the rear seat squabs as a makeshift bed. Happy camping.
The GLX has electric windows, central locking, climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port and shift lock. It’s a thoroughly modern little car and has LED headlights, ABS, ESP, hill hold and descent control, brake assist and Isofix mounting points.
The Jimny is powered by a new 1,5-litre, naturally aspirated engine (code name K15B), which delivers peak outputs of 75 kW and 130 Nm and is now more stable and refined on-road. Suzuki claims between 6 and 7L/100km, which I found to be accurate.
Jimny is surprisingly pleasant to drive around town and awesome out there in the bush. In between on the highway, not so much. It lurches a little around corners and against a headwind on a hill it can run out of puff if heavily laden. And it becomes heavily laden quite quickly. but still, it’s never boring.
Optional accessories really are extras, like under garnish for the front and sides, rain deflectors, handle escutcheons, door mirror and rear wheel covers, mud flaps, wiper rain detector, differential guard protectors, parking sensors, rubber mats, boot liner, cargo net and roof rack. If you’re the sort of person who appreciates a flat-roofed vehicle because it’s easier to clear snow off and mount cargo racks to, or you favour cars with a roofing gutter so you’re not dripped on as you load the tailgate, then you might like the Jimny.
Top Gear had this to say about the UK version: “In the end, you just can’t separate the sheer joy of the way this rascal looks, and the adorable character it plays as it skips along, from the way it drives, and that irrepressible cute-meets-tough joy is what will make it ultimately a little cracker to live with. It’s not the most complete 4×4 you can buy, but it’s a plucky underdog. Not to mention, something of a new Top Gear hero.”
Suzuki has retained the defining qualities of the previous two generations of the Jimny: small size; go-anywhere ability; relatively low running costs and an adorable character.
Car magazine has this to say about the Jimny: “Tales of the Suzuki’s off-road prowess have been told around braai fires… it is affordable, reliable and cheap to run also count in its favour.” That just about sums this car up.
The 1.5 GL manual is R285 900 with a 2-yesr or 30 000 service plan, GLX manual is R323 900, while the 1.5 four-speed automatic in GLX trim is R343 900 with a 4-year 60 000 service plan. A 5 year/200 000 km mechanical warranty is standard.
On the question about the alternatives – quite simply, there are none. The nearest is the Renault Duster which is more practical but does not have the off-road prowess of the Jimny. Fiat has the rather pap Panda, Mahindra has the wannabe Jeep, the rough and ready Thar and GWM offers perhaps the Steed 5 double cab bakkie. The Jimny’s big sister, the Grand Vitara, also has low-range and is really capable off-road but has been discontinued in SA.
Love it or hate it, the Jimny is unique and very capable off-road, although only average at highway speeds.