PURPOSE BUILT - Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX 5MT
At long last, we get behind the wheel of the latest Jimny and find out if it is all it’s cracked up to be
What! A photoshoot of a Suzuki Jimny in the parking lot of a shopping mall?! This is sacrilege! Where are the off-road pictures? Why isn’t it out the in sticks where every single other publication has shot it? Well, we at Auto Advisor are a crafty bunch, and there is some method to our madness. So hear us out for a moment…
While just about every review praises the Jimny’s brilliant off-road capabilities, the reality is, most Jimny owners will never take their little off-roader out of the comfort of their daily commute, let alone onto a proper off-road course. Most buyers are well aware of the Jimny’s storied heritage and will purchase one because it has become quite the cult classic in recent years. The incredible demand for the latest incarnation is clearly evident by a waiting list of up to a year that greets interested buyers.
So how is the Jimny to live with on a daily basis? Pretty damn good, if we’re being honest. From the time you walk out of your front door in the morning, and cast your eyes on this diminutive off-roader, ‘til you quickly glance back at it, before retreating back to your lair at the end of a long day, the mere sight of the Jimny brings a smile to your face. There is an old saying that goes along the times of, “if you don’t look back at your car after you parked it, you bought the wrong car”. And if ever there was a saying that summed up the Jimny, it would be that.
Capabilities aside, the latest Jimny is an attractive vehicle. Some have labelled it a mini G-Wagon, but the reality is that aside from its boxy appearance, it has nothing in common with the big Benz. The retro-looking Jimny is all about blazing its own trails and if it could speak, the last thing it would want is the G-Wagon stealing its thunder. Whether it is prowling the congested streets of Sandton, or glistening under a Camps Bay sunset, the chiselled Jimny looks great.
Compared to its ‘softer’ predecessor, the new Jimny gets an upright front grille, paired with round projector headlights, and LED lighting. The signature flared wheel arches are still there, showing that Suzuki has retained the hardcore off-road character of the Jimny. And there are new moulded bumpers which allow for good approach and departure angles, as well as a tailgate-mounted spare wheel in typical Jimny fashion.
While its exterior retains its retro looks, there is a twist of modernity on the interior, whilst still retaining the utilitarian nature of the original Jimny. In what is billed as the most spacious Jimny ever, it is said that Suzuki engineers designed the interior around comfort and practicality. Frontal legroom has been significantly improved over the model it replaces, and while rear space is said to be improved, unless you’re the size of a 3 year old, you aren’t going to fit comfortably at the rear.
The interior though, is well laid out. The amber dials are reminiscent of JDM performance cars of yesteryear, and all the switches located just below the air conditioner controls are contemporary in design. Speaking of the air conditioner, it is so effective that it could rival an Arctic winter! Even the gear shifter falls nicely to hand, and has a smooth and precise movement. The cabin design is pretty cool, finding the perfect mix of modern and retro touches. The plastics are typically hard, but it’s safe to guess they’ll hold together forever. Suzuki’s reputation for reliability precedes it.
Luggage space is a mere 85 litres with the rear seats in position, so if you’re planning on using the Jimny to shuttle your month end shopping, do not take any passengers. Apart from multiple storage bins that struggle to hold onto a regular sized bottle of water, the range-topping GLX variant gains a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen system. This large touch screen is equipped with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Mirror Link to accommodate most smartphones’ in-car features and voice control functionality available in the market today. If you are planning on honing your singing skills while driving, it is best to stream music directly from your phone rather than use the USB port, because as you are driving your left knee will continually bump into the USB, disconnecting the USB, inevitably killing your buzz and being the likely cause of an avoidable road rage incident.
While its ladder frame configuration and an “X” member between the two rigid axle’s amount to 1.5 times the torsional rigidity of its predecessor, and together with the three-link rigid suspension combine to give it impressive off-road abilities, on smooth tarmac its ride is a little bumpy. Thanks to its ground clearance of 210mm, there is plenty of road noise and body roll, but let’s not beat around the bush – because you cannot have your cake and eat it. With every car, there is a compromise to be had, and this is when it is critical to note that the Jimny was designed first and foremost as an off-roader, with decent on-road manners – even though some will never even taste mud. On the other hand, the high sidewall rubber will protect the 15-inch wheels from scrapes, whilst kerb hopping will never be an issue again!
You might think that a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder would be underpowered, but in a 1095kg off-roader, it is adequate. The new K15B motor in the Jimny boasts more power than the old M13A, with 75kw and 130nm trouncing its predecessor’s 63kw and 110nm output. Pair that with a close-ratio five-speed manual transmission and the little Jimny certainly comes alive as you row through the gears.
As lively as it may be, those short ratios do come with a penalty – particularly in 5th gear, when you’re out of the freeway. The ‘buzziness’ can get a bit much, and when you factor in how it negatively affects fuel consumption, you will gladly keep it under 100kph - much to the chagrin of your fellow road users. Speaking of fuel economy, we managed to achieve an average consumption of 7.7 litres per 100kms – significantly more than Suzuki’s claim of 6.3 litres per 100kms.
While you are almost never likely to use it in your daily commute, it is pleasing to know that the little Jimny has a proper four-wheel drive system. This isn’t a computer based system like you find on those luxury German SUVs; this is the kind of four-wheel drive system that got your grandfathers’ Hilux up Sani Pass. Suzuki calls it ALLGRIP PRO, and the system allows the driver to comfortably switch between 4x2 (rear-wheel drive), 4x4 high and 4x4 low range with a secondary gear lever, on the fly at speeds of up to 100kph. This system is supported by both the vehicle stability control (ESP) and a new Brake-enabled Limited Slip Differential system, and further enhanced by the integrated Hill Hold Function and Hill Descent Control.
Safety-wise, beyond the unflattering three-star Euro NCAP crash score, there are just two airbags. Additionally, there is also ABS, brake assist and ISOFIX seat anchors to round of the safety package. Other standard kit includes a leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel with cruise control, electric windows, colour-coded handles and side mirrors, and remote keyless access. What is sure to excite South African buyers though, is the myriad of Suzuki-approved accessories you can order with a Jimny. So even though you might have to wait almost a year to get a Jimny, at least you can customize yours to look truly unique.
Despite making bomb-proof products, Suzuki is all about giving buyers complete peace-of-mind. This is why the Jimny comes standard with a comprehensive 3-year/100 000km warranty, as well as a 4-yr/60 000km service plan on the GLX. This plan includes the replacement of oil, the oil filter, fuel filter, brake fluid, air filter and accessory belts, but excludes tyres, brakes and other wear-and-tear items.
So after reading this, you’re probably feeling that the Jimny is a brilliant off-roader but a not so great daily. The reality is, while there might be some truth to that, it isn’t exactly accurate. The Jimny is a vehicle that has no peers, and for its price tag of R305 900, you will not find another vehicle available in South Africa that is as effortlessly cool and as capable as the Jimny. It’s a vehicle that will have loads of people stopping you to ask you about it. So, if you want to feel like a rock star, forget the Ferrari. There is only one vehicle you need in your life – the Suzuki Jimny.