I won’t beat around the bush so let me just say it: the Suzuki Jimny is beyond impractical, but at the same time it’s mighty impressive.
Let’s call a spade a spade because what the Jimny gives you is exactly what you buy into. This is an SUV that does not try to be what it’s not and for that, I have the utmost respect. Respect not only attaining to the vehicle but respect for Suzuki, too. It’s brave for a manufacturer to come to market with such a retro vehicle that will rarely find favour amongst today’s millennials who’s more concerned about issues that really do not need any concern.
But unlike the identified group in the above paragraph, the Jimny at least knows what it stands for. Its fan base understands it; regardless of their age. It’s an SUV that has, for the last forty years, owned its segment and captured admiration and adoration for what it is. It was this honesty about what it is that gave the Jimny that proverbial tip of the hat the last four decades.
To reacquaint myself with the Jimny I got behind the wheel of the 1.5 GLX manual. And again I appreciated the honesty surrounding it.
Understanding the truth
Being a practical runabout is not the Jimny’s strongest suit. It has limited space for rear passengers, the boot is virtually non-existent, and the manual gearbox can take some working in peak traffic. When going to your nearest supermarket for a good dose of shopping, you’d find that it’s best to fold the rear bench down and, in doing so, increase your cargo area. The downside, however, is that you’re eliminating any possibility of transporting an extra set of bums. Oh, and there are only two doors that grant access to the cabin – three if you include the one at the back.
That’s downright sad if we’re honest, but if you know what you’re getting yourself into it all starts making a lot more sense.
The Jimny, at best, is not concerned with winning the award for being the most family-friendly vehicle around. It’s an SUV designed for the purpose of chasing adventure; finding roads less traveled. A family of three could maybe have the little SUV see to their weekend-away needs, but ideally, this is a vehicle for you and a partner. It’s the type of SUV that does not need an explanation as to why you’re going away for a day or two, because it will already be waiting.
Fun and games
Once you understand the Jimny and its position in the market, there is literally no adventure too big or small for it to tackle. A quick breakaway to a spot by the seaside or covering rough terrain to get to that cabin in the woods, the Jimny is up for the challenge.
It was then also this very reasoning that forced my hand to take the Jimny somewhere it’ll feel right at home. An off-road course.
The course is divided into two sections: red and blue, and they overlap at certain points. Being new to the track and with no recovery vehicle in toe, the Jimny points its nose towards the blue course – a less strenuous route that’ll help you familiarise with the environment.
It starts off at a nice leisurely pace, steadily climbing the hills surrounding Somerset West just outside Cape Town. The torrential downpours the last few days had the track slippery and muddy, but the Jimny held its own. The ride is a bit wobbly, I must admit, but it’s only because of the SUV’s design. The box shape was never going to pass many a physics test, but you do have a suspension setup that was designed for these kinds of roads. Still going upwards and onwards with traction control turned off, the Jimny didn’t require ta higher setting than 4×2 High just yet.
In the distance, we could see the more hardcore 4x4s beginning their climb. They’re on the red route, but we’re okay.
As the climb continues, brisk walkers, joggers, and avid mountain bikers all stop to enquire. They know the mountain and they’ve seen the vehicles going up it, but the Jimny is an unlikely contender. And all the while they’re questioning the little green SUV’s abilities, I’m grinning because I know what I know.
Unlike your bigger 4x4s, the Jimny makes do with a 1.5-litre petrol engine that churns out 75kW and 130Nm. It’s not a lot of power that’s transferred to all four corners via a five-speed manual gearbox, but at least it gets the job done. Couple that to Suzuki’s AllGrip 4×4 system and you’re stuck with a vehicle that is more than ready to prove its worth every chance it gets.
As the mountain grew steeper and the road more difficult, all the Jimny needed was for the second (4×4) gear lever to be put to use and the system is allowed to do its thing. The Jimny is a climber, a crawler, a smile-inducing machine that’ll no doubt leave you impressed by what it can do. Thanks to 210mm of ground clearance most obstacles are overcome in a jiffy, but it’s always a good idea to have a spotter checking for obstacles that may be a tad too worrisome.
Riding on 15-inch tyres the Jimny may seem like a fish out of water, but it’ll prove that it’s the fish with perhaps the biggest bite.
Over the course of my latest experience with the Suzuki Jimny I was, as with many other test cars, posed with the question: ‘What do I think of the Jimny?’ And followed almost instantly with: ‘Would you recommend it?’
Firstly, I am utterly in love with the Jimny. It’s both brilliant and amazing, but at the same time, it’s one of the most impractical vehicles I’ve ever come across. But once you can acknowledge and live with that, then the Jimny’s shortcomings will be a distant memory. When the SUV was penned into my diary I knew what to expect and I planned my experiences with the car around its strong points.
The explorers among us will absolutely adore the Jimny. The weekend bashers will cut their workweek short just to explore unknown roads and valleys on an extended weekend. Couple breakaways to secluded lodges will be on the agenda every single month.
I know what I’d buy the Jimny for and for those very reasons it’ll be perfect.
Price: Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX AllGrip – R305 900