The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
By Miles Downard
The Suzuki Jimny is something of a legend across the world thanks to its diminutive size but giant killer off road capability. It’s David in a world of Goliaths and who doesn’t love an underdog, right?
There have only been 4 generations of Jimny since the first one saw the light of day in 1970, showing the longevity the Japanese manufacturer keeps in mind when designing a new one. And my what a new one this 4th generation is.
On the outside
There’s no doubting the new Jimny harks back to the 2nd generation, commonly referred to as the SJ. That square design is an iconic as it gets for offroaders, and the Jimny in particular. There’s common sense behind it too. For instance, in colder climates the flat surfaces and thin window sills make it very easy to offload snow. In all conditions, the upright windscreen pillars and clamshell bonnet help the driver in gauging where each corner of the vehicle is, very important in tight off road situations. Those roof pillars also enables the roof to carry more weight, which is ideal for a roof rack or rooftop tent.
More applicable for overland enthusiasts are the angled front and rear bumpers that not only keep them out of the way of rocks and shrubs, but also increase the approach and departure angles. The front bumper design also exposes more of the tyre tread on a horizontal plane for greater climbing capability in rocky off-road conditions.
At the rear of the vehicle, Suzuki designers have moved all the lights into the horizontal rear bumper, which has allowed them to create a wider rear door, for increased practicality.
There’s a funky set of colours available, along with some more subdued ones should you wish to blend into surroundings. On the higher spec GLX model one can opt for a two tone colour scheme which is a nice touch and alloy wheels. The lower spec GA has steel rims as standard. Locally Suzuki South Africa has come up with some decal sticker options for a little extra customisation.
On the inside
Space is the real winner here. Despite being shorter in overall dimension, both front and rear passengers have more legroom thanks to cleverly designed seats and better packaging. The Jimny is now wider giving the benefit of more shoulder room both front and rear. In terms of comfort, the front seats have been redesigned to fold completely flat with the rear bench to allow someone to sleep inside the cabin, for instance while on a camping trip. On the passenger side, this flat-folding seat and foldable rear bench allow for a completely flat loading surface for long equipment, such as surfboards.
The GLX model gets a very nice infotainment system that incorporates Apple Carplay and Android Auto. There’s climate control, a centre console tray that comfortably fits a phone and houses the accessory and USB sockets and a floor console tray that can hold smartphones upright and can securely hold 500 ml drinks bottles.The GA model makes do with manual air conditioning and a locally fitted Pioneer touch screen radio system.
Behind the wheel
Obviously the most important category for the Jimny. The big update here is a 1.5 litre petrol motor that replaces the old 1.3 litre unit. The change in driveability is drastic whether you have the auto (GLX only) or manual gearbox, which means you could actually make use of your Jimny in everyday life. Fuel consumption is very good too, rated at 7.2-7.8 litres / 100km depending on gearbox. On launch, including off road driving, we managed a round 8.0 litres / 100km. Very impressive indeed.
Speaking of off road driving, the Jimny sits on a ladder frame chassis with solid axles front and rear. It’s an effective, well proven solution in the 4×4 world because it mechanically force one wheel down if the opposite wheel is raised from the ground. Furthermore, the axle system prevents the nose from diving under speed, particularly helpful on dunes, and it handles rutted roads with greater ease.
The Jimny now boasts Suzuki’s Allgrip Pro four-wheel drive system with low range transfer gear. A manual shift lever replaces the push button knob to select drive modes. The lever is directly connected to the transfer gear and can switch between 2H and 4H on the fly at speeds of up to 100 km/h.
One of the biggest detractors on the old Jimny was the lack of a locking differential, or similar electronic system. That too has been addresses by Suzuki’s proprietary Brake Limited Slip Differential and electronic stability control systems. The Brake LSD-system adjusts torque to the wheel with grip if another wheel on the same axle starts spinning, for example if it’s lifted into the air. This video demonstrates the benefits.
The Jimny is in a unique space in the motoring world in that there are very few competitors globally, and basically none locally. Regardless of the lack of comparisons, I still think it represents good value at R264,900 for the GA model, R299,900 on the GLX manual and the GLX auto at R319,900.
The GLX is standard with a 4 year / 60 000 km service plan and the GA with a 2 year / 30 000 km service plan. All models are sold with a 5 year / 200 000 km mechanical warranty.
Safe to say that the new Jimny lives up to all the hype and expectation the previous three generations have created. Incremental changes improve the overall picture by a lot more than the sum of their parts to create what I think is the ultimate small overlander. Equally the Jimny can justify a place in the garage as a weekend 4×4 toy, should the demands of everyday life preclude it from things like the school run. All in all a very impressive Goliath killer.