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HomeFEATUREDSUZUKI JIMNY – First Drive Impressions

SUZUKI JIMNY – First Drive Impressions

It’s a fact. A Suzuki Jimny is one of the most capable standard off-roaders on the market. Its mountain-goat-like climbing prowess, though, isn’t exactly dependent on how many diff-locks it’s endowed with, or any sophisticated off-road electronics. Instead, it relies on a much simpler formula, as DEON VAN DER WALT found at the local launch of the latest iteration.

The formula for the new Suzuki Jimny, like its forebears, is quite simple: package as much as possible off-road capability into a unit that is both compact and affordable. But, therein also lies a series of problems.

First, if we’re to address the matter of affordability; well, there’s really no need since we probably don’t have to tell you that Bundu-kit doesn’t come cheap. So, adding the latest and greatest in cutting-edge differentials and fancy electronic programmes isn’t exactly a viable sales strategy for the Japanese marque.

Then, and even if the sticker price was of no concern, there’s the matter of the Jimny’s size – where to fit it all? But this, you see, is also how the little Suzi skirts what is essentially its limiting factors – size is the poison arrow in its off-road quiver.

SIZING THE JIMNY UP

The new Jimny, while boasting a more front-passenger-centric cabin than the previous generation what with better shoulder room thanks to a 45 mm gain in the width department and 55 mm longer front seats, is now even more compact on the outside. The overall vehicle length has been reduced by 50 mm, while the wheelbase has remained unchanged at 2,250 mm.

Sure, the 9.8-metre turning circle also remains unchanged, but the addition of reworked bumpers and suspension components like coil springs and shock absorbers that add 20 mm of ground clearance means better all-around obstacle avoidance. The 28-degree breakover angle is an improvement of one degree, while the 37-degree approach and 49-degree departure angles have seen an increase of two and three degrees respectively.

OVERALL ENHANCEMENTS

So the Jimny is marginally better at going over and around obstacles, but something had to give, right? Well, yes and from what we’ve seen at the launch, the compromise comes in the form of rear legroom that’s well, almost non-existent and a luggage compartment that can just about carry a laptop bag and some bottled water.

Luckily then Suzuki offers buyers an option to purchase a series of cargo trays that can be fitted with the rear seats up or folded down, the latter of which is able to gulp all the contents of an indulgent grocery run.

Sure, cargo trays are only some of the Suzuki-fitted options available, but it’s not like the Jimny – be it entry-level GA guise or the range-topping GLX derivative – is under-equipped. Both models come with the basics like air-con, power steering and Suzuki’s Allgrip Pro 4×4 system and both hill-hold and hill-descent control. The GLX also has a mouthful of added nice-to-haves like LED projector headlights, cruise control and the marque’s 7″ SLDA (Suzuki Linkage Display Audio) system that, thanks to an infrared touchscreen, allows for operation even when wearing gloves, to name but a few.

ROAD ON, ROAD OF

Also new is the 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine that’s mated to either a five-speed manual (available on both the GA and GLX) or the familiar four-speed automatic that’s only available on GLX models. The newer, bigger engine produces 75 kW and 130 Nm of torque, compared to the 1.3-litre mill that mustered a modest 63 kW and 110 Nm.

Driving the auto on the launch route around the hilly-landscaped Lowveld, the difference was quite palpable. Sure, it’s still no performance machine but since that was never the intent of this little Kei-SUV, the engine hardly felt overwhelmed by the 1.1-tonne bulk of the Jimny. This, in part, is thanks to the cog-shifter that intelligently swapped gears according to throttle input, only chasing through the numbers with sudden throttle changes and steep inclines.

Where its real talent shines through, though, is when the going gets tough. Real tough. Far away from the beaten track, Suzuki’s hill-clambering tech proves to be extremely useful, especially paired with the part-time 4×4 drive and the clever Brake Limited Slip Differential system that sends torque to the wheel with the most traction.

The Jimny broke no sweat as we clambered over what we can confidently call some fairly challenging obstacles, with the little mountain goat still holding back on its true conquering talents.

LAST WORD

The Suzuki Jimny is giving the proverbial finger to the ‘bigger is better’ convention, proving that it doesn’t need the biggest muscles on the playground to keep up with the best of ‘em. And this we can respect. It’s no school-runner, oh no – like its forebears – the Jimny is built for off-roading and when it’s not in the mood for getting its attire all muddied, it’s pretty great in the city too. The Jimny, then, is as unpretentious as they come.

Report by DEON VAN DER WALT | Images © SUZUKI SOUTH AFRICA

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