Life is an adventure, so why not make every day a new one? Many live by this creed, refusing to accept what’s placed in front of them for what it is, and instead seeking adventure at every turn. For some this means speed and smooth tarmac, and for others it means trading tarmac for dirt and rocks. Unfortunately for the latter group, with the economic climate the way it is at present, few can afford the off road monsters of their choice, Jeep Wranglers, Toyota Landcruisers and such. But for those with an adventurous side and a small budget, Suzuki offers a glimmer of hope with the Jimny.
It’s a car with a cult following, trading on old school styling that borders on being cartoonish – narrow and tall with aggressive off road styling and army green paint in a tiny package no bigger than a shoebox. The rear seats are of no use to anyone, and the boot can barely hold a backpack without the rear seats needing to be flattened (113 litres minimum and 816 litres maximum). Yet there’s something about the Jimny that’s still strangely attractive – a carefree appeal that urges the nine-to-five horde to throw caution to the wind and do something exciting.
For the driver and sole passenger, the Jimny is a cosy experience that forces you to rub shoulders with one another due to the narrow packaging. The interior is simplistic, featuring the most basic of radios, 2 electric windows, and the odd storage binnacle here and there. It features a most basic air conditioner, and safety in the form of 2 airbags – one on the passenger side of the dash, and the other mounted on the fixed position steering wheel – and the odd amenity to make driving easier such as power steering and ABS braking. The hard plastic surroundings are a sign of the Jimny’s age and budget build, priced at R239 900 for the automatic model on test, yet there’s a cheerful character about it; a feeling that despite the harsh build, the Jimny is a source of great fun.
The diminutive 4×4 is powered by an equally petite 1.3-litre 4 cylinder petrol engine that fashions a seemingly appropriate 63kW @ 6000rpm and 110Nm @ 4100rpm, but when mated to a 4-speed automatic gearbox, that peak power figure is impossible to achieve due to the gearbox shifting prematurely – thankfully so as the engine loathes being revved out and laments incessantly when driving on the highway. Highways are an exercise in extreme patience; when the Jimny’s 0-100 time is around 3 weeks, if you’re lucky enough to not encounter an uphill in that time, you learn to keep left, very far left, and smile and wave as every 125cc delivery boy scooter passes you by. You plan to leave 20 minutes earlier in the morning, and you sit back and enjoy the scenery.
It’s during this scenery-watching that you’ll feel a crazy notion take hold of you, as you spot a grassy knoll in the distance covered in some rocks and boulders. You’ll pass that same knoll on the way home and spot some more obstacles atop it, and the question takes root in your mind – “I wonder if the Jimny can climb those rocks?” Being late, as you naturally are every day in the Jimny, that thought will repeat itself to you on your daily commute, and you’ll make time to go find that grassy knoll. By this stage, the Jimny has already infected your brain with the thought of ‘I wonder’ and you’ll set out to find the answer, seeking adventure in the cartoon 4×4.
It was that weekend; after the Jimny had sewn this seed of adventure in my mind throughout the week; at that moment that I wondered why on earth I was setting out to find that hill in the middle of nowhere across barren terrain after a recent torrential downpour. The answer was already in my head, something I’d seen emblazoned on the internet for all to see – #BecauseJimny – and suddenly it made sense, now that I was searching for a new adventure.
This is where the Jimny is in its element; in the middle of nowhere, traversing muddied spans of dirt and endless bumps and rocks along the way. It’s out here that the lack of boot space and lack of a soft touch interior suddenly makes sense. This is Jimny territory. A switch from 2WD to 4WD on the console-mounted buttons is all it takes to transform the Jimny from slow, cramped commuter to the vehicular embodiment of Kingsley Holgate.
The lightweight 4×4, weighing a measly 1105Kg in automatic guise, is able to float through deep patches of mud without fuss. When needed, the low range transfer gearbox gives that extra shove at the lower end of the rev range, and suddenly the diminutive engine that hates to be revved seems to come alive – all at the lower end of the work spectrum. The low range capability does more than just cruise through mud though – it gives you grip-and-go capability when wading through pools of water up to 650mm deep, over rocky surfaces below that would be the undoing of any crossover attempting the same feats.
The low range 4WD came in handy when I approached a seemingly insurmountable incline – the only way out of the adventure I found myself in. Together with the light weight, narrow proportions, and 34° approach angle, I found myself pointed skyward in the Jimny climbing up what felt like a nigh vertical incline, littered with rocks to climb along the way.
With my faith firmly established and my final prayers said, I allow the 4×4 to do its thing and climb blindly up the rise; blue sky in front of me, and to my left and right, and only the visible ground behind me in my rear view mirror. As I crest the rise unevenly, the short wheelbase and 31° breakover angle make sure the Jimny doesn’t get stuck before it’s over the embankment, but due to my uneven approach the Jimny teeters on diagonally opposed wheels. I feel giddy – blue sky all around me and the see-saw motion beneath me are foreign feelings, especially when I’m the kind of petrolhead that likes 4 wheels firmly planted on the ground. The only way out was forward, and as I inched forward, the Jimny tipped – the see-saw dropping to the side with the most weight – and a 3rd wheel made contact with the ground.
This was getting fun – scary, but fun. Even in my previous off road excursions I’d never climbed an uphill this steep or crested a tabletop rise such as this. Other more ‘hardcore’ 4×4’s are undone by their long wheelbases and wide tracks, and yet the Jimny, tiny as it is, just ploughs on without commotion. Within reason, and slightly beyond, there’s nothing the Jimny can’t tackle. This is what the Jimny does best. This is what it’s made for.
It’s the compact nature of the Jimny that makes it so capable. It’s so light on its feet and so short and nimble that it fits through gaps others couldn’t dream of; it crests rises others would get stuck on; and it cruises over muddy plains with the weightlessness of a Jesus lizard on water. Coupled with a low range transfer case and selectable 4WD and the Jimny is a formidable off roader that will embarrass many 4x4s 3 times its price.
Whilst it may not be the most comfortable on road – the rear suspension is firm and clunky, although the front is supple enough to compensate – and it may not have speed, or refinement, no space in its corner, the Jimny has a loveable character and an endearing personality that charms you in ways no other vehicle seems capable of doing. Whilst other ‘capable’ soft roaders like the Renault Duster provide mod-cons for frequent on road use and a hint of ability for the seldom seen rocky path, the Jimny exists for that weekend warrior that goes in search of adventure. The 4-speed automatic gearbox on road is a dog of a thing that’s more hindrance than help – traffic jams aside – but off road it makes so much sense when it conquers obstacles with ease.
The Jimny breaks the mould when it comes to designated roads and paths. Why drive on someone else’s roads when you can find your own, through any terrain? It’ll do the daily grind, modestly sipping away at your wallet at a rate of 8.2l/100km – but it’ll be biding its time, waiting for the weekend when you’ll unsurprisingly succumb to the urge to take the Jimny to where it belongs – finding an adventure somewhere unknown. Why? Because Jimny! And that’s all the reason you’ll ever need.
|No. of Cylinders:||
63kW @ 6000RPM
110Nm @ 4100RPM
4 Speed automatic
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|Fuel Consumption (Regular driving, combined cycle):||
Rear Wheel Drive with selectable 4WD and low range 4WD
|Price (as tested):||