Small, but tough and fun

BRIAN BAS­SETT finds the ever­green Suzuki Jimny is no Jiminy Cricket car­toon character

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

IN a world where mar­ket­ing de­mands that car man­u­fac­tur­ers make ma­jor changes to their ve­hi­cle mod­els ev­ery six years and face lift them half­way through their model life, it is com­fort­ing to find that there are cars which are so good at what they do that they have been around for years in largely un­changed form.

Here one thinks par­tic­u­larly of the Land Rover De­fender, which is about to leave the mo­tor­ing scene after more than 60 years of ser­vice and the Suzuki Jimny, which I drove last week and which has been around since 1968, when Suzuki bought the Ja­panese Hope Star Mo­tor Company and based the Jimny on one of Hope Star’s small, of­froad ve­hi­cles.

I have never pre­vi­ously driven a Jimny and have al­ways thought of it as a small, box-shaped ve­hi­cle with a slight mil­i­tary air and I sup­pose that its use by sev­eral paras­tatals and forestry com­pa­nies added to that im­pres­sion. I also as­so­ci­ated the name with Jiminy Cricket, the tough, love­able, fast-talk­ing Dis­ney car­toon character, which meant that the Jimny never re­ally came alive for me.

This changed last week when Gary Stokes, dealer prin­ci­pal at Suzuki Pi­eter­mar­itzburg sug­gested I take a Jimny for a few days and plug my knowl­edge gap.

STYLING AND EX­TE­RIOR

The Jimny has al­tered a lit­tle in 47 years, but the de­sign is still the prac­ti­cal, three-door box shape it has al­ways been with a few in­dus­trial de­sign con­ces­sions to im­prove its looks. Thus the flared wheel arches and side pan­els add in­ter­est to the over­all feel of the ve­hi­cle.

The front re­tains the dy­namic Suzuki tooth-like grill, which links two sim­ple but at­trac­tive halo­gen head­light mod­ules. Lower down on the front face another, prac­ti­cal grill links the front fog lamps. There is also UV tinted glass, as well as roof rails and body coloured power side mir­rors with rather good look­ing al­loy wheels. At the rear a sin­gle, large door gives ac­cess to 113 litres of lug­gage space with the rear seats raised or 324 litres of space with the seats folded. The rear door also has the spare wheel bolted to its ex­te­rior, which en­hances the over­all feel of rugged, of­froad abil­ity.

IN­TE­RIOR

Ac­cess to the in­te­rior is via wide open­ing doors which make the rear seats eas­ily us­able even for oldies like me. Cloth on the seats is ro­bust and ap­pears durable and the seats them­selves are eas­ily ad­justable. The Jimny’s in­te­rior ap­pears de­cep­tively sim­ple and com­pact, but is in fact er­gonom­i­cally de­signed to make the most of its com­pact di­men­sions — thus al­low­ing four adults to drive in com­fort for long dis­tances.

The in­te­rior plas­tics are of ex­cel­lent qual­ity and there are signs of high-qual­ity crafts­man­ship ev­ery­where.

The air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem will keep you cool on the hottest KZN sum­mer days. The sim­ple AM/FM ra­dio-CD player with two speak­ers is not grand but per­fectly ad­e­quate.

Dual front airbags and height ad­justable seat belts form part of the mod­ern ac­tive safety sys­tems. There is also an alarm and im­mo­biliser, op­er­ated by a transpon­der key.

POWER AND PER­FOR­MANCE.

The Jimny is pow­ered by a 1 328 cc, four­cylin­der VVT petrol en­gine, pro­duc­ing 63 kW and 110 Nm of torque, giv­ing it a tow­ing ca­pac­ity of 1,3 tons. In town and on tar the ve­hi­cle has a hard ride but its high seat­ing po­si­tion gives the driver a feel­ing of safety, while the sen­si­tive and di­rect steer­ing makes you feel in con­trol at all times. The ve­hi­cle is ideal for city driv­ing and al­lows easy park­ing.

This car is a full-blooded 4x4 and no week­end poseur’s ve­hi­cle. The sys­tem is op­er­ated by three but­tons on the dash­board and the vac­uum-lock­ing hub sys­tem al­lows you to change into 4x4 mode at speeds up to 100 km/h. There is also a low range but­ton which is for those times when there is no road.

The ed­i­tor of Wit­ness Wheels , Al­wyn Viljoen, and I took the Jimny into the hills above Claren­don, where the only road is an over­grown rut­ted en­trance track. Later that same af­ter­noon, hav­ing been warned by Al­wyn not to take the Jimny over the hills to Hil­ton be­cause of a par­tic­u­larly bad rocky area, I could not re­sist the chal­lenge. In the mid­dle of the rocks I ran out of courage, got out and looked help­lessly around me. There was noth­ing for it but to move for­ward, which I did very slowly and the Jimny and its rather shaken driver ar­rived in Hil­ton about 15 min­utes later. Not bad at all for a mini SUV.

PRICES, GUAR­AN­TEES AND THE COM­PE­TI­TION

The Jimny sells for around R220 000, which is good value for a ve­hi­cle that de­liv­ers a full 4x4 ex­pe­ri­ence and is fun to drive. Suzuki of­fers a three­year/100 000km man­u­fac­turer’s guar­an­tee, a six-year per­fo­ra­tion war­ranty and a 60 000km km ser­vice plan. Ser­vice in­ter­vals are 15 000 km apart.

A three-year/un­lim­ited mileage road­side as­sis­tance plan in­cludes things like tire changes.

The Jimny is in a class of its own but if you want a com­par­i­son, look at the Re­nault Duster and the Dai­hatsu Te­rios.

PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

I as­so­ci­ated the name with Jiminy Cricket, the tough, love­able, fast-talk­ing Dis­ney car­toon character, which meant that the Jimny never re­ally came alive for me, which all changed last week in the hills above Pi­eter­mar­itzburg.

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