Small, but tough and fun
BRIAN BASSETT finds the evergreen Suzuki Jimny is no Jiminy Cricket cartoon character
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.
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.
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.