itsy bitsy yel­low gi­ant slay­ing Jimmy

Few 4x4s have man­aged to cre­ate as much pre-launch hype and ex­pec­ta­tion as the lat­est Suzuki Jimny, the first all-new model in 20 years. We could hardly wait, too… so took one 4x4-ing ahead of its lo­cal in­tro­duc­tion.

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - ADVENTURE DRIVE - Pho­to­graphs: Rob Till

SUZUKI made it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to not love the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Jimny. It was cute, af­ford­able and it re­mained the peren­nial thorn in the side of much larger, more ex­pen­sive 4×4s right up to the end of its life. It was only the lack of lock­ing dif­fer­en­tials that could po­ten­tially stop the 4×4 progress of a Jimny, if wheels lost con­tact with terra firma. With a Jimny-ex­pe­ri­enced driver be­hind the wheel, though, it was just about un­stop­pable. But it was far from per­fect. Af­ter a 10-hour trip to Himeville from Jo­han­nes­burg in a mod­i­fied Jimny that would only ex­ceed 110km/h if we revved the 1.3-litre engine to smithereens, we were hardly op­ti­mistic about driv­ing it any fur­ther. Then we had a great time driv­ing that same Zook up Sani Pass and through Le­sotho. The ride was bouncy and you couldn’t hear the ra­dio at over 100km/h. Stronger cross­winds had quite an in­flu­ence on the Jimny, too. Still, it has a cer­tain charm and al­lure that caused thou­sands of South Africans to sign on the dot­ted line. Even near­ing the end of its life it sold more than 40 units per month. Now it’s fi­nally time for the first all-new Jimny in 20 years.

Back to the fu­ture

Some so­cial me­dia com­men­ta­tors have noted that the new Jimny looks like a smaller ver­sion of Mercedes-Benz’s famed Ge­landewa­gen, im­ply­ing that the Ja­panese may be try­ing to cash in on some of the G’s leg­endary roots.

But quite the op­po­site is true. This Jimny’s styling is based on the Suzuki LJ110, which pre­ceded the Ge­landewa­gen by nearly a decade.

The new Jimny draws in­spi­ra­tion from other for­mer vari­a­tions of Suzuki’s small off-roader, as well. The clamshell bon­net is straight from the SJ while the slats at the front are from the model it re­places.

It’s retro but de­signed in such a way that it im­proves day-to-day us­abil­ity with­out sac­ri­fic­ing off-road abil­ity. Throw in some bright and funky colour op­tions, and you end up with a lit­tle 4×4 that makes heads turn, from hard­core 4×4 junkies to trendy city slick­ers who will prob­a­bly never drive on a dirt road.

So to sum up the styling: Suzuki’s nailed it.

Move on in­side

The two-door Jimny’s never been a very prac­ti­cal mode of trans­port, with lim­ited in­te­rior space en­sur­ing it’s more suited to just two peo­ple, in­stead of a fam­ily.

The new Jimny may have 40mm more legroom in the back but space is still a bit scarce on the in­side. Sure, you can go fou­rup around town, over shorter dis­tances but then there’s vir­tu­ally no boot space. It’s still more suited to two peo­ple, in other words.

In terms of qual­ity, lay­out and com­fort, the new Jimny is a gi­ant leap for­ward.

In­ter­est­ingly, there are few retro el­e­ments on the in­side. The in­stru­ment clus­ter and its or­ange light­ing are an­other nod to the SJ but the big­gest nod of all is the re­in­state­ment of a sec­ond gear lever for the trans­fer case, or kort stokkie.

The pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Jimny em­ployed an elec­tronic dial sys­tem, to se­lect be­tween 2H, 4H or 4Low. This sys­tem proved finicky at times. It’s re­fresh­ing to see a com­pany buck the trend and go back to the tried-and-tested sec­ond lever... like a right proper 4×4. More on the 4×4 bits later.

Com­fort and lux­ury have been much im­proved, with bet­ter noise, vi­bra­tion and harsh­ness (NVH) de­vel­op­ment a clear pri­or­ity on the lat­est Jimny.

This GLX model is a pre-pro­duc­tion ver­sion but the ones you will find on the Suzuki show­room floor will have a mod­ern in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem (and you can ac­tu­ally lis­ten to mu­sic at 120km/h) and cli­mate con­trol. A three-spoke steer­ing wheel with re­mote but­tons for the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem and cruise con­trol will also be stan­dard on the top GLX de­riv­a­tive.

The Jimny has re­ally stepped it up in the com­fort depart­ment, an area in which it never ex­celled be­fore. Long-dis­tance driv­ing is no longer a pun­ish­ment but rather a plea­sure. And the new 1.5-litre engine plays a big role here.

More va-vrooM!

The older Jimny had a lot of things go­ing for it but power and torque were not two of them. You had to wring the lit­tle 1.3-litre four-cylin­der’s neck to re­ally get go­ing around town, or if you wanted to slip into a gap on the high­way.

On the open road, if you added a few ac­ces­sories to that Jimny, 120km/h be­came a tar­get, not a cruis­ing speed. And when you drive to achieve that tar­get, fuel con­sump­tion suf­fers.

Our long-term Jimny, with roof rack, sus­pen­sion and slightly big­ger tyres, man­aged around nine litres/100km.

Here’s the good news: the new Jimny’s 1.5-litre four-cylin­der petrol engine of­fers more power and torque that makes it in­fin­itely eas­ier to live with on a daily ba­sis. It pro­duces 75kW of power and 130Nm of torque (up from 63kW and 110Nm), and in our GLX it was cou­pled to a five-speed man­ual gearbox.

Cru­cially, the new Jimny weighs just 1 095kg, only 5kg heav­ier than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion. Al­though per­for­mance can still not be de­scribed as neck­snap­ping or fast, it’s a whole lot bet­ter than the older Suzuki.

The 16V engine, which also fea­tures Suzuki’s vari­able valve tim­ing (VVT-i) sys­tem, revs sweetly to its red line of 6 000r/ min. How­ever, with 130Nm of torque peak­ing at 4 000r/min, you don’t have to rev it quite as much as the 1.3-litre mill.

Is it the most re­fined four­cylin­der petrol engine in the world? Prob­a­bly not. But it seems Suzuki fo­cused on a more sim­plis­tic, more ro­bust engine op­tion for the new Jimny, as be­fits a pukka off-roader, of course.

has the neW Jimny gone 4x4 soFt?

Ah, quite the op­po­site, in fact. It’s now even bet­ter off-road.

It is still based on a rugged lad­der-frame chas­sis (now with a new cross mem­ber that makes it even tougher) so it can han­dle some off-road punches. It also has solid axles at both ends, en­sur­ing plenty of wheel ar­tic­u­la­tion in a tough 4×4 en­vi­ron­ment.

It has 210mm of ground clear­ance and there’s the part-time 4WD sys­tem with a se­lec­tion be­tween 2H, 4H and 4Low. Hill de­scent con­trol is stan­dard.

The ap­proach an­gle is 37 de­grees, the breakover an­gle 28 de­grees and de­par­ture an­gle 49 de­grees. Throw in the low weight, the com­pact body and, just like the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Jimny, you end up with one sur­pris­ingly ca­pa­ble lit­tle 4×4.

How­ever, the pre­vi­ous Jimny had one lim­i­ta­tion that

pre­vented it from sham­ing the likes of Jeep’s Ru­bi­con and Mercedes’ Ge­landewa­gen in stan­dard trim: the lack of lock­ing parts for the dif­fer­en­tials. As soon as a wheel lost con­tact with the ground, it se­ri­ously com­pro­mised for­ward mo­men­tum. No won­der so many pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Jim­nys are fit­ted with af­ter­mar­ket lock­ers, which makes them nigh un­stop­pable.

Now Suzuki has checked that box with the fit­ment of its Al­lGrip Pro sys­tem, es­sen­tially a trac­tion con­trol sys­tem aimed at off-road driv­ing. In the­ory, this new Jimny should then be quite un­stop­pable. But is it?

When the go­ing gets tough

The Hobby Park 4×4 trail in Krugers­dorp boasts some pretty se­ri­ous 4×4 ob­sta­cles.

In­ter­est­ingly though, when we picked up the Jimny from its head­quar­ters, its own­ers had ad­vised that, when we go off-road­ing, we should choose the more dif­fi­cult line, in­stead of the easy one. That was quite a state­ment, es­pe­cially since this Jimny was only one of two in the coun­try! But it also showed how con­fi­dent the Suzuki cus­to­di­ans are about this new Jimny.

Still, the proof of the pud­ding is in the eat­ing. We found our first ob­sta­cle: a nasty climb over some rocks. We had tack­led the same ob­sta­cle some years ago in a stock Jimny, and al­though we got through it, it wasn’t with­out a few grey hairs and some seat-clench­ing mo­ments. It was in much worse shape now, with rain hav­ing washed away most of the sand, ex­pos­ing even more rocks.

We chose the least likely line. With first gear low range en­gaged, we started the climb. As ex­pected, wheels started los­ing con­tact with the rocks and started spin­ning... but with the driver main­tain­ing the same pres­sure on the ac­cel­er­a­tor, the Al­lGrip Pro trac­tion con­trol sys­tem came to the party, brak­ing the spin­ning wheels, en­sur­ing they re­gained trac­tion – and up the Jimny went.

Truth be told, it was all pretty easy. Bor­ing, even.

Clearly Suzuki has re­solved the one chink in the pre­vi­ous Jimny’s ar­mour: the loss of trac­tion in cross-axle sit­u­a­tions. It’s now damn bril­liant.

The new engine also feels much stronger in low range, with more torque at lower revs than the pre­vi­ous 1.3-litre. You don’t have to rev it quite so hard, en­sur­ing more con­trolled, slower ma­noeu­vres on tight and tech­ni­cal 4×4 sec­tions.

We dis­patched some soft sand with the Jimny in 4H – and with that low weight, it got the job done with­out faffing about, and with no has­sles.

Sure, there may be some 4×4 en­thu­si­asts who rue the fact that the Jimny still doesn’t have at least one lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial, and that a com­puter con­trols the trac­tion on a tough 4×4 ob­sta­cle. Frankly though, the trac­tion con­trol is the way of the fu­ture, and it does a splen­did job.

By the way, if you’re feel­ing like an old-school Jimny chal­lenge, the trac­tion con­trol can be dis­en­gaged. The sys­tem au­to­mat­i­cally en­gages at speeds faster than 30km/h (also in 2H).

sum­mary

The all-new Jimny is an epic lit­tle ve­hi­cle.

It builds on the fun, ca­pa­ble and solid rep­u­ta­tion of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion model and cor­rects a few of the per­ceived faults of the older one.

It’s now more fash­ion­able than ever be­fore, more ca­pa­ble in an off-road en­vi­ron­ment, and in­fin­itely bet­ter and more com­fort­able to drive on-road.

With pric­ing start­ing from around R270 000 and peak­ing at about R330 000 for the GLX AT model, we be­lieve Suzuki will not be able to ship enough new Jim­nys our way to sat­isfy de­mand.

It’s been a 20-year wait but it has cer­tainly been worth it.

Suzuki has de­liv­ered the goods. Be­low:

This pre-pro­duc­tion Jimny GLX is fit­ted with stan­dard halo­gen head­lights. Pro­duc­tion ver­sions will get LED pro­jec­tor head­lamps. Photos taken at Hobby Park 4×4 trail (hob­by­park.co.za).

Main im­age: It’s retro, it’s funky, it’s got more horses un­der the bon­net and it’s even bet­ter on a tough 4x4 trail.

Be­low: Ready, aim… fire! With 210mm clear­ance, good ap­proach and de­par­ture an­gles, plenty of low-down torque from the new engine, a right proper 4×4 driv­e­train with live axles and a new trac­tion con­trol sys­tem, the new Jimny is vir­tu­ally un­stop­pable on a tough 4×4 trail, even if there are wheels in the air. Hill hold is stan­dard, en­sur­ing that pulling off on steep slopes is a cinch. Ex­posed ra­dial arm mount­ing points re­main, if you're go­ing to 4×4 your new Jimny, best fit some af­ter­mar­ket pro­tec­tion to keep those points un­scathed.

Clock­wise from top: Retro cool, the lat­est Jimny will ap­peal to both the hip and cool, and hard­core 4×4 en­thu­si­asts. The spare wheel cover and tow bar are op­tional ex­tras. The cabin is now a much more up­mar­ket and pol­ished af­fair, and NVH lev­els are much im­proved over the pre­vi­ous model.

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