HONEY I STRETCHED THE JIMNY
The Suzuki’s Jimny is one of those vehicles that makes you smile. Every time you see one on the road, you lock into the likelihood that whoever is behind the wheel is sure to be enjoying life. The Jimny has such a fresh honesty about it – its no-nonsense mechanical specification, its back-to-basics squared-off trad SUV styling, and its affordable price.
In three-door form, the only configuration that’s been available here over three generations since the 1980s, the proportions of the Jimny have always been a big part of its cuteness factor. The question that I wanted answered was whether the switch to five-doors and a considerable increase in wheelbase would somehow detract from its visual appeal. This was answered the first time I saw the new car in the parking lot of an upmarket hotel in Polokwane on the launch in mid-November: somehow, the new stretched full-four-seater Jimny looked just as well-proportioned as its shorter sibling. And that was a relief!
One of the tricks that Suzuki’s stylists used to incorporate the extra pair of doors without adding any boredom factor was to add in an extra section of glass in the side window area. This somehow integrates the cleanliness of the original design in longer format, when viewed from the side. The fact that the width of the new cars is unchanged has resulted in a mini-off-roader that still looks purposeful. And the narrow width means it is still as agile as ever in tricky off-road situations.
The extra 340 mm length of the five-door has all been added between the front and rear axles. The resultant extra leg room will be a boon to people who have considered a Jimny but given it a miss because of the cramped two-plus-two nature of the three-door version.
The other factor that has prevented the Jimny from being targeted as a family car is the diminutive boot space. This has increased, but only marginally to a total of just 211 litres, which means it is still only good for a couple of shopping bags or a couple of relatively small items of soft luggage. To plan a holiday for four, five-door Jimny owners would have to consider investing in a trailer, or perhaps one of the excellent roof racks that are available.
The longer wheelbase has distinct benefits for the Jimny in open-road driving. At a speed of 120 km/h or slightly above, straight-line stability is much improved, and the ride is also much smoother over undulations. On our launch drive from Polokwane to Botswana, we encountered countless potholes in the Alldays area in the Limpopo Province, and these were handled very well by the Jimny, thanks to the standard fitment of high-profile 195/80 R15 tyres.
Once through the border gate into Botswana, dirt roads were the order of the day, followed by plenty of low range running along soft sand in dry riverbeds. Our test vehicle for the launch run was the four-speed automatic version, and although the little 1,5-litre Suzuki motor worked hard for hours on end in low range through the soft sand, the performance was faultless, as temperatures stayed at the normal mark and never once did, we fear that the little off-roader would bog down.
Naturally with a longer wheelbase there was some concern that the lower ramp angle might result in snagging on rocks, but these fears proved unfounded. The narrow overall width proved a boon when negotiating trick sections between boulders, and the immaculately built car handled this test with flying colours.
Inside, the new five-door version has a similar dashboard and control layout and being behind the wheel was pretty much a very pleasant place to be. The seats did seem to be a little on the hard side over extended periods of roughing it, but otherwise the Jimny proved to be a totally capable weekend getaway vehicle. There’s loads of legroom in the new model and plenty of head room. The seat backs can be folded fully flat to offer a makeshift bedding area for those times when you happen upon a campsite but are too lazy to pitch a tent.
With only 75 kW on tap, and with a heavy load on board, owners will have to reconcile themselves to the fact that overtaking ability on open roads is not its strongest suit, given that no turbo boost is available from the naturally aspirated small-capacity power-plant. But the upside of this is that fuel consumption remains excellent, and even with many hours of soft-sand churning logged on our trip in low range, overall consumption remained in the 8-litres/100 km bracket.
Now that the Jimny has realistic space for four adults, this little Suzuki cements its place as a unique vehicle in our new-car line-up in this country. Pricing for the five-door ranges from R 429 900 to R479 900, and there is simply nothing else available on the market that offers this type of hard-core off-road capability at anywhere near that price.
The fact that more of your friends or family can now enjoy the experience with you, is simply icing on what was already a very tasty motoring morsel.
There are three models of the new Jimny five-door available, and they are priced as follows:
Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GL 5-door manual: R429 900
Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX 5-door manual: R457 900
Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX 5-door automatic: R479 900
Story by: Stuart Johnston