Long before other Suzuki luminaries such as the Swift and Grand Vitara, there was Jimny. More accurately, there was the LJ series of off-road cars based on imported Jeeps. The Jimny brand has been around since 1970, and the new car which has just been launched in Mzansi, replaces one that has been in the market since 1998. From what I experienced at the launch, Suzuki has hit a gold mine again.

I should probably get the bad news out of the way first. One, the all-new Jimny is certainly not a family vehicle. It either carries four people or two with luggage, not both. So it’s extremely compact. Two, the 4-speed automatic is archaic, as functional as it is. Nobody should make such gearboxes anymore.

For the good news. The Jimny is extremely attractive to the eye. In fact, to both eyes. The two main headlights – halogen standard – dominate the front end, alongside the 5-slat grille. The second part of that grille takes foglights and a black bumper. Sure, Suzuki could have given it the modern colour-coded treatment, but this is Jimny. A born off-roader. Side views show just how small it is – at 3.62 metres long, with the rear passengers practically touching shoulders while sitting on the rear wheels, thanks to the 1.6m width. Ground clearance is some 21cm, while standard wheels are 15-inch steel types. There is an alloy available as well. Jimny is also deliberately boxy, giving it a strong and masculine look in a world where SUVs are going for the softer demeanour. On the side-opening rear door is the spare wheel.

Suzuki SA sells two trim levels for the car, namely the GA and the higher-spec GLX. Buyers can choose between three dual-tone and five single-tone colours, including my favourites Kinetic Yellow and Brisk Blue Metallic. There are two transmissions to pick from, which is the 5-speed manual and the aforementioned 4-speed automatic with “overdrive”. Both specs come standard with the patented ALLGRIP PRO mechanical 4×4 system, which can shift the car from 4×2 to 4×4 to 4×4 low range using the old school “baby” gear lever.

Paired to these ‘boxes is a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre motor, replacing the older 1.3-litre. Maximum power is 75kW at 6 000rpm, while torque is rated at 130Nm at 4 000rpm. These figures may look short, but they are quite adequate believe me. I drove both manual and automatic and felt the manual worked better under normal road conditions, while the automatic excelled in the bush and forest. And this is coming from a long-time fan of the automatic.

Speaking of off-road, Jimny is perhaps the most brilliant off-road vehicle I have driven this year. It is exceptionally capable. With an approach angle of 37-degrees and a departure angle of 49-degrees, one is constantly being dared to get off the tarmac and explore, even if it only means climbing on suburban pavements or open public spaces. During our drive through a dense and mostly wet Mpumalanga forest, the car really immersed itself with nature, taking on steep hills, driving uphill over wet pebbles, dipping into mud, and so on. Not once did it complain or fail.

Strides have also been made to the car’s interior, especially when it comes to current features. These include a new 17.8cm touch screen infotainment system with Bluetooth, USB, and auxiliary connection among others. Yes, it also plays the radio. Standard is air conditioning, power steering, ABS, Hill Descent control, ESP and front airbags. These are all standard in the GA. The GLX adds items like cruise control, LED lights, electric windows and side mirrors, and others.

The little Jimny will not be everything to everyone, but it will certainly be all things to buyers looking for a compact, reasonably-priced new urban SUV with exceptional 4×4 off-road capabilities and a modern, tight cabin. I would certainly recommend it.


Suzuki Jimny Prices

GA manual – R264 900

GLX manual – R299 900

GLX automatic – R319 900

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