DRIVEN: Suzuki Jimny auto makes life an adventure but, as a daily, it has its downsides
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JOHANNESBURG - Let’s face it, nobody has bought a Suzuki Jimny because it made the most sense after weighing up all the rational and sensible attributes of all the vehicles in its price range.
Not that its predecessors were lacking on the charisma front, but the latest version that was introduced in 2018 is jam-packed with character – more so than you’d ever expect to find in a vehicle that measures just over 3.6m in length.
That, and it’ll go just about anywhere. While your average “crossover” SUV will start to whine like a Justin Bieber fan as soon as the road gets too rough, the Jimny will tackle just about any off-road trail you throw at it. Unlike the aforementioned high-riders, the Suzuki is built around an old-fashioned ladder frame chassis and is equipped with a proper transfer case with low-range gearing.
I wonder how many of its fans appreciate that aspect. Do they really take it on trails regularly? If not, then they’re seriously wasting their purchase, but then maybe I’m trying to be too rational here.
We first drove the Suzuki Jimny after it was launched two years back, yet we never got to try out the automatic version, until now.
After spending a week with the self-shifting Suzuki, I can say that it’s a good option for those who regularly drive in heavy traffic.
Yes, it is a rather old-fashioned four-speed torque converter unit, and more cogs would have made for a smoother driving experience. But for what it is, the gearbox is a pleasure to live with and it swops gears surprisingly smoothly.
However, as much as the engine is a definite improvement over its predecessor, we would welcome a bigger and more powerful motor. The normally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol powerplant, with 75kW and 130Nm on tap, needs to be worked hard at times. It’s best to take a relaxed approach when driving the Jimny and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
The ride is not bad for a vehicle with such a short wheelbase, but overall refinement is lacking a bit. It sounds like a truck, there’s a lot of wind noise at speed, the steering feels really vague and it’s not very sure-footed through the bends. In fact, hitting an undulation through a fast sweep can be a hair-raising experience in this vehicle.
The other thing that you have to accept about the Jimny is that it’s small. Really small. You can either have a boot or back seats, but not both at the same time. Thankfully though, Suzuki has made it easy to transition between the two and there is a split-level backrest for the occasions when you want to transport three people and a bit of luggage. I did a trip to the Magaliesburg area with three abroad, and my back seat victim was not a happy camper, even after I adjusted my seat more forward than I’d usually like it.
But as cramped and noisy as the Jimny is, it’s thankfully not devoid of modern conveniences. Among the usuals like aircon, steering controls and electric windows, the GLX model also boasts a 17.8cm touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
On the safety front, it boasts ABS, stability control and dual front airbags, but given the vehicle’s narrow stature, side and curtain airbags would have been welcome.
The Suzuki Jimny is a vehicle that you buy because you fall in love with it. There are many downsides as you would have seen in the paragraphs above, but at the end of the day it’ll come down to whether you’re willing to look past its foibles. One thing’s for sure, everyday trips felt like more of an adventure in the Jimny than they would have in other vehicles.