Small Suzuki 4×4’s have been around for over 40 years now and have proven to be very capable little machines. It all began in 1968 when Suzuki bought the Hope Motor Company and started making small off-road vehicles. In 1970 the LJ10 was released and is the current Jimny’s oldest relative. It was powered by an air-cooled 359 cc two-stroke engine. Some 43 years later the Jimny is still based on the same principals, a small off-road vehicle that makes use of four-wheel-drive and its light weight to traverse obstacles.
The current Jimny is essentially a 15 year old car but did receive some updates for 2013. The updates include a revised front bumper, grille and the addition of a central air intake on the bonnet. The interior now benefits from new seat fabrics and the addition of Isofix mounting points. The engine remains the same, displacing 1, 3-litres; it produces 63kW @ 6000r/min and 110 Nm @ 4100 r/min.
The relatively modest engine and output figures translate in to an underwhelming on-road driving experience. When driving the Jimny around it does feel like an old car, the steering is heavy when parking and very twitchy at highway speeds. There is also a lack of features, you get a CD player and airconditioning but that’s about it. The boot and rear quarters are also quite small, making this a car more suited for a bachelor or a young couple without children.
One thing that I gathered in my time with the Jimny is that judging the car for its age or on-road performance is a bit unfair. Suzuki has not claimed that the Jimny is the last word in technology and urban mobility, the company promotes the lifestyle aspect of the car. In terms of a lifestyle or off-road vehicle the Jimny is brilliant; this would be my car of choice for doing events like the PutFoot Rally because it is relatively light on fuel and does not destroy trails due to its light kerb weight.
I recently attended the Suzuki 4×4 Academy at Bass Lake and apart from learning a thing or two from a seasoned off-road instructor I found out first-hand how capable this vehicle is. Obstacles that would have many a SUV cross-axled or even stuck proved conquerable in the little Suzuki. It makes you feel like an off-road hero and because the driving experience is so visceral your accomplishments seem that much more impressive.
When I had the car to myself I took it to my local 4×4 trail where its narrow dimensions and 190 mm ground clearance meant I could take on the motocross and quad bike trail which is quite a bit more challenging. It reminded me of the Land Rover Defender, you sit impossibly close to the door and there is quite a lot of drivetrain noise but as with the Landy this only adds to the experience. I am happy to report that the Jimny did not get stuck once and apart from a few areas where low-range was required the vehicle completed the course without a problem.
Overall I have to say that I am a fan of the Jimny. In a world filled with cars that are becoming increasingly difficult to tell apart, Suzuki offer something characterful and different. For those who want something that is capable off-road, simple and relatively affordable it is a charming proposition and the proven mechanicals mean it will probably last forever. The Jimny retails for R205, 900 and comes with a three-year/100 000km warranty and a four-year/100 000km service plan.