Road Tests

Drive Review: More of the same with new Suzuki Jimny (2019)

The most hotly anticipated car of the year?

Well, the 2019 Suzuki Jimny is no Mercedes Project One or McLaren Speedtail. But even so it’s pretty hard to imagine any other sub R350 000, 4 seat 1.5-litre car gathering quite such a cult following from its first reveal at South Africa’s Festival of Motoring right through to the launch a month later

Small engine. Two grades.

Suzuki South Africa has opted to field the 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine, making an entire century of horsepowers (75kW). Weight’s a measly 1,135kg, and price for this posho GLX MT trim is sub R300 000. But we’d save ten per cent and go for the GA MT. Steel wheels (rather than alloys) are utility-perfect, you don’t need the LED lights and cruise control which are superfluous in a ‘professional’ lifestyle because you’re already wearing outdoor gear.And this export-version Suzuki Jimny is still miniscule: 3.6 metres from end to end, including that outdoor spare wheel. There are four seats, each of which can accommodate an adult. But really it’s a three-seater because you’re going to have to fold one of the rear ones to make the boot bigger. With both back seats up, the boot is 85 litres.

So what’s it like to drive on the roads around White River

Charming. I’m sorry to use this old cliche, but the Suzuki Jimny has character. Always has, always will.

But ‘character’ is always a synonym for ‘deficiency’.

Correct. Using the metrics by which we usually judge a new car, it’s crap. Bouncy in a straight line, vague around bends and slow everywhere.The short wheelbase, narrow track and softish springs, plus the fact your seat’s so high up, mean you’re rocked and pitched all over the place. The steering’s vague and extremely low-geared, so you’re twirling the wheel like a winch. It doesn’t self-centre much either. You’re constantly correcting even on a good road. A briskly-taken right-turning roundabout calls up vast understeer, whether or not you engage 4WD. But that’s OK because the performance harmonises. It’s not like one of those V8 Defenders or last-gen AMG G-Wagens where the engine was far too much for the chassis. It’s all held in balance. So you seldom scare yourself with speed. A mild incline is enough to hold it below 100kph even with the throttle pinned.The ride is like turbulence in a small plane: no harsh impacts, just a sequence of perturbations of random direction, amplitude and frequency.But I absolutely cannot leave it at that. Because I enjoyed it.

Explain…

Driving the Suzuki Jimny around the dirt and tar roads in Mpumalanga is a case of teaming up with another being, one that brings its own opinions and motions. Like riding a horse perhaps (which isn’t my thing) or sailing a dinghy on a lumpy sea (which is). Input does not meet a direct and proportional output: you have to work with the Jimny, rather than try to subjugate it.

Stop judging it as if it were a sports car.

Sorry, we’re just trying to describe it at normal road speeds. A conventional small car – Suzuki’s own Swift or Ignis – is in a different, higher, orbit.The new Suzuki Jimny is a prophylactic to speeding points. Most limits seem like a target rather than a restriction. If you come up behind a pensioner-pedalled Corolla, you don’t try to hustle past. Tag along behind and enjoy the scenery.

The buts continue. It scored only three stars in Euro NCAP.

Yup, same as a Duster. Part of the fault lay with an airbag flaw which is probably fixable and there are one or two light safety features excluded from the models we get here in South Africa. There’s effective auto-braking. And good side impact performance, which is a surprise given how close you are to the edge. Two more things: one, three stars now would be four or five of a few years ago. In a Suzuki Jimny, you’ll be going slowly at the time of the crash…

OK, so how’s it as an off-roader?

Amazing. The improved approach and departure angles, better ride height and the long-travel live axles, see it climbing ditches and obstacles with ridiculous ease. It doesn’t have diff-locks and doesn’t need them: with this much articulation, the electronic fiddle-braking (a new feature versus generation 3) is enough. The small size has you weaving easily down forest tracks and between trees. The tiny turning circle is even handier: you can avoid obstacles at short notice, rather than have to surmount them. Only issue is the throttle feeling over-eager in low range, making it tricky when you just want to crawl gingerly and if you begin a long incline in second gear, be prepared to shift back to first halfway up.

Give us a more normal use-case.

It’s a fine urban machine, too, and not just because it can go up-kerbing. Its biscuit-tin size and slabbiness invite it into the gaps and parking spaces everyone else leaves behind.And of course the reason we all love it even before we’ve driven it is the look as much as the size. Its sheer smallness says a cheeky up-yours to the aggressive up-yours-ness of a town-bound Jeep or Defender or G-Wagen.

Original content: https://www.topgear.com/car-reviews/jimny/first-drive

  • Pricing:
    • 1.5i GA MT      264 900
      1.5i GLX MT    299 900
      1.5i GLX AT     319 900
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