We live in a nation rich in rural culture and wildlife, hard-to-reach places which reward the occasional adventurer with the most spectacular sights on the planet. The only issue is the tools needed to access these culturally- and wildlife-rich places.
Typically, you'll need an expensive 4x4 or some oversized diesel drinker and more often than not, both. Suzuki clearly hates the idea that exploring the country is an expensive and earth-damaging event. Introducing us to pretty much the only vehicle of its kind, the Suzuki Jimny. The little SUV, first launched in 1970, has a cult-like local following and said following just seems to grow by the minute.
The Jimny is a capable little 4x4, conquering pretty much anything that something triple in size and price can. It's in its element on the trails and at game farms, bouncing over rocks and logs with spirited ease. It has a lot of character in the way it deals with obstacles. It eagerly goes into the mud and just pops out on the other side with little fuss. So, off-roading is no big ask for the Jimny, but closer to home, or more specifically, the roads closer to home, is where it feels a tad out of its element.
The Suzuki Jimny GL is packed full of character and provides the occupants with a real sense of adventure. The kind of feeling which would provoke you to take the scenic route on the way to your intended destination. Upon entering the vehicle, I really enjoyed the design of the information cluster as it seems to be styled in an old-school work-truck kind of fashion, along with the 'off-roading' grab handles on the passenger-side dash and doors.
Space, while small, is enough for three passengers if you're willing to sacrifice cargo space. In fact, with three aboard, I was only able to fit two laptop bags behind the rear seats. With the rear seats folded flat, you can squeeze in rather copious amounts of luggage – perfect for an adventurous couple with a passion for the outdoors.
The model I was bouncing around in was the GL spec. It's the mid-range model for customers with a more simplistic taste. It comes with electric mirrors and windows, alloy wheels, a Bluetooth and USB-connect audio system, remote central locking, and steering-wheel audio controls. The base model Jimny is the GA coming with only the 4x4 system, ABS, ESP and power steering. Lastly, the top-spec option is the GLX, which adds luxuries like an infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, a leather steering wheel, automatic climate control, and LED headlights. An added rear cargo package adds a 12V outlet, a flat-floor luggage box and rear interior lighting.
On the topic of driving the Suzuki Jimny, it's hard to put my finger on whether it is a brilliant car to drive or, well, not. The reason I find myself so torn is that off the beaten trail, the Jimny is in its element. With its lightweight and compact design, very little can hamper its progress. Add to this its low-range gearbox and decent ground clearance and there really isn't much this little SUV can't do.
Even the ride quality is impressive on gravel stretches if the 4-high gearing is engaged. Look, being such a light and small 4x4, you do feel like you are dramatically thrown around if your excitement runs away with you on the trails. The fact of the matter remains, it is a brilliant little off-roader which can keep up with bigger bakkies and SUVs.
The Jimny comes with a 1.5-litre petrol engine which produces a rather unexciting 75 kW and 130 Nm of torque, but the Jimny is light. Weighing in at around 1,065 kg, it can get away with small power numbers thanks to the power-to-weight formula that also contributes to frugal fuel consumption figures of 6.5l/100 km. Suzuki is proving that off-roading and adventurous driving isn't supposed to be only a big SUV game.
The problem, though, is day-to-day driving. Despite being light on fuel, Suzuki neglected a few vital areas which make your daily driving experience more comfortable. The first is the steering, which I find to be rather sloppy as you could move the wheel from the 11 to 1 O'Clock position without really changing the direction of the vehicle. Secondly, the motor is loud, and not in a great way. It needs revs, and lots of it, especially on the highway as the Jimny isn't exactly aerodynamic. Also, any sizeable gust of wind can threaten to send you drifting into the hard shoulder, so that's not great…
Coming in at R336,900 for the GL manual and R357,900 for the GL automatic, there isn't anything quite like the Jimny on the market. It simply is a unique and capable little off-roader. Its 4-year/60,000 km service plan provides new owners with more peace of mind. Fortunately, the Suzuki Jimny has massive aftermarket support, so whether you want bigger mud tyres, increased ride height or a roof rack, there's a seemingly endless variety of options available for the Jimny.
I must say, I was underwhelmed by the Jimny at first, with lacklustre performance on the highway and steering that feels unrefined. But, and this is a big one, the Jimny came into its element when met with mud, gravel, and any form of obstacle. I have to say that's what saved the car for me. I've experienced many off-road vehicles, but the Jimny has character. It simply refuses to bog down.
Yes, it might be a little pricey, especially for the size, but Suzuki built this car with a purpose and it's clear that the Jimny wants to be challenged offroad. I had a lot of fun in this little car. Yes, it is rather small and is defiantly not designed to be a highway cruiser, but that's not the point. This Suzuki isn't just a cute little car designed for trendy millennials. To me, it's a little car in a league of its own taking on adventures at a more affordable price.