Can the Suzuki Jimny be a good daily vehicle? Meet Driven's new long-termer
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Explaining the tsunami of demand for the new Suzuki Jimny is a hugely complicated process.
Here’s a little off-roader SUV that seemingly rejects everything that supposedly makes the modern SUV such a hot-ticket item. The aerodynamic coefficient of a (quite small) block of flats, combined with the cornering stability of a cow and rear seats that wouldn’t look out of place furnishing a child’s playhouse.
Yet, these little things are sold out until March next year … and counting.
While the Jimny might not represent cutting edge technology, it does exceed in another area; authenticity.
It's incredibly true to the lineage of the nameplate's past with its blocky styling, simplistic engineering, and an off-road skillset that had us applauding at the national launch in March. That in itself brings huge buckets of appeal to potential buyers — especially loyal Jimny enthusiasts and the youth market.
And, the plucky 4x4 has just joined Driven’s long-term fleet.
For a month and a half, the Jimny will be an extension of our team as my daily driver. Challenging muddy escapades in the sticks will be juxtaposed by piddly little detours through Auckland’s inner-city labyrinth. How well the Jimny balances the two very different missions will be its biggest test.
In standard form they start for $25,990 (plus on-road costs), with things like satnav, cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure warning all standard.
It only scores a 3-star ANCAP safety rating. But we'll dive into that, practicality, and much more in future Jimny updates.
Our Jungle Green Jimny Sierra comes with a raft of additional goodies. The most obvious of these is the two-tone paint — the roof-line having been dipped in black from the factory. It’s also been slathered with extras from the Suzuki accessories list, including a cargo tray, rubber mats, a spare-wheel cover, red mud flaps, and Suzuki’s alternative but equally retro-flavoured front grill.
Factoring in all the trimmings, you’re looking at a $30,045 vehicle all up.
Power comes from Suzuki’s new 1.5-litre K15B petrol four-cylinder engine — a naturally aspirated unit making 75kW at 6000rpm and 130Nm at 4000rpm. Output is sent to the rear wheels primarily, but can be diverted to all four corners via Suzuki’s AllGrip Pro four-wheel drive system. There are no diff locks — rather, the system utilises brake-activated traction control.
Not that the Jimny's undeniable off-roading talents were the most pressing topic of debate in our first week of testing. While we couldn't help but splatter it with mud for the photo-shoot, the real curiosity would be how it'd perform on urban roads.
Driving on the road wasn't something we were able to do at the Jimny launch, which can sometimes be a red flag of sorts. Especially when dealing with a car that wears its agricultural leanings proudly on its sleeve.
But, for the most part, the Jimny is an urban surprise.
The steering and pedals are all relatively light to use, paired with a manual gearbox that — while long in throw — will be instantly familiar to off-roader faithful.
Because it's so small (just 3480mm long, 1645mm wide) and because the glasshouse is so generous, things like parking are a breeze. Even if Suzuki neglected to fit it with a reverse camera or parking sensors.
Ramp up the speeds a little and the Jimny makes no qualms about revealing its character.
The first thing you'll notice is the engine. The little four popper is a raspy, loud wee thing, and the absence of any forced induction means that how fast you go is wholly dependent on driver technique and preparation.
There's no turbo here to rescue you on motorway on-ramps or passing lanes. Instead you've got to constantly reach for more gears. Even mild inner-city hills will have you pulling out of fourth and into third.
But, this isn't to say that the Jimny is slow. It's extremely slow if you're not awake to the lack of torque at low revs, but if you're reasonably active with that gearbox you'll find that it’s plenty quick enough.
The run to 100km/h takes over 15 seconds — a deceptively manic process from behind the wheel as every surface buzzes with vibration. Once you’re hovering between 100–105km/h in fifth gear, it drones at between 3000–3500rpm.
Suzuki clearly didn’t blow much of the Jimny budget on noise cancellation.
Oh boy, and then there’s the handling.
Front and rear the Jimny sports 3-link coil spring suspension with solid axles. These are paired with an old-school ladder chassis — the same chassis as the last model, but with an added pair of cross members plus a new X member. Four knobbly 195/80 tyres connect all of it to the road.
It’s a set-up very much geared to off-road use. It’s naturally therefore quite soft, which means urban ride is actually quite plush through pot-holes and over speed-bumps.
Show it a corner, however, and the whole thing loves to lean over. Slam the brakes, and the front dives forwards like a duck gracelessly inserting itself into a lake. So simple is the Suzuki mechanically that even the mildest amount of camber on a straight bit of road requires a little bit of left-hand down or right-hand down to compensate.
If you’re a lover of refinement and ease, then none of this is going to appeal to you. But, if you’re a keen driver then the Jimny’s softness — coupled with a needy engine — makes it stupendous fun to play with on tarmac.
Barreling into corners becomes an adventure in its own right; rear wheels cocked in the air, door handles rubbing the floor. All future definitions of driver engagement need to come with a picture of a Jimny attached.
Yep, the next month and a half is going to be a total riot.
2019 Suzuki Jimny Sierra (manual)
Price: $25,990 ($30,045 as tested)
Pros: Huge fun, adorable looks, well equipped and priced
Cons: Maybe too agricultural for some, safety rating