Surf & turf: life with our mud-loving Suzuki Jimny long-term tester
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To a curious onlooker it might look akin to buying a dog; cute and fuzzy on the outside, but quite the responsibility-packed chore to live with.
But, I’m pleased to report that the Suzuki Jimny life has instead been marvelous fun.
Despite it sharing the driveway with a bevy of other cars, Driven’s plucky pint-sized long-termer off-roader has had well over 1000km added to its odometer reading — a generous portion of which has stemmed from time on the rough stuff.
Photos / Matthew Hansen, Emma Groom
We picked up the Jimny at the beginning of July for a month-and-a-half extended test to see what it’s like to live with one of the smallest, most unique and in-demand new vehicles on the market.
Among the more pressing questions was off-road ability. We’ve toured many a paddock with Jimnys in the past of course, particularly at the national launch earlier this year at Waiuku’s Karioitahi Bay. But blasting around on mud and sand had eluded us.
Along with various beach escapades down gravel roads, we took our generously optioned $30,045 Jimny to Tuakau and to Muriwai for two separate trips.
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The former (where the photo-shoot for our first Jimny feature took place) was underlined by thick soft mud that had been moistened by recent rain. Here, leaning on the Jimny’s trick traction-control orientated AllGrip Pro four-wheel drive, the Jimny was very good at wriggling its tight dimensions out of bogs and ruts that would claim more fancied vehicles.
That was until we got it stuck, anyway.
I say ‘we’ because it was very much an ‘operator error’ kind of stuck. The Jimny’s knobbly road-spec tyres had been surprisingly competent for most of the shoot, but a lack of ride-height ultimately saw the 4x4 get wedged on an increasingly tall berm between two tyre tracks.
Ironically, our savior was an identically coloured third-generation Jimny. The owner had come out for spot of morning fishing, but instead of an eel or a kahawai his first hook-up of the morning was a mud-coated Suzuki.
In contrast to the Tuakau mud, Muriwai was a case of familiar fine sands. Traction and getting stuck here was never an issue; rather, we’d hoped to get the off-roader a bit loose and tail-happy on the dunes.
This proved to be much more of a challenge. Even in two-wheel drive mode and with the traction control disengaged, the Jimny rarely allowed for much in the way of sandy sideways action. This was in part down to the narrow tyre-set, some torque inadequacy, and also the traction control’s ongoing desire to cut in — even when it had been switched off.
Off-roading buddy (and tow-rope savior) Doug was having more luck getting loose with his short-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen 4x4, which was a bit of a surprise.
The traction control’s interference is one of the few minor issues we’ve observed with the Jimny. Naturally, genuine problems have been few and far between. And that's no particular surprise, given that these little things are renowned for their stubborn reliability.
Engaging reverse sometimes requires a bit of overzealous aggression every now and then, which somewhat counters the good work of the little Suzuki's intuitive hill-hold functionality.
There's also the boot-lid. As handy as it is to have the whole thing actuated by a hydraulic arm, it makes for awkward work in parking lots when that arm swings the door completely open without any built-in resistance points. If you're backing into a spot, leave plenty of room out back to avoid having the door clip parked cars or walls behind you.
We've also come to realise is the amount of space inside. While headroom in the front is ample, legroom is lacking — something I only discovered when I realised my optimal seating position was with the seat positioned at its furthest point away from the pedals and steering wheel. Anyone taller than me (most of the country, in other words) will likely feel a little bit crimped when behind the wheel of the Jimny.
And then there was the windscreen — although, the Jimny can’t accept too much of the blame for that one.
Cruising to Hampton Downs for the launch of the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door, an errand rock the size of a large marble decided it’d be fun to launch itself at the Suzuki’s front window. Joy of joys, in a split second a big beautiful rose of glass destruction had unfurled almost directly in front of the driver eye-line.
Thankfully Winger Suzuki Greenlane was onto it; kicking into action and getting it replaced in the space of a day.
But all-in-all, few of these things have mattered much in daily commuting. And they’ve been countered by a few surprises — none more impressive than the economy we’ve achieved from the humble 1.5-litre engine.
The naturally aspirated petrol unit has been put through all sorts of paces in its time with us; from scruff of the neck off-roading to numerous juvenile ‘pulls’ on motorway on-ramps. But despite this, its outright economy has slid from 8.5L/100km to a credible 7.4L/100km.
Not bad for an old-school set-up and five on the floor.