Suzuki Jimny Safari review: jolly jumper
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Suzuki Jimny Safari
- Lots of quality kit for small premium
- Properly tough 4x4
- It's cute as
- It's crude as
- Thirsty for a baby
- Unimpressive safety credentials
The Suzuki Jimny has gone “fashion” and no mistake. The latest model is the darling of image-conscious urbanites, thanks to its status as a highly affordable SUV that also happens to be about the most adorable looking thing on the road.
Those who remember and value the Jimny as a hugely capable mountain goat – one that deserves the epithet “4x4” more than “SUV” – aren’t worried. It’s as tough as ever, maybe more so.
Those who have bought the new one purely on visual appeal might have had the odd moment of buyer’s remorse. It remains a ladder-chassis off-roader with rigid axles front and rear, recirculating-ball steering and a high centre of gravity. It will not and cannot deliver a level of refinement anything close to what you might call modern.
It’s also one of those cars that gets a free pass from the likes of us. Enthusiasts love it. It’s the simplicity, the willful adherence to old-tech and the sheer effort required to drive it that makes us love it, even though we should know better. It’s simply the best-worst car on the market.
Suzuki NZ’s new Jimny Safari ramps up the adorableness (technical term) and toughness in equal measure. For a $3000 premium over the entry JX manual, you get an incredible amount of high-quality kit.
The cuteness is self-explanatory. But here’s the detail. The Safari gets the “heritage” grille, ARB Base Rack on the roof, Maxxis AT980 all-terrain tyres, branded mudflaps and tinted weathershields.
Inside, the addition of a waterproof cargo tray is genius because the Jimny’s rear seats are pretty much useless and when they’re raised you only have 85 litres of bootspace. The tray fits over the folded seats, turning the Suzuki into a brilliantly practical two-seater.
While we’re on the subject of back seats, you might be wondering how Suzuki NZ can offer a special-edition Jimny at a great price when there’s a waiting list for the rest of the range.
We’ll bet you a fistful of yen that these JX manuals were a cancelled order for the UK; as you might know, the Jimny was bumped from Suzuki’s lineup in Europe last year because its emissions (154g/km) took the brand over the 95g/km average required to meet new regulations. It’s since returned as a two-seater (and therefore a “commercial vehicle”, ha ha), but Jimnys with rear chairs are no longer welcome in that part of the world.
The Jimny is as wheezy and bumpy as ever, and in fact a bit worse with those chunky tyres. It’s rear-drive only on seal of course, because that tough 4WD setup is only designed for proper off-road driving.
Don’t come expecting things like adaptive cruise control or touch screens (it even has a CD player!), because the JX is not that kind of car.
Never mind all that. It’s also a real hoot and you get the thumbs-up from pretty much everybody you see.
It is actually a pretty good city car, as long as you don’t mind eschewing a few (okay, a lot) of life’s automotive luxuries. It’s only 3.5 metres long, which makes parking a doddle, and the high seating position is genuinely useful for town driving. It was actually 2019 Urban World Car of the Year.
Overall it’s rather hard to argue with the whole concept, because the Jimny doesn’t claim to be anything other than an authentic, no-compromise off-roader. If people want to go “ooh” and “ahh” and use it for other stuff, that’s up to them.
SUZUKI JIMNY SAFARI
ENGINE: 1.5-litre petrol four
GEARBOX: 5-speed manual, part-time 4WD
PRICE: $29,990 (JX manual $26,990)