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Driven: Suzuki Jimny is still happiest in the wild

Published Nov 8, 2018


Hazyview, Mpumalanga - If Suzuki Auto South Africa could get its hands on more Jimnys, they’d be in a serious position to gloat. However as things already stand, the Japanese small car specialist can brag about something.

The new Jimny is now officially on sale in SA, but wait for it...the waiting list for one now sits at six months.

That’s right, if you popped into your friendly neighbourhood Suzuki dealer this weekend you’d be told ‘thank you for your interest’, before being asked to put down a deposit for one that could arrive here in May next year.

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There’s no doubting that the new (Gen-4) Suzuki Jimny is already a hit then.

But what makes this Jimny better than the one it replaces?

To find out, I travelled to Hazyview last week to test the new Jimny along the Panorama Route roads and the Sappi-owned forests that the area is known for.

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It was an exhilarating experience to say the least because as I arrived at the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport to fetch the entry-level (GA) version of the new ‘Jimzo’ to test, the heavens opened up it began to rain intensely.

It was a relatively short (40km) drive from the airport to my overnight stop, but the route would require dexterous wheelwork due to the rain, fog and what sounded at times like hail stones.

So, let’s unpack what this mighty 4x4 (and its heritage) in a little more detail.

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This Jimny replaces its predecessor after a 20-year life cycle. That’s right, the outgoing Jimny was already 10 years old when it was launched here in 2008.

We get two trim levels in South Africa, an entry-level GA model (right) that comes with a five-speed manual gearbox and high-spec GLX model that comes in five-speed manual or four-speed automatic configuration, depending on your preference for a third pedal. So, three models in total.

All models, however, get All Grip Pro, which is a part-time 4x4 system that you can use to select low-range crawler gears to tackle obstacles that Land Rover Defenders, Merc G-Class wagons and Toyota Land Cruisers normally take on.

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There’s no pushing of buttons to select 4L (or 4H or 2H) in the latest Jimny because the company has decided to revert back to an ‘old-fashioned’ gear lever type selector that requires bit of manhandling to lock into place.

In terms of its looks, the Jimny proves a hit, because it harks back to the styling cues that made it such a popular vehicle in the first place. Suzuki Auto South Africa’s PR Manager explained that the new Jimny’s angular design pays direct homage to the original LJ Series (1970 - 1981) and SJ Series (1981 - 1998).

Look closely at the older models and you’ll spot the nods.

The new model has the same upturned front fenders, round headlamps and round orange indicators as the LJ Series and the side slits in the clamshell bonnet of the SJ Series.

The upright grille is reminiscent of the previous generation Jimny (1998 - 2018) and the SJ Series.

But it’s not just about cool, retro looks because the upright design of the Jimny’s roof pillars for example enables it to carry more weight on top than its predecessor. This is ideal if you’re an adventuring-type, one that travels with a roof rack for supplies or a rooftop tent to sleep in.

Also applicable to overland and trail-driving enthusiasts are the new Jimny’s angled front and rear bumpers that not only keep them out of the way of rocks and tree stumps, but also increase the approach and departure angles compared to the outgoing model.

At the rear of the vehicle, Suzuki designers have moved all the lights into the horizontal rear bumper, which has allowed them to create a wider rear door, for increased practicality. The spare wheel is fitted to the outside of the rear door for easy accessibility, while also freeing up space underneath the luggage floor and allowing for an improved departure angle.

To distinguish between the GA and GLX models, look for the by GLX’s 15” alloy wheels compared to the steel wheels on the GA model.

The inside of the new Jimny is equally retro-modern, and in the case of the GA model I test drove, it’s quite sparsely equipped. (Window winders come standard, for instance).

The dashboard is designed in three horizontal layers because it is supposed to serve as a visual reference of the horizontal plane when driving off road.

The same flat lines flow into the moulded door panels with partly exposed body-coloured metal sections. Some say the plastic looks cheap, and the bare metal is a good way to save money on the manufacturing end, but in the end it comes down to practicality according to Suzuki. The interior panels were purpose-designed to be easy to clean, robust and fit into the overall angular styling of the new Jimny.

Away from its styling, the USP of the new Jimny is a ladder frame chassis combined with a patented cross member, the Suzuki X-member, between two rigid axles. The X-member consists of two diagonal cross members that further strengthen the chassis to aid in limiting body flex in serious cross-axle off-road environments.

The new Jimny’s rigid axles are connected to the wheels with three links; a lateral rod on each wheel and two leading (on the front) and trailing (on the rear) arms. Suzuki has strengthened the axle housings by 30% and has added a steering damper to the front suspension to limit steering wheel kickback and vibration on really rough terrain, too.

While on the topic of really rough terrain, axle-twisting sections of 4x4 trails needn’t worry a fourth-gen Jimny driver because of a new proprietary brake-controlled Limited-Slip Differential system and electronic stability control.

The ‘Brake LSD’ system varies torque delivery to the wheel with grip if another wheel on the same axle starts spinning. The system has an extra-power mode too, which kicks in below 30km/h in low-range mode for the best possible traction.

Brake LSD is supported by Hill Hold Control and Hill Descent Control, which are standard on all models. Hill Descent Control will maintain a pre-set descent speed of 10km/h in 4WD high range and 5km/h in 4WD low range.

If you go wading often, you’ll be pleased to note that the new Jimny offers a ground clearance of 210mm, which is 20mm more than the previous model. Its wheelbase comes in at 2250mm, its length 3625mm (50mm shorter than before, thanks to a redesigned front bumper), and its width is 1645mm (45mm wider than before).

Front track measures in at 1395mm (a 40mm wider track than before) and rear track measures in at 1405mm (a 40mm wider track than before).

Powering the diminutive 4x4 is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol engine that is rated at 75kW of power at 6000rpm and 130Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

Fuel consumption on a combined cycle is a claimed 6.3 litres for the manual models and 6.8 litres for the automatic model, but we averaged more than 10 l/100km due to the off-roading.

When it comes down to specs, all versions of the Suzuki Jimny have air conditioning, power steering and the All Grip Pro 4x4 system with Brake LSD, ESP, Hill Hold Control and Hill Descent Control.

The GLX models get a host of additional features, including climate control, electric windows and mirrors, auto-on LED projector headlamps, remote central locking and cruise control.

The GLX models are also fitted with Suzuki’s Smartphone Linkage Display Audio (SLDA). This double-DIN audio system has a 7” infrared-touch screen with Android Auto, Apple Carplay and MirrorLink integration. The system has a USB connector, SD-card slot and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity. GLXs also come with a sporty and chunky leather-covered steering wheel.

Suzuki claims to have made every effort to ensure the safety of the Jimny’s occupants and of pedestrians, so to this end, the new Jimny has impact-absorbing zones in the front bumper, wipers, cowl, bonnet and hinges, and fenders to protect pedestrians. For occupants, a TECT-rated body, additional side-impact bars and two front airbags come standard. All models also have ISOFIX child seat anchors.

Suzuki offers a wide range of accessories for both city-dwellers and off-road enthusiasts, which include mud flaps, side under-garnish strips, under-garnish for the front bumper, front and rear differential guards, utility and luggage hooks and side body mouldings.

There is also an optional SUZUKI heritage front grille that makes reference to the SJ413 Samurai model and a rigid spare wheel cover for enthusiasts who would like to maximise the car’s retro design theme.

In terms of colours, buyers of the new Suzuki Jimny can choose between three dual-tone and five single-tone colours: Dual-tone colours include Kinetic Yellow, Brisk Blue Metallic and Chiffon Ivory Metallic that come with a gloss black roof.

The single tone colours are Jungle Green, Bluish Black Pearl, Medium Grey, Silky Silver Metallic and White.

The GLX model comes standard with a four year/60 000 km Service Plan and the GA model comes with a two year/30 000 km Service Plan.

All models are also sold with a five year/200 000 km mechanical warranty.


Driving the new Jimny on the road over a couple of days reminded me why it’s one of my favourite off-road cars.

No, seriously, the Jimny might be able to make the daily grind, but I don’t think it’s going to be a good relationship if you don’t go off-roading with it at least two weekends a month.

As a road car, its nowhere near as polished as other crossover vehicles that you could consider in its price range, but then again you can’t find a 4x4 like it for the price.

It’s a no compromise workhorse (sure the GLX has some sprinkles) at heart and that’s why it’s a great buy for adventurous people. The GA is priced at R264 900, the GLX manual costs R299 900, and the GLX automatic costs R319 900.


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