Ryan Bubear goes off the beaten track with the facelifted Suzuki Jimny...
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The Suzuki Jimny isn't crammed full of the latest gadgets. Its engine doesn't pump out an X-rated amount of power. It isn't perfect. But, boy, does it have character.
Many modern vehicles boast flashy gismos and eye-poppingly impressive stats on paper, yet end up feeling as clinical as a capful of antiseptic mouthwash. But the Jimny is different: it possesses an old school appeal without feeling woefully outdated, and is absolutely bursting with charm.
Of course, this old school aura is not merely manufactured... it has an authentic origin. The Jimny name stretches all the way back to the early '70s, when men were rocking perms and Suzuki was creating a new segment: the (very) compact 4x4 off-roader.
2WD, 4WD or 4WD-L
And to this day, its all-terrain capability remains the Jimny's trump card. A low-range transfer case allows the driver to switch from two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive to 4WD-L, meaning this pint-sized Suzuki can go places that would have far larger pavement-hopping soft-roaders shaking in their expensive tyres. Its low mass (it weighs a smidgen over 1000kg), raised ride height and extended suspension travel combine with an approach angle of 34 degrees and a departure angle of 46 to allow the driver to tackle all sorts of terrain with absolute confidence. We certainly went off the beaten path as often as possible during our week with the vehicle.
The facelifted Jimny has had its front foglights repositioned — out of the way of pesky rock-shaped obstacles — and a scuff-plate has been added to protect the redesigned front bumper. Most other changes are purely cosmetic: the grille has been restyled and the front air intake enlarged. The bonnet design is also fresh and now features an aggressive (but merely decorative) "power bulge"... which is a bit like giving a cute kitten a badass tattoo. Cheeky, but we like that.
Under that bold bonnet vent lives a fairly long-in-the-tooth 1328cc four-cylinder engine, unchanged from the previous generation. It churns out a respectable 63kW and 110Nm, but means the little Jimny takes a fairly unhurried 14.1 seconds to hit 100km/h, before topping out at just 140km/h. And fuel consumption — quoted by Suzuki as 7.2 litres on the combined cycle — doesn't compare favourably with more modern units of a similar size. But, somehow, it's still fun to chuck around — on- and off-road. The five-speed manual gearbox, too, is a pleasure to use, and the lever is angled back towards the driver, making shifts easier.
On the freeway, it's not the most refined (or aerodynamically gifted), and there's a fair amount of wind- and road-noise. But wide expanses of glass and a raised ride height mean visibility is excellent. And truly compact dimensions (it's just 3.5m long and 1.6m wide) make it easier to park than a push-bike. It also feels right at home in traffic-heavy situations as the steering is feather-light and the turning circle a mere 9.8 metres.
Inside, there's far more room up front than one would expect, considering the Jimny's exterior proportions. Headroom is appreciable — more than enough for even a six-footer — and the retrimmed front and rear seats feature redesigned head restraints. The back seats fold down to increase the luggage area's capacity from a paltry 113 litres to a genuinely generous 816 litres. While the cabin is by no means luxurious, it does feature such niceties as air-conditioning, remote central locking, power front windows, power mirrors, power steering, front-loading audio system, and an alarm/immobiliser.
ABS comes standard, as do two airbags (driver and front passenger) and Isofix anchor points on the rear bench. A four-year or 60 000km service plan and a three-year or 100 000km warranty are also included.
The Jimny is the type of vehicle that puts a smile on your face every time you get behind the wheel. Bounding around, with your elbow poking out through the open window, you feel as though you should be exploring some sort of tropical island, not dodging a mob of hypertension-inducing taxis on a main road of your choice.
Yes, it has its flaws and isn't the most modern of vehicles, but that's part of what makes the Suzuki Jimny work as well as it does.
Looking for a compact 4x4 with bona fide off-road capabilities and truck-loads of charm? Look no further.
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