by - 25/01/10
Like Land Rover's Defender, the Suzuki Jimny has achieved '4WD icon' status and doesn't need optional or aftermarket add-ons to promote its toughness.
The venerable Jimny remains popular with young, first-time SUV buyers and those with a taste for extreme off-road action. In fact, locally in 2009 the Jimny outsold bigger name vehicles such as the Jeep Patriot, Skoda Octavia Scout and SsangYong Actyon - and very nearly eclipsed sales of the Land Rover Freelander.
For $19,990 (manual) or $22,490 (automatic), the Suzuki Jimmy gives you a weekend/holiday escape to just about anywhere plus reasonable working week drivability and convenience.
Car Showroom enjoyed a week behind the wheel of the entry-level manual Jimny and to be honest we found it hard to fault. It doesn't pretend to be a luxury full-size SUV, as sold by manufacturers from every corner of the globe, and when you combine its off-road competence with that pricing…well, we 'get it'.
You get four seats, standard air-conditioning and power windows, a handy luggage capacity, reasonable performance and those tough looks. And the 1,100kg towing capacity will handle your wave runner or dirt bike with ease.
Suzuki's 1.3-litre VVT four-cylinder gets the job done around town and off the beaten track. Maximum power is 63kW, peak torque is 110Nm and - with a combined cycle of 7.1l/100kms (manual) - it is Australia's most fuel-efficient petrol SUV. The fuel tank capacity is 40 litres.
We tested a five-speed manual; the automatic is a four-speed and the four-wheel-drive system is controlled by a push-button.
In working week commuter traffic you do need to work the gearbox to keep the engine revving and at 100 km/h-plus on freeways, the Jimny does get a little noisy at high engine speeds - the Land Rover Defender has the same characteristics. Take the Jimny off-road and that 1.3-litre powerplant soaks up the work with ease, propelling the Jimny up steep hills and over obstacles with ridiculous ease.
The Jimny is a four-seater, however full-size adults will not appreciate the rear seat for extended journeys. Up front, the most recent upgrades deliver more supportive seats with new fabrics.
For the driver, the changes also include a new, three-spoke steering wheel and revised instrumentation, with a conventional meter cluster providing vital information clearly with nice graphics.
The audio system is a two-speaker single CD unit and there is a 12-volt power outlet.
Sure, it's no Range Rover but the Jimny delivers a comfortable driving position, good all-round visibility and standard air-conditioning which accommodated a Melbourne summer heat wave.
Also included in the most recent Jimny upgrades, the rear seat folds in a single action to provide a surprising 816 litres of cargo capacity.
Again the similarities to the Land Rover Defender appear - the Jimny isn't the newest SUV in the shed and that 'timeless' look (albeit nowhere near as old as the Defender) is part of the cachet. The Jimny's basic body style has been around since 1999 and it still looks tough totally standard, while some 'pretend' soft-roaders need optional or after-market add-ons to introduce some ruggedness to their appearance.
This rugged exterior is part of the respect the Jimny has earned over the years - both with serious off-roaders and first-time SUV buyers. It looks like it can easily absorb the knocks and scrapes of everyday life - you won't find Jimny owners parking in remote shopping mall car spots just in case someone opens a car door onto their Suzuki or to avoid out-of-control shopping trolleys!
Minor changes at the most recent upgrades saw the introduction of a new front bumper and body-colour exterior mirrors - otherwise the Jimny remains so boxy it's cool.
With its short 2250mm wheelbase and three-section ladder frame chassis, the Jimny does favor off-road agility over sealed road smoothness. That's not to say it's in any way unpleasant in city driving…and Jimny buyers know all about that compromise.
Working in tandem, the 1.3-litre engine and five-speed manual transmission provide reasonably zippy performance for city maneuvers. Certainly, parking in tight city carparks is a breeze.
On poor secondary roads and over Melbourne's notorious tram and train track crossings, the Jimny does get a bit hard. Again, the live front and rear ends with three-link coil springs and separate shock absorbers is an ideal set-up for hard work off the beaten track.
Take the Jimny into the bush and be prepared for fellow off-roaders to give you that wise 'nod' of recognition - this is one serious hombre in dirt, mud, sand, in ruts and over rocks. Ground clearance is plentiful, the entire undercarriage is as strong as it gets and with an approach angle of 42 degrees/departure angle of 46 degrees… well, there are not too many tracks to test a Jimny.
Before considering a Jimny you have to 'get it'. This is a vehicle for major off-road action that does present some compromises for everyday city driving.
For those with restricted budgets, the Jimny provides all of the off-road adventure a $100K-plus full-size SUV can deliver -- albeit in a small package. Or, if your lifestyle dictates a tough, no frills vehicle that isn't afraid to cop some knocks, the Jimny is your car as well.
The Jimny has no competition as a sub-$20K starting price 4WD. The SsangYong Actyon is a mid-size with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, but it starts at $26,990. For the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson you'll need to pony-up more than $30,000 to get a four-wheel-drive version.
Toughness; value; off-road performance
Hard on-road ride; squeezy interior
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