At the beginning of November I was included in the local launch of the all-new Suzuki Jimny, and if you know at least one fact about Chris Wall it has to be that I have an unnatural obsession with the previous model. This meant that while I've watched about fifty-twelve hours of reviews on the new Jimny, and read more reviews and articles on it than on any other car ever, I was still a little hesitant to get up close and personal with one for the simple reason of not wanting to be disappointed. Even when a few were revealed at Festival of Motoring, I had a look but didn't climb inside. At the launch, it was climb inside and drive or walk a very, very long way to our accommodation. I don't like walking.
What I do like, is the new Suzuki Jimny. In all of two minutes I was sold on one. Of course the older model is still something I'd love to own, but the new one is just better in every single way, and the Suzuki engineers have managed to reinvent the small 4x4 without losing any of the things that made the Jimny special. It's still small, the smallest true 4x4 money can buy, but it's bigger where it counts - inside - which is a strange talent Suzuki has. But before we climb inside, let's take a look at that retro as fuck exterior. I've seen people comment on the looks "stolen from the G-Wagon" or "copied from the Jeep" but in reality every part of it is taken from a previous incarnation of the Suzuki 4x4 range that started back in 1970. If anyone copied anyone, it wasn't Suzuki...
Compact 4x4s from Suzuki stay in production for a long time, pretty much subscribing to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" way of thinking. The first compact 4x4 from Suzuki was the LJ Series that ran from 1970 – 1981, followed by the iconic SJ Series that was produced from 1981 – 1998 (my sister had a yellow one). Then there's the Jimny as we know it, which started production in 1998 and ceased just before the all-new one went into production this year. That's a 20-year run that only saw a few minor upgrades along the way to keep it a little more modern. So in essence, this range of vehicles from Suzuki started almost 50-years ago and we're only seeing the fourth generation now. As said, this new one features many hat-tips to the previous versions; up front we find the upturned front fenders, round headlights and round orange indicators that were inspired by the LJ, the side slits and the clamshell bonnet that were inspired by the SJ Series and the upright grille that's reminiscent of the last Jimny and the SJ too.
The other changes weren't purely cosmetic, Suzuki has a reasoning for all of it. The flat surfaces and thin window sills make it easy to clear off snow in colder climates, while upright A-pillars and the clamshell bonnet help increase spatial awareness and visibility, and then the longer roof and upright windscreen shields the driver from direct sunlight (height dependant - did nothing for my short ass). The new design also allows the roof to carry more weight for rooftop storage and the all-round drip rail allows easy clamping of roof racks. The angled front and rear bumpers increase the approach and departure angles, and up front the bumper design exposes more tyre tread on a horizontal plane assisting greater climbing capability in rocky conditions. Rear lights are now in the horizontal rear bumper to allow for a wider rear door, never a bad thing. These changes give new approach and departure angles too; approach is at angle of 37-degrees, up from 35-degrees, and departure is at 49-degrees, up from 46-degrees. Breakover angle is also up by one to 28-degrees. The departure angle is especially impressive and benefits from the slightly shorter body and redesigned rear bumper. The spare wheel remains on the rear door, as it should. The moulded bumpers and wheel arches help protect painted surfaces from possible scratchy things, and the design is more square than round which allows for more wheel travel and also makes changing wheels and inflating tyres easier if pressures were changed for soft sand driving. Two trims are available in SA, the GA and GLX , the latter distinguished with 15-inch alloy wheels and colour-coded door handles and mirrors.
Inside the all-new Suzuki Jimny things are pretty damn fuckin' cool! The only thing left from the outgoing version is the shiny silver S on the steering wheel. The dash features horizontal layers to let you know what angle you're scaling obstacles at, it also includes a bar for those riding shotgun to hold on to, a smart phone tray in the middle level section and a cubby hole on the lower level. The exposed door panels also feature these horizontal lines and are made from durable, weatherproof materials. The instrument cluster is just too damn cool with the speedo and tacho in their own separate square housings, just like in the old SJ model. The seats are quite similar to the old model and have lower bolsters to let you wiggle around when at weird angles and so you can lean out the window to see where the rear wheels are going if you're doing some technical 4x4 driving. The materials used are all hard wearing, as you'd expect in a vehicle that's capable of traversing the planet. The dash material has a repeating line pattern, while the lower sections have the same texture as on a DSLR camera. Yes, I compared it directly with my Canon and it's spot on. That alone is a selling point for someone like me - yuuuuussss! You'll also find some brushed aluminium and the controls can be operated easily with gloves on, Bear Grylls types will have tenty pants. The top trim GLX features a proper 7-inch infotainment unit (Suzuki’s Smartphone Linkage Display Audio - SLDA) - something Suzuki models have been sorely needing. The lower GA trim isn't really lacking either, there's also a touchscreen double-din unit in play. The GA has a manual kind of climate control, while the GLX has a fancier auto one - just a little more Sandtony for those that want creature comforts. The biggest change in the cabin of the manual versions is the second shift lever. Yup, there's no longer a few buttons to push to put the Jimny into 4H and 4L, there's an old school second lever for the job! So much of awesome!
The underpinnings of the all-new Suzuki Jimny are quite similar to what was used in the past. There's still the ladder frame chassis, but it now features an 'X' across the centre to add some structural rigidity - dubbed the Suzuki X-member. It helps limit body flex in serious cross-axle situations and creates a sturdy platform for the fitment of the body. The added torsional strength also improves the Jimny’s tramac driving dynamics and crash safety. There's extra horizontal cross members, one on each end of the car, again for added rigidity and they form the basis of the Suzuki Total Effective Control Technology (TECT) system . While stiffer, 8 new rubber mounts offer a more comfortable ride with more responsive handling. Much like the old version, there's a rigid axle suspension system that improves serious off-road capabilities; mechanically forcing one wheel down if the opposite wheel is raised and it also prevents the nose from diving under speed. To help with the handling, there's now a steering damper on the front suspension to limit steering wheel kickback and vibration on rough terrain - something owners of older Jimnys usually retrofit with aftermarket parts.
Being a Jimny fanatic, even though I've never owned one, it's hard to believe that the off road capabilities could be improved on, but Suzuki has managed to get it right. Of course it's still a 4x4, but now it features the improved ALLGRIP PRO four-wheel drive with low range transfer gear. As mentioned, the mode buttons are gone and there's a shift lever directly connected to the transfer gear that can switch between 2H and 4H at speeds of up to 100 km/h. The part that improves things is Suzuki’s proprietary Brake Limited Slip Differential and electronic stability control systems. Brake LSD is absolutely fukken awesome. It adjusts torque to the wheel with grip if another wheel on the same axle starts spinning, and there's also an extra-power mode that kicks in below 30km/h in low-range mode for the best possible traction. The demonstration on the launch saw the older Jimny fail at getting over a slippery transaxle obstacle, but the new one made it look like a pavement. New additions also include Hill Hold Control and Hill Descent Control that we managed to put to good use later on. The Jimny has an improved ground clearance measuring in at 210mm, which is 20mm more than the previous model - combined with with its short wheel base it means the lil 4x4 can go pretty much anywhere you want it to.
The local launch took place in Nelspruit and the powers that be at Suzuki managed to arrange the convoy of these cool AF boxy 4x4s to drive some pretty damn amazing trails through the Sappi forests. The cars were subjected to all the usual 4x4 stuff and every single road travelled or hectic section was easily traversed. The new hill descent control is brilliant, as long as you have the balls to let the car control things, it's not easy to lift your feet off the pedals and trust the tech, but as soon as you get the first ridiculously steep and slippery and rocky downhill out of the way you start looking for more to do it again. Of course, getting back up the hill is just as easy in the new Jimny, all you do is make sure you have a good line, point the steering, engage low range and Robert's your mother's brother - you're at the top of the hill. On some of these sections I was riding shotgun, and that grab handle across the dash becomes your best friend, especially when you're not buckled in because you're trying to get pics out the window.
It's amazing in these forests, there's waypoints to stop at for a rest that have manicured grass, shelter, tables and even a waterfall - we had lunch at one. One of the Jimnys was parked in front of the waterfall for us to take a few pics, which I duly did, there's no need to ask me twice. If I wasn't already planning ways to raise funds for a new Jimny, seeing this one parked there just made me fall in love with the thing all over again. I think that was probably the 5th time that day. This really is the coolest thing to come out of Japan since, well, the last Jimny.
So we've established that the all-new Suzuki Jimny is brilliant off road, it looks great inside and out and I'll happily bite someone in the face for one. Of course, a car meant for off road conditions usually doesn't have matching road manners. The last Jimny was ok on the tar, not amazing, but there was nothing to put me off owning one. Heck, we even drove one to Cape Town last year and had no issues with uphills and overtaking, the only drawback was the thirst. In the new Jimny we find a slightly different powerplant. Gone is the old 1300cc M13A and a new-generation 1500cc K15B is now in play. The extra 200cc of capacity means power is up to 75kW and torque is at 130Nm, small numbers but they most certainly feel bigger when you're piloting the little 4x4. The new lump has a higher compression ratio making it more responsive and also better when it comes to fuel consumption. We see claims of 6.3-litres/100km on the manual and 6.8 for the auto, down from 7.2 and 7.8 in the older one. All this equates to a much-improved on-road experience, there is no reason a new Jimny can't be your daily drive, even if you have to do some serious sales rep kinda mileage. It feels better on the road in every way possible. The manual feels nippier than the auto, and the new auto feels nipper than the old auto, which is must be said is as slow as a snail at another snail's funeral.
I'd be happy with any of the three model available, and in any colour too. The base spec GA is only available in manual, and the list of features includes aircon, power steering, an immobiliser, ABS, BAS and ISOFIX thingies, dual airbags, ESP (not the future-telling kind), brake LSD, hill descent and hold control, and that amazing ALLGRIP PRO 4WD system with low range. The cabin on the launch unit saw fitment of a decent double DIN head unit with a pair of OK speakers, it's not a standard feature but your local, friendly Suzuki dealership will be able to hook you up I'm sure. This one also rolls on 15-inch steel wheels (with full-size spare) and usually steelies would be horrid little things, but on the Jimny they're cool AF. The base model is the one to go for if you're planning overland trips because you don't really need any of the bells and whistles. Of course for when you do prefer the finer things in life, the GLX trim is the one to have. Over and above the GA spec, this one see extras like colour-coded door handles mirrors, electric windows and mirrors, automatic climate control, remote central locking, auto LED projector headlamps that are the coolest things EVAR, front fogs, cruise control, an SLDA touch screen infotainment system, a multi-function leather steering wheel, an extra 12V socket in the boot, a 50/50 split folding rear seat, a luggage area box and 15-inch alloy wheels.
Being the funkiest little thing to hit the streets in forever, the all-new Suzuki Jimny has been given some new paint shades to make it stand out. What that means in the real world is that these chaps at Suzuki have made it a complete fukken mission to choose a favourite. On the launch I'd see one colour and be like "Yes, that's the one I'd take!" but five minutes later I'd see another one and think the exact same thing. There's a choice of three dual-tone and five single-tone colours available, and added to that there will be a host of cool sticker kits for further customisation. The high-visibility Kinetic Yellow, is an instant favourite for most people, I guess because people want to stand out from the masses, but it's actually intended for rescue crews so they can be seen when rescuing things. Then you get Brisk Blue Metallic and Chiffon Ivory Metallic, all of which have a gloss black roof. The ivory one looks great, but the blue one looks better. I think. Or not. With the single tone colours you can choose from Jungle Green, Bluish Black Pearl, Medium Grey, Silky Silver Metallic and White. The green and ivory ones are the best if you're actually going to use the Jimny to get around in the wild, these colours won't scare the wildlife as much as the rest. Although I guess if you do cock up properly then the chaps in the Kinetic Yellow Jimnys will have a hard time finding you.
As you can tell I'm a fan, like a fanatical fan, but then you knew I would be. The thing is, you don't need to take my obviously biased word for it, just check out all the reviews from my fellow motoring scribes, both locally and internationally. It's no wonder Suzuki only releases a new Jimny every 20 years - the things are instant cult cars wanted by the masses. If you want one now in SA, be prepared to wait for a while as the initial shipment has already been sold. I'm betting the next one too, hell, there's even people selling their spots on the waiting lists to those who have a want level as high as mine! I'm willing to sell my body for one, so if you know anyone interested in a medium mileage, 5ft-summin dad bod with at least 17 tattoos scattered around it and the ability to run damn fast (in a left circle only), let me know...
Well done Suzuki, well bloody done!
So how much does one of these new Suzuki Jimny models cost? Quite honestly, who cares? You can't put a price on awesome. I guess you need to though because they're not gonna be handing them out for free.
Jimny 1.5i GA MT R264 900
Jimny 1.5i GLX MT R299 900
Jimny 1.5i GLX AT R319 900
The GLX comes with a 4-year / 60 000km service plan while the GA comes with a 2-year / 30 000km service plan. All models are sold with a 5 year / 200 000 km mechanical warranty which you'll probably never use - because Suzuki.