Couples’ therapy with Suzuki Jimny

Jimny “The Conqueror”: 2019 Suzuki Jimny GLX M/T

Suzuki’s Jimny turns 49 this year and the “Little Cricket” has matured gracefully. It is now a little taller, a little wider and slightly shorter. That’s owing to a redesigned rear bumper.

It’s also stronger, with a new X-brace and added lateral beams for its ladder frame chassis. Off-road capability was improved by increasing ground clearance some 20mm and sharpening its approach, departure and breakover angles. Wheels are still 15 inches in diameter, but tyres are narrower and taller, now 195/80R15, for better grip in the dirt and greater comfort.

Its engine is bigger. Now displacing 1.5 litres, power is up to 75 kilowatts and 130Nm from the previous 1300cc car’s 60kW and 110Nm.

Amazing articulation

What has not changed are its traditional beam axles, both suspended from coil springs, providing amazing articulation. That and its newly increased height mean it cannot compete in freeway tussles with aggressively driven AMGs, so don’t try.

There’s a panic bar for the front passenger and Jeep-style power window switches on the dash. Big, square windows help you see where you’re going. A square bonnet makes it easy to place the wheels, while the rear door-mounted spare shows you where the vehicle ends. Your dealer can supply add-on reverse alarm beepers should you want a set. Brakes remain disc and drum. Default drive is to the rear wheels, as it should be.

The interior of the 2019 Suzuki Jimny GLX M/T. Pictures: Motorpress (interior) and Gordon Hall (exterior)

The transmission still offers selectable 2H, 4H and 4Low. The difference is that Suzuki, in a nod to history, substituted a “proper” lever for the push-button selector used previously. Because they could. And it looks way cool.

Also cool were stylised rhino decals on its doors, along with “Since 1970” lettering and a further rhino on an accent stripe running up the bonnet. These were crafted by Suzuki’s promotions department to dicky-up the launch cars for their press début. Not officially on the options list, they will nonetheless be made available for buyers who simply must have them.

Upgrades

That brings us to things that modern customers cannot forego: Introductory GA grade, in five-speed manual only, offers filtered manual airconditioning; a pair of airbags; seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters; ISOFix mountings; halogen multi-reflector headlights; rear window washer and demister; ABS brakes with brake assist, ESP and traction control; hill hold; hill descent control; sturdy fabric upholstery and audio system preparation.

Upper grade GLX upgrades the airconditioning to automatic. And adds LED headlamps; powered front windows with one-touch (both ways) for the driver; leather-covered steering wheel with remotes for audio, hands-free and cruise; powered wing mirrors and a seven-inch touchscreen with Smartphone linkage and Bluetooth. Transmissions are five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

The perfect getaway car… with space to fit in all the necessaries.

Alan Pepper, veteran off-road trainer for Suzuki Auto SA, describes this as a “true three-speed plus overdrive” because of its switchable, long-legged top gear. He reckons it’s the business, both on- and off-road.

Jimny is a giant-killer out in the bush because of its simplicity, lightness, compact size and tight turning circle. Episode one saw us on a barely visible grassed track hardly as wide as the car. We eventually came to where Mother Nature had declared “Enough!’ and grown a jungle across our path. The only way out was to execute a tight three-point turn and go back the way we had come.

Co-driver’s comment: “Try that in your gigantic dual-cab or enormous SUV!”

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Episode two took place on our favourite forestry trail, last visited three months earlier, before being pounded by regular, heavy rainfall. Much soil had been flushed from between stones, gullies had become deeper and more challenging, while mud patches were wetter and slushier. We need not have worried. Jimny the Conqueror shrugged it all off.

There is more shoulder space in the new car because it’s 40mm wider, more headroom because it’s 50mm taller (although 20 of those are thanks to greater clearance), while knee room, front and rear, was increased. The seatback splits 50:50 and folds completely flat once the head restraints have been removed, but, being brutally honest, Jimny is really only a 2+2. That’s because six-footers struggle to squeeze into the back. A built-in toolbox adds a little extra storage.

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Accepted for what it is, however, Jimny is ideal for couples’ therapy; just the pair of you with basic gear, deep in uncharted territory where availability of running water requires that you camp next to a stream. And hot water demands that you balance a billycan on stones straddling a fire. The simple life works best with a simple 4×4 – like Suzuki Jimny.

• Test unit from Suzuki Auto South Africa press fleet

THE NUMBERS:
Price: GLX manual R299 900
Engine: Suzuki K15B, 1462 cc DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder
Power: 75 kW at 6000 rpm
Torque: 130 Nm at 4000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 12.8 seconds
Maximum speed: 145 km/h
Real-life fuel consumption: About 7.6 l/100 km
Tank: 40 litres
Luggage: 85 to 377 litres
Ground clearance: 210 mm
Approach/departure/breakover angles: 37/49/28 degrees
Warranty: 3 years/100 000 km
Service plans: 4 years/60 000 km