Karl samples the new Jimny, loves it, and wonders why Maruti Suzuki is waiting for a four-door version before offering it in India.
Bugatti did it with the Veyron, but BMW didn’t do it with the Mini. Mercedes did it with the G-Class, but Nissan didn’t with the Pathfinder. Renault did it with the Alpine, but Lamborghini didn’t with the Urus. And now Suzuki has done it.
Staying loyal and faithful to its brand values, the Japanese carmaker has created precisely the kind of machine people want, not the kind of machine that will just make money. But, as a result, it will have plenty of dollars flowing through dealer’s doors. Just not in India… yet.
The Jimny has been around for almost 40 years, going from the original Suzuki LJ10 in 1970, through to the Sierra of the 1990s, and the formula has always been the same – a four-wheel-drive Kei car that could go where other cars couldn’t. And now, having tried it, I want one. Badly.
The 2019 Suzuki Jimny sticks to the same proven formula as the original – it’s what people want – basic, easy to drive, but oh, so much fun. And there’s history in the styling. The round headlamps come from the LJ10, the bonnet was inspired by the SJ30, the grille from the third gen, and the tail lights are a nod to the 1990s Samurai. It’s also more practical than before.
There’s a grab handle for passengers, plastics which resist stains and scratches, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone connectivity, sat-nav, reversing camera, climate control, cruise control and power windows.
The rear seats flip down and line up with the front seats to create a large load area, or even a bed. But, with all four seats in place, there’s not much of a boot.
A new 1.5-litre engine provides drive, with 100 horsepower and 130Nm moving just 1,075kgs (in manual form), it feels lively enough when required. And with a 40-litre tank, you don’t have to fill it up too often either.
Underneath, a ladder frame chassis and two three-link rigid axles create a solid platform to get rough and ready. The body has been coated in zinc, and high strength steel has been used to make the Jimny’s outer shell a bit stronger. And with 210mm of ground clearance, it looks to be purpose built. Which it is.
That’s why on the road you’ll find a machine that’s a bit tinny inside, with a lot of body roll (roundabouts are fun) and overtaking on a country road requires a long, straight, flat (or preferably downhill) section to get it up and going. This isn’t a machine meant for long, cross-country trips. But get it off the tarmac and it becomes unstoppable.
This is the cheapest car to come with a low-range transfer case, and there’s a brake LSD system (effectively a traction control) to prevent wheel slippage, sending torque to the wheel that is gripping the surface. But does it work properly? Absolutely.
Despite the light steering (which only adjusts for height), the feedback is good, and the soft suspension, which is a liability on the road, gives you a beautiful ride over obstacles. Even on a 30-degree concrete incline, there were no issues powering up in low range – while hill descent control slows things on the way down.
The traction control takes a while to kick in, working reasonably well when it does, so it tends to rely on mechanical grip rather than emulated grip from braking. That’s why you’ll need to feel things a bit and modulate the throttle. In 4-Low, you get almost all the physical grip you need. Let the tyres down and you get it all.
Sand, mud, rocks – it’s hard to know what would stop it. But, in India, we do know – it doesn’t have four doors. And that’s a crying shame. It will seat four adults with no complaints, so if you need to take people you can. Why not, then, offer it as it is?
Suzuki tells us there’s likely to be a four-door version later on. But think of how many they will sell as is.
After sampling the Jimny for a couple of weeks, it’s one of the best value and most fun vehicles you can drive today. Forget the new Defender, this is the bush-basher you want.