Lightweight Suzuki Jimny Packs A Punch
  |  First Published: November 2008

The Suzuki Jimny design has been going since 1988 but has resisted the newest trend to upsize. And this compact four wheel drive is as popular as ever.

The Jimny has a low bonnet and waistline, an easily reached roof to tie on a tent or other large packages, and a rear door that allows access to a cargo area that can be enhanced considerably by the lowering of the split rear seats.

The Jimny’s success story comes from a variety of reasons. It has maintained a very modest price, is economical to run, and has an abundance of capability.

Fights above its weight

It might be a compact little beast but when it comes to off road capability the Suzuki Jimny packs a wallop well above its size. And a look at the exterior reveals part of the reason why.

The vehicle has ample ground clearance at 190mm, absolutely nothing protruding under the body to snag on obstacles, large 15” wheels, and some of the best approach and departure angles in the business. Off-road, this one is going to be hard to stop.

Another part of the success story lies under the bonnet. At 1.3L capacity, the twin cam 16 valve in line fuel injected four cylinder petrol engine is the smallest in a four wheel drive in this country. But with ample ground clearance and willing performance from the all aluminium engine, the lightweight Jimny (1420kg) is a nippy critter. It is eager to go and is able to negotiate a surprising amount of rough and tough, thanks to that all important low range gearing.

Find a place where the road has finished and the Jimny will be in its element. Many earn a living as farm or station vehicles or doing the rounds by security staff that have schools, sports ovals and similar on their books.

Manual reviewed

There is a choice of either manual or auto transmission in the JLX Jimny, but most people opt for the tough-as-nails manual. It's a sporty unit to drive, with a 5-speed gearbox linked to a very light and predictable clutch. I found the ratios well matched, easily selected and set up so that driving in traffic was no chore at all, just fun.

And the more up-market Sierra, as reviewed, comes with some fruit as well. The four seater is equipped with power steering, dual front air bags, electric windows, central remote door locking, air conditioning, radio and CD player, floor carpet, power mirrors, and a remote fuel opener. Large halogen headlights are also standard, as are tinted windows and a useful number of interior storage compartments.

Tyres were Bridgestone Dueler 205-70 R15's on alloy wheels; an excellent combination for both suburban and off-road work.

The Jimny will pleasantly surprise with its ease of driving. The 1.3L engine might seem small but it has a mighty big heart and easily cruises at highway speeds. Steering is very direct when compared with a larger vehicles, it is spot on, nice and high with a wide comfy seat for both front passengers. In the rear there is ample headroom, but with both front seats back, the area is probably best suited to youngsters.

The ride was firm but by no means choppy on either undulating bitumen or gravel surfaces. This is thanks to the multi link and coil spring set up both front and rear.

I packed in sufficient camping gear for a couple of days on the border rivers including a tent, poles, table and chairs, stove, bedding; some tackle boxes and other odds and ends and even a big esky in case I scored a couple of cod. I found the off-road ride to be quite good and, I might add, when the track petered out a quick push on the dash button to engage low range four wheel drive saw the Jimny easing gently down to the river flat where I set up camp.

Its fuel economy is sensational. Its 40L fuel tank and consumption of 20L for 300km makes it a useful range at very little expense. How many true four-wheel vehicles today offer fuel consumption of 6.5L per 100km, which is what I achieved on the run to and from Ballandean? The Jimny is the only one with that sort of capability.

Recommended retail price is around the $20,000 mark, so when singing its praises it is hard to decide whether to award top marks for the car being the least expensive four wheel drive in the land or the most frugal to run. In truth it's both.

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