Tested: 2012 Suzuki Jimny

The pluckier toy

Most automobiles, even small and cheap ones, improve with every generation and cater for society’s increasing demands of comfort and safety features. I typed “most” because you do get a few which never got that memo – one of them is the Suzuki Jimny.

Although it’s slightly more modern, luxurious and safe than its SJ ancestors, the Jimny is a rather basic and old product when compared to other cars. It may not be terribly luxurious or overly safe but I absolutely adore cars like this and assure you that even the mention of its name gets me smiling.

Added to its miniature dimensions, the Jimny’s refusal to get with the program makes it even pluckier than it already is. Auto wipers, climate control and self-venting Xenon dampers? Who needs ‘em when you have a ladder frame chassis, solid axles, manual seats and an interior from 1989.

While the Terios, RAV-4 and other small SUV’s were munching their oats and taking Dyna Jets, the Jimny matured with an airbag or two here and some central locking there. Except for Hondas, every model on the market keeps growing, adding more space and weight for passenger comfort; not so the Jimny.

A recent update has given it new headrests, ISOFIX anchors, a restyled front end and an overambitious, rather fake hood scoop. Six gears, LED lights, dual climate control, navigation, keyless entry and ignition, multifunction steering wheel – these are all things the Jimny doesn’t have. Or need.

Quite a few are available in the car next door on any Suzuki showroom and would only look out of place in this barebones basic 4×4. Compared to the model we tested two years ago, I’m struggling to find any noteworthy points of improvement other than the minor tweaks mentioned above.

I firmly believe that this is part of the Jimny’s immense popularity and explains why it appeals to a broad slice of the public – it’s small enough to be a breeze in tight parking lots, simple enough not to intimidate anyone and light enough to provide excellent off-roading abilities.

You read right; excellent off-roading abilities. The Jimny would be a laughable toy for orange girls on tropical islands but it has selectable four-wheel-drive and low range. Coupled to the aforementioned Victorian ladder chassis, solid axles and negligible mass, it takes some effort to get this little number stuck.

On top of that, should your little Suzuki be grounded or bogged down, simply recruit two or three blokes of the muscular variety and in no time you’re zipping around again. We dragged our Jimny into a mild off-road area and it sailed through it with ease – often in high range.

These respectable bundu bashing capabilities have even given rise to fan communities all around the country and some specimens are even pimped up with bigger wheels, taller suspension, camping equipment and the like. Some owners also address its power deficit by giving the little 1.3L engine a once-over.

This 1,328cc in-line four-cylinder petrol develops maximums of 63kW (86hp) or 110Nm through a five-speed manual gearbox to reach a top speed of 140km/h. We not only discovered the Jimny speedometer to be quite accurate but, with a little patience and bravery, capable of cracking that number.

Our best 0-100km/h time was just over 12 seconds which is completely irrelevant; you shouldn’t even consider this car if you’re a speed freak. Its top-heavy and ancient construction means that the Jimny jiggles about considerably at highway speeds, hates strong wind and high speed overtaking manoeuvres.

The gearbox is rather vague but paired with a pleasingly light clutch which is easy to modulate in traffic or off-road. The Jimny also has, as promised by its custodian, the turning radius of a forklift. Add the incredibly compact body to this equation and this is the world’s second best car to park; just behind a smart fortwo.

You want dimensions? 1,060kg weight, 360kg payload, 1.7m height, 3,545mm length, 1.6m width, 2.25m wheelbase, 40L fuel tank, 190mm ground clearance, 34° approach angle, 31° ramp angle, 46° departure angle. Without its spare wheel on the rear door, the Jimny is shorter than most compact cars on the road.

The specifications include all basic necessities like remote central locking, power steering, power windows, remote side mirrors, air conditioning, two airbags, ABS brakes, alloy wheels, fog lights, four cup holders, immobiliser, 50/50 folding rear seats and a radio/CD player combination.

Including a 3-year/100,000km warranty and 4-year/60,000km service plan, the Jimny costs *gulp* N$199,900. Ouch bru, I hear you think, that’s a lot of money for such a small car. You’re absolutely right but I’d like you to find a direct competitor at the price. I’ll be waiting right here.



0-10km/h:    0.5s
0-20km/h:    1.1s
0-30km/h:    1.7s
0-40km/h:    2.2s
0-50km/h:    3.7s
0-60km/h:    5.0s
0-70km/h:    6.2s
0-80km/h:    8.4s
0-90km/h:    10.4s
0-100km/h:    12.4s
0-110km/h:    15.6s
0-120km/h:    19.5s
0-130km/h:    23.7s

0-100m:        7.1s / 73.8km/h
0-200m:        11.3s / 95.1km/h
0-300m:        14.8s / 107.6km/h
0-400m:         18.0s / 116.2km/h

0-60mph:    11.6s
1/4mile:    18.0s @ 72.3mph (116.4km/h)


Temp       20C
Climate     Sunny, moderate breeze
Altitude    102m
Road        Dry tarmac, level
Occupants  Driver, no passengers
Fuel level    1/4

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