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The iconic Suzuki Jimny grows two more doors

The iconic Suzuki Jimny grows two more doors
Rock-climbing in the new Suzuki Jimny 5-door (Photo: Suzuki Auto SA)

Since its launch back in 1970, the Suzuki Jimny has deservedly earned the title of the ‘world’s smallest authentic off-roader’. Now it’s had a late-life growth spurt and is available in a 5-door guise.

Despite its Noddy in Toyland size, the Suzuki Jimny is a giant on the off-beaten track. Over the years, I’ve been astounded by its ability to conquer mountains and rocks, like a dassie. 

Off-road it can hold its bonnet high with the likes of far pricier dirt track demons, namely the Defender, the Jeep and even Toyota’s good old Land Cruiser. When it comes to its iconic looks, some have called it a “Mini Hummer”, while others point to a “pint-sized G-Wagon”.  

Where it’s sorely lacking is in size. 

The 3-door Jimny with its tiny 85-litre boot and space for just two front passengers and not much else in the loading bay but a couple of rucksacks and a cooler box may be adequate for a couple who travel light, but when it comes to a family’s needs, potential customers have been forced to look elsewhere.

After years of rumour and speculation, it was finally confirmed in January that the 5-door Jimny would be making its way to SA before year-end. I was one of the many who sat up and took notice. It’s been one of the most anticipated launches this year. 

Suzuki Auto SA has been selling up a storm in recent times. 

It’s currently placed at number three in the local bestselling manufacturers’ charts, behind VW SA in second place and mighty Toyota SA in first. 

The Japanese manufacturer has launched no fewer than five new products in 2023, including the new Jimny, the commendable but strangely named Fronx, as well as the Vitara, the doppelgänger of Toyota’s Urban Cruiser.

For the launch of the 5-door Jim, Suzuki pulled out all the stops by inviting a large contingent of local motoring media to put their new child through its paces on an intensive off-road, three-day, cross-border trip into  Botswana.

suzuki jimny

A convoy of Jimnys in Botswana. (Photo: Suzuki Auto SA)

Same engine, more space

If, like me, you were expecting the 5-door to come with a new engine, it hasn’t. 

Mechanically, the larger Jimny uses the same powertrain as the 3-door – the reliable but somewhat underpowered K15B naturally aspirated 1.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine. Its outputs of 75kW and 130Nm are not exactly going to have you gunning it against a GTI.

But in all fairness, boy or girl racers are not its target market. 

In my experience, every Jimny owner I’ve ever met has been a chilled, outdoorsy kind of individual who loves sipping coffee out of flasks. Some have been surfers, others have been architects and quite a few have had a penchant for some good old doobie at the end of the day. What they have in common is that they all LOVE their Jimnys.

There have been significant changes to the 5-door’s wheelbase, which has seen an increase of 34cm in length. As a result, there’s now space for two back passengers. Boot space has more than doubled to 211 litres and with the back seats down, there’s an entirely respectable 1,113 litres. (Talking of which, it’s now possible to grab some shut-eye in the new 5-door because the front seats fold completely flat to integrate with the back seats.)

The kerb weight has only increased by just over 100kg, while the ground clearance of 210mm remains the same as the 3-door. When it comes to approach and departure angles, it’s lost just two degrees (47° vs 49°) on departure and a minuscule 1° on approach (36° vs 37°) due to its increase in length. 

suzuki jimny

The top-of-range GLX‘s cabin. (Photo: Suzuki Auto SA)

From the outset, since the debut of the first generation Jimny LJ10 (LJ standing for “Light Jeep”), Suzuki has chosen to use a ladder frame chassis across all four generations of its pint-sized off-roader. (Toyota also employs this type of chassis in its Fortuner and Land Cruiser.) 

The benefits are mainly experienced off-road. Made from steel, it’s exceptionally strong and enables a more forgiving ride over rocks, gravel and ruts. It’s also easier to mend if it gets damaged and, over the years, the ladder frame has proven its metal on workhorse-type vehicles. 

The drive

On our trip up north, I got behind the wheel of the top-of-the-range GLX 4-speed auto – there’s also a more entry-level GL and a GLX Manual. 

The GLX spec has a lot of good stuff like six airbags, a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system, automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, a reverse camera, front fog lamps and automatic LED headlights. 

On the route from Polokwane, heading north into the Tuli Wilderness area in Botswana, the trip entailed driving on some of the worst potholed roads I’ve ever encountered. 

On this stretch, the Jimny’s nimbleness came to the fore. I had a couple of mini heart attacks as we were forced to dodge cavernous dongas and dangerous ruts in desperate search of an unblemished stretch of asphalt. 

I literally had frozen shoulders from constant steering to avoid a flat tyre. 

By the time we got to camp, I was amazed that not one of us had suffered a puncture; an ode to the Jimny’s high-profile 195/80 15-inch, puncture-resistant tyres.  

As mentioned, when it comes to speed, the Jimny ain’t no GTI. You’ll have to overtake with circumspection, and after reaching about 110km/h, the engine struggles somewhat. Oh, for some turbo charge! 

Crosswinds are also not its best friend because of its light weight,  and so it requires some focused steering to keep it in line. 

suzuki jimny

The new Jimny traverses rocky river beds. (Photo: Suzuki Auto SA)

But once we were off-road in Botswana, none of this mattered as the Jimny embraced its true terrain like a boss. 

Off-road, the Jimny 5-door hurtled through every obstacle thrown at it – from heavily corrugated gravel roads, slippery sand and jagged rocks to muddy river beds. 

Its legendary off-road ability is largely due to its excellent AllGrip system which can transform it instantly from a rear-wheel drive to an all-wheel drive mean machine. 

Depending on the territory, the driver can select 2High, 4High and 4Low range. There’s also hill descent control and a limited-slip differential for tackling the really difficult technical stuff. 

I did find Suzuki’s somewhat minimal approach to cabin storage frustrating. There are only two cup holders in the centre, and the door pockets are totally impractical – unable to store much more than a couple of postcards or a skinny map. 

But these were small gripes in the face of the new 5-door’s mesmerising ability to crack through whatever was chucked at it. Consumption-wise, we managed to average about 7.5 litres/100km. 

To date, Suzuki has sold more than 3 million Jimnys globally. The current fourth generation has done particularly well in SA, accounting for 55% of lifetime sales since the third generation first appeared here in 2008. 

Undoubtedly, the 5-door will be a hit amongst die-hard off-roaders and capture a new family market, bringing Suzuki closer to snatching the number two place from VWSA in the race for sales.

Pricing: 

Jimny 5-door 1.5 GL Manual – R429,900
Jimny 5-door 1.5 GLX Manual – R457,900
Jimny 5-door 1.5 GLX Auto – R479,900

The Jimny 5-door is sold with a 5-year/200,000km warranty and 4-year/60,000km service plan. DM

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