Sidewalk to sand dune

Text and photograph: Leilani Basson

I’ve always liked the look of the Suzuki Jimny. And I loved its dinky predecessors, too. Since the relaunch here in 2009, I have regularly said that I would love to have one. But would I actually buy one? With my own money? That is what this experiment was all about.

Since the 1.3 Suzuki Jimny came to South Africa, I have not read anything negative about it. Experienced off-roaders and 4×4 fundis such as Francois Rossouw and Glynn Demmer have always sung its praises and its uncanny capability in off-road conditions. So much so that Glynn eventually bought one himself.

On researching the Jimny, I’ve been told time and time again that it is a very basic vehicle that is not ideal as one’s main means of transport. Nor is it ideal for a lengthy trip to Cape Town and back.

Nevertheless, these bonsai cars are plentiful on the roads: in the morning peak-hour traffic, at shopping centres and even on the highway. This surely means that they are their driver’s everyday car and not just a weekend toy that gets hooked to an A-frame or is reserved for a holiday runabout. The driver profile is also quite wide: men in suits, young women, grey-haired omies and mothers with children.

I found the Jimny to be extremely driver friendly. Admittedly it’s not the most luxurious, well-rounded vehicle on the inside, but there really is nothing more that anyone needs. Air-conditioning, electric windows and a CD player are standard. And when the rear seats are folded down, you can load quite a few things in there – including a fully grown White Swiss Shepherd with a weekend travel bag and a cooler box. Sure, a few nice-to-haves are missing, but then again, it is obvious that they could not be included at the price.

On the road and in the rough, its high-performance features make handling easy for seasoned drivers and first time car owners alike. Although it is still fitted with a rather puny engine, it performs like a true 4×4 in the rough. Where you point, the Jimny goes.

One of the best things about this little car is its button-operated low range gearing that, when engaged, converts the Suzuki into a klipspringer that shies away from none of its bigger, more beefy brothers.

On the road it is a bit sluggish, but once you manage to get it past the 100km/h mark, it accelerates with less effort. Its power steering makes parking a breeze in even the narrowest bay, and going round corners is really a pleasure. The only disadvantage is the heart attack one suffers every time you come out of the mall: since it is so short and small, you are convinced that it has been stolen until you reach the car parked next to it.

If you are used to a top of the range, luxurious sedan and want to upgrade to a 4×4, this car is probably not for you. But for someone who is looking for fun, practicality, a pop-art look and overall on- and off-road ability, with great fuel consumption, this little beast is perfect. And yes, I would buy it. As long as hubby has something bigger and more luxurious with a generous boot for a family holiday, this could easily be my every day, and sometimes play, car.

Suzuki Jimny Fast Facts
Engine: 1328cc, four-cylinder petrol
Power: 63kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 110Nm at 4100rpm
0-100km/h: 14.1 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 140km/h (claimed)
Fuel tank: 40litres
Fuel consumption: 7.2l/100km (claimed combined)
Service plan: four year/60 000km
Average sales per month: 76
Price: R184 900