Deon van der Walt recently had to bid his long-term Suzuki Jimny 1.3 farewell after spending a year and almost 20 000km with the cool little 4×4. This is how his year with the Suzuki went down.
The send-off of the little Jimny was not without some emotional difficulty. I must admit, I had grown quite attached to the little 4×4 during its time with us. The Jimny nametag has a special place in my heart as it was a vehicle of many firsts for me. For starters, I found out the Jimny’s 40-litre fuel tank is cool for running around town (and I managed more than 500km on a few tanks) but in the middle of the bush, in deep sand and heavily laden, the range is drastically reduced. So you need to carry extra fuel and space is not a major Jimny virtue. In town, we managed to average around the seven litre/100km mark. But I only managed to achieve this average after figuring out the nuances of the spritely little 1.3-litre engine with variable valve timing (VVT).
The Jimny delivers its peak torque of 110Nm at a high 4 100r/min. To drive it optimally, especially at highway speeds, you need to keep the engine revs close to that mark. In practice this means that driving at 120km/h in fifth gear, with the engine ticking over at 4 000r/min, is actually more fuel efficient than driving at 100km/h, in top gear. With the VVT system, the four-cylinder engine has an appetite for higher revs, too, so it doesn’t mind being chased to the red line (just shy of 7 000r/min). Another Jimny quality that I appreciated was the slick five-speed manual gearbox. The throws are short and precise, and it’s almost like a switch. On the cabin-front, we can report that the Jimny is solid and well put together. The materials used on the inside are of good quality, and all the basic amenities are there: electric windows (only at the front, rear windows don’t open), a flashy Bluetooth sound system that did not have the greatest sound reproduction and which proved temperamental, electric side mirrors, a trip computer and air-conditioning.
The latter also acts as a bit of a brake, though: when the compressor is working you can feel the dip in power. Space in the cabin… well, there’s simply not much of it. With two burly men in the front seats, their shoulders will just about touch. Leaning over from the driver side to open the passenger door is also not a hassle, it’s not a far stretch at all. Rear seat space is limited. To access the rear seats the front seats slide and tilt forward. Once inside, and with the front seat back in its normal place, rear leg room is particularly limited. Also, with the rear seats in their upright position the ‘boot’ is hardly more than a suggestion of a space to store a couple of small items. So, if you’re single, or a couple without kids, then the Jimny can certainly work, especially if you fold the rear seats flat to increase the loading area.
Which brings us to the Jimny’s off-road and 4×4 abilities. The Jimny is based on a tough ladder-frame chassis, and has a transfer case. There are three buttons located in the centre stack that allow you to select between 2H, 4H and 4Low. Selecting especially 4Low requires the Jimny’s front wheels to be straight… it just makes it much easier. 4H can be selected on the move. When you encounter a gravel road with bad corrugations, best engage 4H asap; with the short wheelbase, the Suzuki’s tail tends to bounce around a lot. Tyre pressures play a big role in the Jimny’s ride quality, which can get quite choppy if the tyres are inflated too much. On the advice of other Jimny owners, we dropped the pressures all-round to 1.6 bar, and the difference was marked. Note, this lower pressure is only suggested when the Jimny is not heavily laden.
On a 4×4 track, the little Suzuki is surprisingly capable. With 4Low engaged, and the tyres deflated to the appropriate pressure, the Jimny can scoot up and down obstacles with surprising ease. It doesn’t have traction control or differential lockers, yet it manages to clamber up and over most obstacles. In stock trim, the ground clearance can limit its reach on a 4×4 track, particularly if you want to prevent damage. The radius arm mounting points are particularly vulnerable to damage from rocks. With the Jimny as popular as it is, there are plenty of accessory companies that sell aftermarket protection parts, ranging from those mounting points to differential and gearbox protectors.
Over the past year, I learnt a lot about the Suzuki Jimny. I learnt that it’s the perfect companion on a day-to-day basis. I learnt how to best utilise the VVT engine. I learnt how far I can go when the fuel light starts blinking, and I learnt that the Jimny has its flaws. Most importantly, though, I learnt about its character, which at the heart, is a capable 4×4 you can enjoy every day.
Distance received/now 456km/19 050km
Distance completed 18 594km
Average fuel consumption 7.0 litres/100km
Selling price new R256 900
Service plan Four-year/60 000km
Why do we have it To find out if the Jimny can be used as a day-to-day vehicle
Driven by Deon van der Walt
It has character
Its off-road capabilities
Good fuel consumption
It’s a great runabout vehicle (if you don’t require a lot of space)
Not so good
You need to keep the 1.3-litre engine on the boil at Highveld altitude, otherwise it can run out of poke
The sound system’s quality is no great shakes, especially at 120km/h
Temperamental Bluetooth system
Cheers Jimny! Errr… hello Jimny!
Our silver Jimny may have departed for a new home, but a brand new one has taken its place. Decked out in a Prime Bison Brown hue, and with 500km on the clock when it arrived, this new Jimny will fulfil a completely different role to that of the silver vehicle. The new Suzuki is a project 4×4, so it will be fitted with an upgraded suspension, mud terrain tyres, special roof rack, underbody protection and there will also be some upgrades for the cabin. When all the upgrades are completed, the little Suzuki will compete in the Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge, with television presenter Tumelo Maketekete behind the helm. The custom process kicks off next month.