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Tested: Suzuki Jimny

Suzuki Jimny

It’s so small and so light that it almost jumps from rock to rock as it scampers across off road terrain.

Tech Specs

Price: R201,900
Monthly: R 3951
Engine: 1.3-litre
Cylinders: 4
Power: 63kW
Torque: 110Nm
Gearbox: 5 speed manual
Drive: Front Wheel
Engine: Front Mounted
0-100km/h: 14.1 seconds
Top Speed: 140
Weight: 1060kgs
Consumption: 7.2 l/100

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The rule of thumb when testing a car is to test it in the environment it was made for. So if ever we got a Formula 1 car to test, we’d need to test it on the streets of Monaco, a Tank we’d test in Iraq, and a Prius we’d test in Hollywood.

So when it came to testing the Suzuki Jimny, we had to find a stretch of off-road. Not as easy as you’d think down here in the south.

Of course there are the Atlantis Dunes, as that seems to be the default playground to test these vehicles, but we wanted something different, and also didn’t feel like driving for an hour only to get stuck in the sand.

We went off to our usual Red Hill spot and thought we’d take it for a run up the hill first. The problem was though, that the Suzuki suffers from the same ailment that plagues any 1.2 / 1.3-litre engine, it’s a bit useless uphill. We’ve driven a few of these in the past and they’re very frugal, and great on a flat piece of land, but the minute you have to go up a hill, that’s when the problems start.

So after a tiring run up Red Hill, completely destroying any form of good fuel economy, we went hunting for some dirt. Which is harder than you’d think. All the greenies around here are set on protecting the environment, so all the good off road tracks have booms and require permits obtained through bribing a government official.

But we meandered on, and eventually stumbled across a little road in the heart of a military base leading into the mountains. This one, too had a boom, once, but now it’s a rusted pole on the side of the road. We took our chances and headed off into the unknown.

To our dismay, the first stretch of gravel road was quite smooth, and you could bring any normal sedan through here. In fact, a few hundred meters on, we found a Citi Golf parked on the side of the road with some people enjoying the view. So much for hard core off-roading then.

We persisted never the less, and the further we went, the less smooth the road became. Eventually we were faced with two choices, we could turn round and go back, or we could try and traverse the foot-high boulders in front of us forming a step up to where the road continues. For the sake of diligently testing the vehicle we decided to press on.

I seriously had my doubts as to whether or not we would make it up the rocks. I had visions of an awkward phone call to Suzuki asking them to come and rescue their car off the mountain, but to my absolute surprise the Jimny climbed up the rocks, barely breaking a sweat. Once you’ve got the Jimny in 4×4 low range (which you have to do while stationary and in 1st gear), it’s such a small light little vehicle it quite literally scampers up just about anything. Quite impressively too.

Once we were over the boulders it became clear that there hasn’t been another car on this road in a long time. We’d come this far though and we were keen to see what else the Jimny had up it’s sleeve. The road was pretty much just beach sand, but because the Jimny is so small it just runs over it, so you’re never left with the feeling that you’re about to get stuck. Ground clearance is very good so the overgrown fynbos posed no challenge and we kept climbing along this soft sandy road.

What goes up must come down, and pretty soon we were descending. What we weren’t anticipating was the 50m long descent on very loose rock. Once again the Jimny came into its own. There was a lot of slipping and sliding and gripping and bouncing but eventually we were at the bottom, and not once did the Jimny even hint of being in trouble.

That’s when we found out why the road hadn’t been used in such a long time, it just ends. Like that. The road stops and you’re faced with a wall of bush. With no clear idea of which direction to go we thought it best not to forge a new road and fall off a cliff (imagine that phone call to Suzuki), and turned around to follow our tracks back.

A 20 million point turn later we were heading back up the loose rock (the GoPro had an unfortunate accident here), soft sand and where we’re previously climbed up the boulders we were now climbing down the boulders. None of which seemed to phase the Jimny much.

Having driven a couple of Land Rovers on a really technical off road circuit, they’re always cautious when approaching obstacles. You get told to keep momentum, but don’t go too fast, if you stop you’ll be stuck. This is true in a 9 tonne Discovery, but it’s something the Jimny just doesn’t seem troubled with.

It’s so small and so light that it almost jumps from rock to rock as it scampers across off road terrain.

It’s not too bad as a daily driver either. The ride is a bit choppy but it’s good fun to run around in (as long as you don’t have too many uphills), and when you’re not off road it can be quite economical.

Interior space is limited, it was never built or designed to be a big off roader, so if you’re using the back seats you have very limited boot space but if you don’t have to squeeze some kids in the back it’s more than practical for 2 people on an African adventure.

It’s a solid little package, capable of so much more than you’d ever expect. We loved every minute of it.


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