Pure Joy: Driving the 2023 Suzuki Jimny
There is an undeniable halo of je ne sais quoi that surrounds the fourth generation Jimny, the little boxy anathema to the curving of the automobile, the spunky membership card to a bewildering tribe of adventurers and aesthetes who seem to share no other visible quality than a pure, unadulterated obsession with fun.
I have only driven one car that elicited more sidelong glances and gape-jawed stares, more shameless flirtatious smiles: a 1969 Corvette Stingray targa top: the same Corvette driven by the Apollo 12 astronauts. That is exceptionally rarefied company for the diminutive Jimny, and a testament to its paradoxical pulling power.
It has a strange magnetic charm that draws people in, that kindles, or rekindles, that basic childhood sense of freedom that automobiles once evoked in all of us – when driving was an end unto itself, a long, stretching out of the present along the interminable plane of the open road, the joy of driving twining itself for life around our dopamine channels.
The Jimny isn’t retro-styled, it is styled with a sense of individuality, of character and personality that car makers haven’t had the balls to attempt in decades.
Modern cars are built, not to make you fall in love with them, but to desperately avoid you disliking them. If the camel is a horse designed by committee, then the modern car (and I guess that includes anything, really, after the last wild experimentation of the early seventies) is an ode to the camel. You can get one hump or two. But, compared to a horse, they are miserable to ride, pragmatic, perhaps, but rarely fun.
The new Jimny took a chance. At being different. At being a failure because it doesn’t readily fall into any of the top-selling silos of automobiles. It isn’t competing with LandCruisers, Patrols, dual cab utes or even SUVs. It created its own class: Jimny. If you want to find a similarly haphazard demographic line drawn through a population, just look at something like VW Kombi owners. The moral of the story is that, if you want to be loved, you have to risk being hated. That’s the secret behind every cult classic.
The little 1.5L petrol feels alert and responsive, if a little sluggish in the higher revs. But you don’t spend much time up there. It takes off zestfully from the lights (we tested the four-speed auto). It feels nimble, lightweight and is ridiculously easy to drive: in tight city streets or even tighter high country tracks.
The stated consumption is only 6.9L/100km for the auto, making this one of the absolute cheapest vehicles on the road, kilometre for kilometre.
Once I found myself bogged (not in this Jimny) on a NSW beach with no recovery gear and no real hope, when along rolled an old Jimny. The driver offered to help, and when I asked if he had a snatch strap, he pulled one out, a decade old, still in the original wrapper. He’d never been bogged. That is the kind of unspoken surety that comes with this car, a sense of humble invincibility.
Suzuki calls its 4WD system AllGrip, with the Jimny getting the ‘Pro’ version, which is basically a proper part time 4WD system with a locking centre differential, letting the driver have the most control over where, and how, engine torque is applied to the wheels.
The Jimny feels utterly modern, with lots of stylistically updated nods to the past. Like the Wrangler interior, the Jimny feels like it’s ready to go and get muddy with no worries at all. The GXL we tested comes with a massive 9” infotainment system with integrated Apple CarPlay and reverse camera.
The cockpit is surprisingly spacious and comfortable. There’s ample headroom, fantastic vision aided by the rig’s ride height and generous side windows.
The front seats are comfortable and have a wide adjustment range. The interior is intentionally utilitarian, with rigid plastic surfaces that feel well made and are easy to keep clean.
Other modern comforts include the cruise control function and LED headlights with an automatic high beam function.
The rear houses an additional two passenger seats, as well as a limited 85L storage space.
However, the design team were well aware that most people won’t be traveling with more than two passengers, and the two back seats cleanly fold down to provide a flat-based storage area of almost 380L.
If you’re travelling solo, you can fold the front passenger seat all the way forward or lay it down and store bulky items like surfboards, fishing rods or additional camping gear within the vehicle.
UNDER THE BONNET
The Jimny is equipped with a multi point injected 1.5L four-cylinder petrol powerplant that outputs 75kW at 6,000rpm, and 130Nm torque at 4,000 revs.
The engine is matched to either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.
It has ample get up and go for zipping about town, dodging washouts on the beach and crawling up, down and over steep, rocky and rutted inclines and descents.
On the highway, it can cruise comfortably at 110km/h at around the 3,000-rev mark.
Even when we spent a full day driving all sorts of terrain offroad, we were only averaging a little over 7L/100km.
It has a 40L fuel tank, which sounds small, but considering the thing runs on the smell of an oily rag, is ample for most purposes.
If you were looking at doing some serious long-range remote touring, you’d want to consider loading up a jerry can or two.
SAFETY AND WARRANTY
While the Jimny’s three-star ANCAP crash score might not be its biggest selling point, it’s fitted with six airbags and features autonomous emergency braking that’s controlled by camera/laser inputs.
New buyers score a five-year warranty and capped price servicing every six months for the first five years of ownership.
When you take all of that into account, as well as the very reasonable initial outlay, the Jimny starts to sound very, very appealing.
The GLX auto sells for $33,490 (plus onroads) if you can get one. You can get a manual Jimny in a single color within months; if you order an automatic now, it will be a few months away – supply has improved, but is still tight. There is still a waiting list to purchase new models, and some people have taken advantage of that by selling recently purchased vehicles as used vehicles for significantly more than that…as if you needed more proof of this thing’s cult status.
Can you get a car that carries more people for that much money? Yeah, probably.
Can you get a 4WD that is more capable for that much money? Absolutely not.
But the real question is, assuming you’re going to spend that money on a car, is there anything more fun under the sun for under $35k? That’s impossible to answer for everyone, but for enough people to keep this one on waitlist for almost four years now since its launch, the answer is an emphatic yes.