Car reviews - Suzuki - Jimny - 3-dr wagon
Manoeuvrability, economy, comfort, off-road ability
Room for improvement
Still not car-like on-road, tiny engine lacks highway power
27 Jun 2001
SUZUKI'S all-new Jimny replaces the enduring Sierra, which was first sold here in 1981.
The company has relied heavily on sales of its small off-roader over the past three decades and, consequently, the Jimny will be a key player for it over the next few years.
Suzuki has opted to carry over the theme established by the successful Sierra, with the three-door Jimny retaining the original model's proportions and ladder-frame structure.
Nevertheless, the car is clearly distinguishable from its utilitarian predecessor by its five-vent grille, square headlight covers and wheelarch flares.
The newcomer is 145mm longer and 55mm wider than its ancestor, but its turning circle has been reduced to 9.8m, making it more manoeuvrable around town.
It is available in two trim levels, JX and JLX, both of which are powered by a 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine. An optional four- speed automatic transmission is available for the first time, but only in the JLX.
The Sierra had few direct rivals when it was launched here in 1981, but the Jimny must contend with the Asia Rocsta, Daihatsu Terios and Lada Niva.
Suzuki has priced the entry level JX competitively, with air- conditioning and an AM/FM stereo CD player included at no extra cost.
The JLX gains remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, power steering and cloth trim.
Although the majority of Jimnys sold are likely to be driven exclusively on bitumen, they are marketed as vehicles with genuine off-road ability, thanks to short front and rear overhangs and a dual-range transfer case.
The range will be expanded in early 2000 by a three-door soft-top variant.
At the Jimny's heart lies an uprated 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine that benefits greatly from fuel injection in place of the carburettor used in the Sierra.
The powerplant produces 59kW at 6000rpm and 104Nm at 4500rpm, just enough to maintain a reasonable rate of progress in the 1025kg vehicle.
The engine is smooth and willing, but this is just as well as it has to be kept on the boil to obtain a respectable level of acceleration.
The Jimny is not the ideal candidate for long trips, with the engine's noise levels proving intrusive when cruising at speeds in excess of 100km/h.
Economy is one of the Jimny's fortes, with consumption figures of 8.0 litres/100km around town and 6.4 litres/100km on the highway.
The Jimny's standard five-speed gearbox is light and easy to use and the clutch is similarly user-friendly. The short gearing is well suited to around-town driving but conspires against the Jimny's cruising ability on the highway.
The JLX is available with automatic transmission as a $1500 option.
The Drive Action 4x4 system is easy to use, with shifts between two-wheel drive and high-range four-wheel drive possible on the move at speeds of up to 100km/h.
Engaging low range requires the vehicle to be stationary and either in neutral or with the clutch depressed.
The dual-range four-wheel drive system enables the Jimny to cope effortlessly with sand dunes - its relatively light kerb weight also works in its favour.
The Jimny gains new three-link coil-spring front and rear suspension which Suzuki claims gives the vehicle a more car-like ride.
The vehicle is built upon a separate ladder-type frame to endow it with the strength and rigidity needed to tackle rugged terrain.
Despite the Jimny's new suspension set-up, its ride remains somewhat choppy over even minor irregularities in the road's surface.
Jimny's handling is adequate considering its tall stance, with both understeer and body roll never assuming chronic proportions.
Its steering is reasonably direct and well-weighted, and parking is particularly easy in the JLX, which benefits from power steering.
One of Suzuki's objectives in designing the Jimny's interior was to give it a more car-like dashboard and instrument panel.
The layout is neat and uncluttered and all the instruments are clear and simple to read. All the switchgear also falls easily to hand.
The seats are moderately comfortable and supportive, although the cloth trim may be a bit garish for some tastes.
One drawback is that access to the rear seats is possible only from the passenger side as the driver's seat does not slide forward.
Rear-seat passengers will find legroom at a premium if locked in behind tall front-seat occupants.
The overall standard of fit and finish is quite good and the trim is robust and practical - even if looks a bit downmarket.
The Jimny's luggage capacity is very limited with the rear seats upright, making it unsuitable as a getaway vehicle for families.
However, folding down the rear seats provides a luggage area large enough to swallow a couple of large suitcases or a mountain bike with the front wheel detached.
A number of cubbyholes are located adjacent to the front and rear seats to accommodate smaller items.
The base model JX is equipped with air-conditioning, an AM/FM stereo CD player, split/fold rear seats, a spare wheel cover and the Drive Action 4x4 system.
The upmarket JLX gains remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, power steering and cloth-trimmed seats.
The JLX is available with an option pack comprising dual airbags and anti-lock brakes. Automatic transmission is also available in the JLX.
Metallic paint and smart three-spoke alloy wheels are available as options on both models.
The Jimny is a reasonably accomplished performer on sealed roads, eclipsed only by the Daihatsu Terios, which is built on a car- based monocoque chassis.
Jimny's performance and ride/handling balance are adequate around town, while its off-road ability is exceeded only by the Lada Niva among its direct rivals.
Its cute looks, sound build quality and generous specification levels - particularly in JLX trim - also add to its appeal.
Based on its overall strengths, the Jimny would have to be rated the best buy in the sub-$20,000 four-wheel drive segment.
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