Sized-up Suzuki Jimny 5-Door still capable but now also practical
Enlarged dimensions have not impacted on the Jimny's off-road ability, but made amends in some places.
Five-door Jimny still appears cute, though some will find the extra doors an acquired taste.
The Suzuki Jimny’s rise to immortality, in South Africa, has been nothing short of incredible since its debut five years ago.
Whereas buyers were, it has to be said, late in receiving the previous generation in 2008 after Suzuki’s market return as a separate entity two years prior, the current fourth iteration Jimny has already amassed sales of 11 090 since its premiere.
It, therefore, accounts for 55% of all Jimny sales in South Africa, which, at the end of October, stood at 20 322 if you include the third generation’s 9 232.
Making this even more remarkable was the obvious limitation of the Jimny being a three-door model powered solely by a normally aspirated petrol engine paired to either a manual, or dated by modern standards, automatic gearbox with four ratios.
The need for more
Unsurprisingly, the prospects of a more practical version always lingered, with an eventual confirmation happening in 2020 based not only on demand, but also increased capacity by way of Maruti Suzuki’s Hansalpur Plant in India.
Up until then, production had been limited to the Kosai facility in Japan, whose resources had become strained as a result of not being able to meet demand the first all-new Jimny in more than a decade had caused.
Officially unveiled at the Delhi Auto Expo in January wholly made in India now that three-door production has, after a short period, been re-assigned exclusively to Kosai, the Jimny five-door received approval for South Africa months later in a move still surrounded in mystery as final pricing remained elusive.
Indeed, Suzuki Auto South Africa weren’t prepared to say much at the five-door’s local market showing at the Kyalami Festival of Motoring in August as to how it will stack up against the three-door, or indeed how much it will cost.
Launch with a difference
Prior to stickers being leaked earlier this month though, Suzuki had already set into motion all of the five-door’s fundamentals by way of the official launch taking place over three days in Polokwane, and then across the border into Botswana.
A launch involving the Tuli Block nature reserve, the five-door Jimny’s long standing off-road credentials took centre stage, especially now that two extra doors and 340 mm had been added to its overall length.
Before heading out into the wilderness, there was a moment for the media to get acquainted with the altered dynamics of the long wheelbase Jimny.
More of everything
While still based on the same body-on-frame chassis as the three-door, the now 3 965 mm long five-door has also had its wheelbase stretched by 340 mm and weight increased by 105 kg to a smidgen over 1.1-tons.
Not stopping there, Suzuki has also fitted a longer propeller shaft, increased the springs for the front suspension coils, toughened-up the shock absorbers, added a larger diameter stabiliser bar and revised the chassis while also fitting ventilated disc brakes at the front.
Still with the same 210 mm ground clearance as the three-door, the five-door’s breakover angle now stands at 24-degrees versus 28-degrees, its departure angle at 47-compared to 49-degrees and its approach angle at 37 versus 36-degrees.
Reaping the biggest benefit of the added length is improved legroom for rear passengers, plus a bigger boot.
Now able to accommodate 211-litres, 126-litres more than the three-door, folding the rear seat down frees up an additional 902-litres for a total of 1 113-litres – 736-litres up on the ‘short wheelbase’ Jimny.
Changes inside, same heart
With the exception of the doors, the five-door Jimny’s only visual difference is a chrome grille and projector-type LED headlights with washers on the top-spec GLX.
Standard specification is, however, a different story as Suzuki has included items not available on the three-door regardless of the trim grade.
On the entry-level GL, these include rear parking sensors with a reverse camera and a 12-volt power socket, along with the same seven-inch touchscreen infotainment from the Baleno and Grand Vitara.
Unique to the system though is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which carries over to the bigger nine-inch display fitted to the GLX.
Additionally standard on the mentioned flagship is four extra airbags for a total of six, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, front fog lamps, a revised TFT display within the instrument cluster and in place of the manual air-conditioning, dual-zone climate control.
Underneath its bonnet, the five-door Jimny retains the 1.5-litre K15B engine, whose 75kW/130Nm are routed to the rear or all four wheels via the AllGrip four-wheel-drive system through either a five-speed manual gearbox, or in the case of the GLX, an optional four-speed automatic.
Although the latter often takes preference for its added spec, the GL was selected by my driving partner and I for the 200 km or so trek to the border.
This meant traversing first the R521 and then the R572 to Alldays, which resembled anything but a road in certain places.
More reminiscent of a lunar landscape destroyed by earthly meteorites called trucks, and in some places, badly patched, the pothole strewn road, which saw our convoy often driving beside it, largely failed to upset the Jimny’s ride.
In fact, the extra length and revised chassis worked a treat in providing a less bouncy ride brought on the three-door’s shorter proportions.
That being said, the Jimny’s forte remains off of the beaten track and despite the extra ratio over the automatic, breaching 100 km/h still comes with significant engine noise and a rev-counter exceeding 3 000 rpm at the national limit.
What’s more, the manual ‘box requires some encouragement to get into first gear, but become a treat to use, just as so, as it will require a good deal of rowing to keep the revs up.
Any fears of the five-door being underpowered, or that its dimensions might have compromised is off-road ability, disappeared the moment tar gave way to a dry river bed with thick sand once across the border and into the Tuli block.
With high range (4H) and later low range (4L) selected, the Jimny came into its element as it still proved to be the agile tyke it has become known for.
Owning not only the sand and rocks that littered the river bed, which required careful wheel placing to avoid cutting a tyre or scraping the body, extracting the most from the K15B’s 130 Nm didn’t result in pre-empted fears of getting stuck.
That being said, the combination of 4L and the manual ‘box requires momentum and while almost bogging down did happen, the engine’s willingness to rev and automatically digging itself out saw no ropes being required.
In fact, it came as a refreshing challenge as the gearbox feels ideally suited to off-road driving, while also requiring involvement that often dilutes the overall experience when tackled with an automatic.
Besides the AllGrip system, which can be selected from 2H to 4H on the move at speeds below 100 km/h, both GL and GLX receive Hill Descent Control as standard, along with Hill Hold Assist.
A combination that veers-off the five-door’s girth, progress was, uhmm… the Jimny equivalent of swift as the taxing terrain, while testing its driver’s skills to the limit, showcased the Jimny’s true talents while also dispelling the notion of it being nothing more than a cute mini-‘jeep’.
As much as the description “formidable” frequently arose in-car and the banks of the Limpopo River, where our convoy gathered and eventually departed from, the notion rang true as the five-door Suzuki Jimny lost little of its credentials as still being a capable off-roader.
Though more practical, it remains compromised on-road and regardless of the gearbox, not the most refined in spite of the slightly better ride quality.
As a way of standing out though, in addition to adhering to the “looking and feeling cool” principle, the Jimny still takes some beating, now even more that it has become, as Suzuki describes it, “a Jimny for all”.
As with the three-door, included in the five-door Jimny’s sticker price is a five-year/200 000 km warranty plus a four-year/60 000 km service plan.
- Jimny 1.5 GL – R390 900
- Jimny 1.5 GL AT – R412 900
- Jimny 1.5 GL 5-Dr – R429 900
- Jimny 1.5 GLX – R416 900
- Jimny 1.5 GLX AT – R438 900
- Jimny 1.5 GLX 5-Dr – R457 900
- Jimny 1.5 GLX 5-Dr AT – R479 900