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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

Suzuki Jimny proves that boxy can still be cool

It is not difficult see why the little tyke from the Hamamatsu automaker has become such a cult hero over the last fifty years.

It seldom occurs that an object or item receives the universal thumbs-up from everyone present. As is often the case, a compromise needs to be made before a general consensus can be reached.

In the case of the Suzuki Jimny, the compromise is not hard to spot, but since its debut two years ago, one which many buyers have been willing to make without so much as batting an eyelid, never mind consulting with other parties opposed to it.

Like its predecessor, which remained in production with comparatively minor updates for 20 years, the Jimny formula, initiated in 1970 and not changed much since then or during the reign of the iconic SJ410/413 and Samurai, has not been altered for the newcomer; a boxy design with two-doors, a ladder-frame chassis and four-wheel-drive with a low range transfer ‘box as standard.

About as far removed from current automotive trends as possible, the combination has been explosive as the factory in Kosai has been unable to keep up with global demand, blowing any preconceived expectations or possible sales projections Suzuki might have had to smithereens. It is however not difficult see why the little tyke from the Hamamatsu automaker has become such a cult hero over the last fifty years.

Whereas the previous Jimny was often billed for being somewhat of a cutesy looking thing, Suzuki has taken a different route with the fourth generation by opting for a more aggressive look inspired by the SJ and Samurai. As such, the trademark five-port Suzuki grille is no longer coloured coded and appears like a slotted-in unit, the headlight are round and angular, while the wheel arch and door cladding is black plastic and the front bumper with its low air intake chunkier.

Unashamedly inspired by the SJ when viewed from the back, the Jimny, against the backdrop of the Kinetic Yellow paint finish and gloss black roof our flagship GLX tester arrived in, looks unashamedly rugged but still funky enough to dispel the ‘softer side’ its predecessor supposedly displayed.

Inside, the interior is awash with black plastic against a squircle design motif with the layout and look appearing noticeably dated by modern standard. Compared to the exterior however, the retro cabin fits in perfectly with touches such as the boxy instrument cluster with its dual pods and the seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that boasts modern fripperies such as Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, voice recognition and a single USB port.

Aside from those cheap looking plastics, which feel quite the opposite, Suzuki has made strides on improving what has always been something of an elephant in a tiny room; rear passenger legroom and boot space. While the former has been improved upon by a claimed 40 mm, taller passengers will still be uncomfortable in spite the ample levels of headroom.

As for the boot, a 53-litre improvement has been made, but with the rear seats up, the overall space is a mere 85-litres. Flipping them forward results in an additional 292-litres, with another nifty feature being the storage box integrated into the base of the floor that allows for items to be stored with-our-without the seats down.

In terms of features, the GLX gets electric windows, cruise control, the Swift derived multi-function steering wheel, Hill Descent Control, electric mirrors, auto on/off projector headlights and Hill Hold Control. A curious omission though is auto lock/unlock doors, while the infotainment system teeters on the slow side by not registering immediately when contact is made with some of the smaller icons or when scrolling through a media library.

As renowned as the Jimny has become for giving pricier off-roaders a bloody good hiding on the rough stuff, its prowess on-road remains tainted by feeling too top-heavy, a lifeless steering and excessive road noise. By far the worst aspect though is the four-speed automatic gearbox which robs the 1.5-litre K15B petrol engine of useable poke when you really need it.

In spite of producing 75kW/130Nm, an increase of 12kW/30Nm over the old 1.3, the slow shifting ‘box and 1.1-ton curb weight conspires against the Jimny with the engine siting at 3 500 rpm at the national limit. Despite the 6.8 L/100 km fuel consumption claim, an indicated best of 7.6 L/100 km in mixed conditions was obtained.

Pointing its nose off of the black stuff felt more natural, as did the second gear lever transfer case that replaces the button setup following buyer feedback. With 210 mm of ground clearance and a shorter, by 50 mm overall length, the 3 650 mm long Jimny was in its element on the admittedly easy course, climbing rock strewn ridges and negotiating washouts with ease.

As much as the term “all-rounder” battles not to be mentioned in the same breath as the Suzuki Jimny given its obvious flaws, certain aspects prevail as to why it should be seen this way. The archaic transmission aside, which many buyers are likely to ignore in the name of everyday usability, its generous specification level, looks, off-road ability, nippiness and simplicity, plus loyal fan base, all but sows-up the mentioned term of what is still one of the most appealing vehicles on sale today.

Priced at R343 900, the GLX auto offers compelling value for money, although at R58 000 less with a few toys deleted, the manual only GA makes a similar case.

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