What's cute and goes anywhere? Jimny
Is this not the cutest darn thing you've ever seen? Even with its recent facelift, which is supposed to increase machismo levels, Suzuki's Jimny is like the fuzzy little gerbil of the recreational 4x4 world.
To be fair, the new version is slightly more masculine, and if you park it side by side with the pre-facelift model you should notice the snorting little hood scoop that wasn't there before.
That is, if you can get past the fact that the car's entire length, which is seemingly about as long as your average refrigerator, is comically comparable to its width and height. In other words the Jimny is like a Rubik's Cube on wheels.
But its boxiness only adds to the charm.
There's something quite novel about a fullblown offroader, complete with switchable four-wheel drive and a low-range transfer case, that can fit into your pocket. Not only will the Jimny follow along in the tracks of less cute and less gerbil-like Defenders, Land Cruisers or G-Wagons, but in some situations it might even scamper right past.
Its especially short wheelbase means breakover angles are abnormally good, and where bigger and more butch offroaders might get their hairier underbellies hung up on a boulder, the Jimny's closely-spaced wheels would just crawl up and over it.
The chassis dimensions do, however, make for a bumpy ride, and on rough terrain this little moppet bobs from pillar to post like an offroad rocking horse.
There is a plus-side though, as the compact Jimny is a traffic jam and parking lot champion.
Its relatively high driving position allows for nice gap surveyal, and its tiny turning circle can whiz around obstacles while hunting down open spots like a bloodhound to biltong.
I also like that both doors can open to full width without dinging its neighbours, and if in a cheeky mood you can park diagonally in a spot without interfering with others.
It's close quarters inside though, so if you're going to carpool make sure you're friendly with your lift club partner. Note the word partner in singular form, because the back seats, while existent, are hardly usable.
A third passenger could squeeze in but they'd need to sprawl out sideways to fit semi-comfortably. Four-up is almost impossible.
As an everyday commuter I'd say the Jimny is livable, but only if your drive consists of slow-going inner-city roads. While it's surprisingly stable on motorways, it's just not geared for high speeds and at 120km/h the rev counter sits loudly and irritatingly above 4000rpm.
Also, over our week-long test duration, which incorporated all sorts of roads, the Jimny's 1.3-litre petrol averaged a rather disappointing 8 litres per 100km - indicating how hard you must work the little 1 300cc lump to get anywhere.
With only 63kW and 110Nm coming from under its snub-nosed bonnet, the Jimny leaves a little to be desired in the power department too. It's all good up until around 2500rpm, but after that it begins a slow wheezy huff up to its 7000 redline. Shift early and shift often if you've any mechanical sympathy.
As part of the Jimny's facelift, the rear headrests have been made foldable so that if you want to lay the seats flat you don't have to physically remove them. Very handy considering how often the extra space is likely to be needed. However, I wish the front seats' hinging mechanism could also be updated, because I flipped them forward to store stuff on the back seat on almost every entry and departure. Not only do you need to separately tilt and slide, but you'll need to readjust your driving position every single time. Frustrating.
The Jimny's cuteness factor is its number one asset, and thankfully its pricing is aligned with its appeal.
Pricing's set at R199 900 which, thanks to some cheap Chinese bakkies, makes it not quite the most affordable 4x4 on the market - but it's damn close.
It's also around R25 000 less than what we consider its closest competitor, Daihatsu's Terios. However, as weird as it feels to say, the Terios dwarfs the Jimny.
This little Suzuki really is in a segment of its own.
While I can picture the Jimny as a daily drive for some, it's just not practical enough for most. That is unless your commute involves Sani Pass, or you enjoy the shrill sound of 1.3 litres at high revs.
This really is a weekend or holiday home car. A curious little offroad runabout for those who have a cube-shaped hole in their garage and can afford to fill it with the cutest darn SUV around. -Star Motoring