Half the size, a quarter the engine capacity and more than three times cheaper. But can the pint-size Suzuki Jimny keep up with the legendary Toyota Troop Carrier when the going gets tough?
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I can hear people typing away angrily as I write this, ‘why would you compare the Troopy to a Zook’? Well, there is method to the madness here folks, if you break things down. Live axles front and rear? Check. Three doors? Yep. Legendary off-road heritage? Oh, what a feeling! Both made in Japan? Hai! White paint? You know it.
What we wanted to achieve with this test, was to determine how much space you actually need in a touring 4X4. We also wanted to see which vehicle held its own when the going got tough. The Troop Carrier has front and rear lockers, while the Jimny has a newer (yet hardly advanced) traction control system. Would that be enough to upset the favoured LandCruiser when 4WD is selected and the tyre pressures are dropped? Also, it must be mentioned the Suzuki Jimny is the smallest and cheapest 4WD you can still buy new – but does that mean it feels three times cheaper than the Troop Carrier?
You really wouldn’t expect either of these vehicles to perform well on-road, but this is one part of the test we were genuinely surprised about. Both of these 4X4s are actually really rather easy to live with on-road. The Jimny handles like a go-kart. It is effortless to poke through town and on the shopping run, and even on the highway it is far advanced compared to the Suzuki Sierra it replaced in the late ’90s. It does rev its little heart out doing a buck-ten, sitting close to 4,000rpm. This is where it is happy though; being such a small capacity engine (1.3L of fury) you need to rev it. The ride is really harsh on rutted country roads and over speed bumps, but this comes down to the wheelbase being shorter than the attention span of Editor Dex on any day ending in Y.
The Troopy doesn’t drive like a whale of a commercial vehicle; it handles and rides with a surprising amount of compliance. Is it plush? Not on your life… but it is a long way from being a handful to pilot. And for a person such as myself who is trapped in the ’90s, driving the Troop Carrier feels like being transported back to 1994 in the best possible way. Sure, you don’t get many refinements or gadgets for your money – but you are buying a proven and stripped-out package for a reason. Any negatives? Yep, that rear wheel track is annoying and stupid. Being four inches narrower in the rear, when you hit a speed bump the back end reacts savagely. You definitely notice it, basically; and this is the first thing I’ll be rectifying if I get that $65,000 bonus I’ve been asking for.
This is the decider; if you are buying either of these vehicles it is a fair assumption that they will be spending some time off-road. The way these vehicles handle in the rough stuff is chalk and cheese – again thanks to the difference in wheelbase and the torque delivery of each engine. Neither of them could be considered flex machines either, but with traction control (or diff locks) this is less of a concern.
Speaking of traction control, the system used in the Jimny wasn’t terribly effective once the suspension was crossed up (which you can see in the video). But the beauty of the Jimny is its size. When an obstacle was too aggressive, you could pick and weave through lines that are unachievable in a larger vehicle. Add a locker or two, and increase the suspension travel via a good aftermarket suspension system, and you could be onto a giant killer here. Another design flaw with the Jimny is the low-slung radius arm mounts which hang below the chassis. It would be easy to get hung up on these mounts; however aftermarket skid plates are available to protect them. Apart from those foibles, the Jimny was just good old-fashioned fun to drive off-road. It is a simple and honest vehicle that feels like it will run forever (and on the smell of an oily rag, too).
The Troop Carrier was in its element on this test. Sure it lifted wheels when the going got tough, but with factory diff locks and semi-aggressive tyres it went everywhere we pointed it. It felt solid and predictable, and it’s hard to deny the capabilities of the LandCruiser. Having so much torque from near idle makes driving technical sections a breeze – especially when climbing, as the longer wheelbase helps massively here. The factory lockers activated smoothly and quickly… which is a good thing, as without them the Toyota would have had a much harder time on our rocks-and-ruts test circuit. In terms of being a capable four-wheel drive out of the box, you have to hand it to Toyota. It just felt right! The Troop Carrier wins this round.
Well this is going to be a bit of a no-brainer… the Troopy wins hands down. It is simply massive inside, with almost enough room to stand up in the cargo bay. The sides are flat, as is the floor, meaning storage of bulky items really is effortless. The Jimny is a sardine can by comparison – but that doesn’t mean you can’t fit a heck of a lot of gear inside one if you are well versed in the art of Tetris. Check out the video to see just how much equipment you can fit in the Jimny. I guarantee you will be rubbing your eyes in disbelief.
If I had my way, I would own one of each. But as I am not related to Bill Gates, and I live in a town called Reality on the Planet Earth, that isn’t going to happen. Basically, you won’t be disappointed with either… if they suit your needs. The Jimny is going to be a compromise due mainly to the size of it. But for a couple, who live in the city and want to go camping and four-wheel driving on weekends, we have found your new vehicle. Would I take one around Australia? Yep… but I love a challenge, and I’ve been driving Zooks for over 15 years now (so I could be a little biased, and insane).
The Troop Carrier is the quintessential four-wheel drive. ‘Iconic’ is an understatement; and with that lovely V8 turbo-diesel engine, it genuinely has a new lease on life. It might be a tad cumbersome for town duties; and you certainly don’t get too many creature comforts. But if you are looking for a larger four-wheel drive that is ready for the tracks straight off the showroom floor, it is hard to argue with the appeal of the Troop Carrier. Would I take one around Australia? In a heartbeat! Long live four-wheel drives with heart and soul. Long live the Jimny, and the Toyota Troop Carrier.