UNSEALED 4X4 REVIEW: 2014 SUZUKI JIMNY

Most modern four-wheel drives are actually quite terrible at being a four-wheel drive. They’re big, luxurious, expensive and you most certainly wouldn’t call them economical. Which is funny, because the four-wheel drive was invented as a utility tool; the vehiclular equivalent of a Swiss army knife. These days the four-wheel drive is more like a smartphone, and a big one at that – which doesn’t do very well when it comes time to open a can of beans.

The problem really starts with size. Modern four-wheel drives are fat, obese, large – too big to fit through some tracks, unless of course you’re comfortable with removing your paint so you can squeeze by. The bigger they are, the heavier they become, so we have to fit massive engines to allow them to keep up with traffic. Of course a larger engine means it’ll use more fuel, which means to cover big distances you need a bigger fuel tank. Which means you’ll need to be a wealthy oil sheikh to actually fill it up and take it on an adventure.

On the other hand, the Suzuki Jimny isn’t large, which means the previously mentioned problems…aren’t. It’s small, so it has a small engine, which means small fuel bills. That being said, it doesn’t really feel that small on the inside, I’m six-foot-three, and at no point did I feel cramped. I even sat quite comfortably in the back seat. Then, when I folded down the rear seats for a trip to Ikea (which was easy), I was able to fit a shocking amount of things, which is good, because a larger four-wheel drive wouldn’t fit in their carpark. Sure, it took a bit of effort to make it all fit, but I’m quite good at Tetris, so it all worked well.

Driving the Jimny is a lot like wearing a kilt, in that it’s shockingly comfortable and surprisingly refreshing. Granted, the lesser-cultured of your mates will undoubtably make jokes about your manhood and say you’re wearing a skirt; but all you need to do is show off what’s underneath to make them shut up. This will presumably leave them with feelings of interiority, as the Jimny is one of the last coil-sprung four-wheel drives with solid axles at both ends. You can make them feel even more insufficient at the fuel pump, as I’ve never heard anyone boast about how much it costs to fill up their tank, which can cost as little as $50 with the Jimny.

Just because the Jimny is the size of a cricket, don’t think for a second that it isn’t capable. In fact, you’ll probably be able to weasel your way to more remote destinations in the Jimny than you could ever hope to in a full-size four-wheel drive wagon. Why? Because it’ll fit, and as we’ve already established, you won’t need an entire oil field to get there.

I was surprised to see that the model I test drove was still constructed in Japan and hadn’t been outsourced to Thailand as so many Japanese manufacturers are doing these days. Fit and finish was top notch, and while the vehicle is most certainly affordable and basic on the interior, it never felt cheap. The automatic gearbox seemed to get along just fine with the 62.5kW 1.3-litre engine, though I’d probably opt for a manual gearbox as it would liven up the vehicle just a bit.

The Jimny is an exercise in what you actually need, not what you think you need. The reality is that for one or two people, this mini-SUV will get you by just fine. It has all of the same features like a ladder frame chassis and solid axles that make bigger 4X4s durable, just scaled down for the reduced size. It’s economical, space-efficient on the inside, quite capable on the tracks, and it should prove reliable over the long run too. It might not be the biggest or the most powerful, but the Jimny nails something that other 4X4s just can’t seem to get right these days – it’s fun. It puts a smile on your face, and that’s why I like it.

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