Back in the posting 'Questions to ponder' I asked why people keep saying the Suzuki Jimny is a good 4WD off-road? This has brought an agitated email from an outraged Suzuki enthusiast demanding that I justify the criticism. Actually, it wasn't a criticism at all, just a question that I thought someone might have been able to answer. And no, it's not a question about Suzukis in general. I seriously respect the Jimny's predecessor, the Samurai, especially those that have been thoughtfully modified.
First, I'll tell you what's good about the Jimny. It's small, light, nimble, reliable, cheap to run, has a sweet 1.3 litre engine and looks kind of cute. It's also relatively cheap, although prices are creeping up. What's wrong? Well, you'll smash the front bumper the first time you hit some serious off-road tracks. But don't be too concerned because Suzuki has made the Jimny fail-safe in this regard; you'll be stuck long before reaching any tough tracks. Unfortunately, it has no more ground clearance than a Subaru Outback, 190mm according to the factory.
The 1355/1365mm track is too narrow for its 1670mm height and the high centre of gravity means it'll probably tip on its side before getting to the real rough stuff. Its 205/70 15-inch tyres are too small but the wheelwells won't allow any meaningful increase without getting a body lift and/or suspension kit. Forget about the manual for off-roading, its clutch engages so suddenly that you have to ride it all the time. The auto is okay but holds the wee wagon back too much on the highway; its performance is marginal enough with the manual. A Jimny is relatively light at just over 1000kg, but once you've added the bulbar, lift kit, big tyres and other essentials some of that advantage has gone. It also has open diffs in its beam axles, not even a limited-slip at the back. Whatever you think about electronic traction control, Jimny's at a huge disadvantage compared to its contemporaries that have it, such as Defender and Wrangler.
You can fix these shortcomings, but why bother? If you must have a Suzuki, find the best Samurai you can and build it up. If you've got the dough, buy something like a 2-door Wrangler or a Td5-engined Defender 90.
|New blue Jimny with a well modified one that could do the business. The good one was at the time the toy of 4WD trainer Colin Burden.|