The 2013 Suzuki Jimny is the closest thing to the Ford Capri that you can currently buy in Great Britain. Although you may think I’ve taken leave of my senses, allow me to explain myself. And after you’ve read my explanation, feel free to send round the men in white coats. You’ll find their number in the Yellow Pages, somewhere near J.R.Hartley’s Fly Fishing Emporium.
To make my explanation easier, I’ll give you six reasons for the strange comparison.
The Capri’s bonnet is the stuff of legend. It sits there protruding forward, giving it phallic-like qualities, leading to accusations that men bought the Capri as an extension of their manhood. For now, put aside the fact that I’ve owned six Capris…
Until now it would be hard to compare the Suzuki Jimny’s bonnet with the Capri’s, but the 2013 facelift has seen a number of changes. There’s a new bumper, repositioned fog lights, a new grille and yes, a new bonnet design which now incorporates a central air intake.
It’s therefore impossible not to think about the Ford Capri when you’re behind the wheel. It’s shorter and stubbier than the Capri’s, but it looks every inch like Ford’s tail-happy steed. But that’s enough talk of inches and stubbiness.
In its current form, the Suzuki Jimny has been plodding along the highways and byways of Britain since 1998, but it can actually trace its roots back to 1970. That’s staying power that many cars could only dream of.
I remember making a comment to someone at last year’s Paris Motor Show that the Jimny must have seen more shows than just about any other car on display at the event. A proper survivor.
You could argue that the Jimny has outstayed its welcome – an ageing relic that no longer has a place in today’s society. In fact, one cruel and heartless magazine has awarded the plucky Jimny a single star in its review. It really doesn’t warrant such a harsh conclusion.
And besides, if people weren’t buying the Jimny, Suzuki wouldn’t keep selling it. There must be a market for it. It’s a similar story with the Ford Capri. By the time it reached the twilight of its sales existence in the mid-1980s, it was well beyond its sell-by-date. In fact, it was only the UK market that kept the Capri alive. For some, it was still the car they always promised themselves.
It’s refreshing to see a niche-free car still doing the business in 2013. Long may it continue.
Which brings me on to the Jimny’s following. Like the Ford Capri, the Jimny has a legion of loyal and loving fans.
In the week that I was testing the Jimny I was flashed at by a Granny (no, not in that sense – fortunately), waved at by an enthusiastic couple in a soft-top Jimny (remember them?) and giving a knowing nod by a chap in Honiton. You simply don’t get such a sense of community with a Hyundai i10.
Then, to top it off, as the Jimny was parked outside our house, it became the star of an impromptu photo-shoot by a retired couple enjoying some greenlaning in their three-year-old Jimny. Clearly it was the first time they had seen a bonnet scoop on a Jimny…
Like the Capri, the Suzuki Jimny doesn’t really have a true competitor in the marketplace. How many other 1.3-litre petrol-engined 3-door 4×4 SUVs do you know about?
Interestingly, Fiat referenced the Jimny as a true niche vehicle during the recent launch of the Fiat 500L, so clearly being different can be a good thing. Sadly you won’t find a coffee machine in the Jimny though.
Even finding close rivals for the Jimny is tough. At a push you could say the Fiat Panda 4×4 and Dacia Duster 4×4 – two newcomers on the block (the Panda being a new version of an old model). Both are affordable and both are a refreshing change to the norm.
One overriding impression of my week with the Suzuki Jimny was just how honest the little thing is. It doesn’t make any wild claims about saving the planet, making you a hit with the ladies, impressing your office chums or being the must-have accessory down at the local yacht. It just goes about its business in a mild and unassuming manner.
I was therefore pleased to see Suzuki using the same word in the press material to support the 2013 car – “honest performance off the beaten track”. Works for me. Heck, even my test car was finished in ‘Bluish Black’ – there’s honesty and straight talking for you.
My final comparison is perhaps the most controversial. By the time it reached the end of its life, the Ford Capri was a bit of a dinosaur. A rear-wheel drive coupé in a world becoming obsessed with front-wheel drive hot hatches. An underpowered, dynamically-challenged relic of yesterday.
The same label could be used to describe the Suzuki Jimny. As an everyday proposition it’s hard to make a case for it. The wheezy 85hp 1.3-litre engine is woefully inadequate at keeping up with modern traffic. Show the Jimny a slight incline on an A-road and you’ll be faced with changing down not one but two gears. 62mph is eventually reached in 14.1 seconds.
The ride is bouncy and unforgiving, the steering vague in the extreme and distances over 30 miles will leave you crying out for your chiropractor. It’s also incredibly noisy and quite cramped. Hardly a glowing endorsement.
But I’ll refer you to my earlier remark about honesty – the Jimny doesn’t claim to be anything other than a “quirky alternative” for any “urban area”. You won’t buy it for family trips to the seaside or to take your parents to the airport. Besides, its 113 litres of boot space wouldn’t allow for anything other than an overnight bag. That said, fold the rear seats down and this does extend to 324 litres.
And for all of its faults on the open road, it remains quite a formidable little terrier once off the beaten track. Show it a muddy track or grassy field and it’s as though you’ve just tossed a can of spinach to Popeye. The Jimny flexes its biceps, clenches its fists rips off its shirt to reveal a mighty six-pack. Actually it’s more of a twin-pack, but you get my point.
It takes to mud like a duck to water – you immediately sense that it’s where it belongs. Mark my words, the Jimny is a proper off-roader. It does, after all, have push-button selectable four-wheel drive and high and low gear ratios. You can even select four-wheel drive at speeds of up to 62mph. A fact the Jimny is probably quite proud of, blowing a raspberry to bigger SUVs in the process.
It also offers a 190mm ground clearance, approach and departure angles of 34 and 46 degrees respectively and a ramp angle of 31 degrees. Need convincing? Just search YouTube for Suzuki Jimny videos.
It would be harsh to put the Jimny into a box labelled ‘so bad it’s good’ as it deserves much better than that. It’s a highly likeable and engaging little car that’s big on novelty value. I had hoped to have tested the Panda 4×4 by now as I believe it probably makes more sense than the Jimny, but I’m not prepared to make wild claims without driving the Fiat for myself.
My test car was the top-spec SZ4 model which weighs in at £13,295 with a 5-speed manual gearbox. There is a automatic available for £14,195, but that’s likely to feel even more lethargic and laboured than the manual.
For your £13,395 you get 15-inch alloys, fog lamps, roof rails, heated door mirrors, electric front windows, synthetic leather/cloth seats, air con, leather steering wheel and rear privacy glass.
I like the Suzuki Jimny, but would encourage anyone thinking of buying one to do a proper road test first. It comes from a manufacturer widely known for reliability and good service and it will undoubtedly put on a good display if we’re in for another dumping of snow next winter.
If nothing else, it will be a lot more useful in the white stuff than a Ford Capri…