Suzuki Jimny – Small Box
The Jimny returned to the Australian market early in 2019 as an all-new vehicle. The new Jimny is a descendant of the original Suzuki 4×4, the 1970s LJ10. The Jimny holds the lovable boxy styling and off-road charm of its predecessors. With a selection from manual or automatic transmissions, the hard choice of body style, wheelbase and model variant is already made for you.
Power & Performance
The Jimny’s engine is a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre, petrol-fuelled four-cylinder, which makes just 75kW and 130Nm. This is more than enough talk for the lightweight Jimny as proven by its success in dominating the steepest terrain and swiftly reaching highway speeds. These speeds can be reached in an automatic with four forward ratios, including overdrive or five forward gears in the manual model.
The four-wheel drive system is a simple affair as well, with a part-time transfer case that includes low range, running out to open diffs in live axles front and rear. Electronic traction control is the only factory traction aid, so you may have to turn to the aftermarket for locking differentials.
On-Road Ride & Handling
The Jimny is a true and traditional off-road vehicle with a surprisingly cruisy highway drive performance – just treat fast corners with due respect. In saying that, you’ll have fun when peddling with pace, particularly on gravel roads where the tyres are full of give. The tall-riding wagon is more forgiving then you’d expect with none of the fore-aft pitchings that were once a hallmark of shorties.
We should count our lucky stars that Suzuki opted to stay true to the Jimny’s design and heritage when it gave us this latest model. Car companies these days too easily opt for the soft option when bringing out a new model, and true off-road vehicles are getting harder to come by.
With its lightweight, dual-range transmission, good ground clearance, excellent driver visibility, live axles and coil springs, the Jimny is a great little off-roader. This model makes for the perfect weekend play toy.
Cabin and Accommodation
Despite its small overall dimensions, the interior of the Jimny offers a lot more space than you might think. From the driver’s point of view, the Suzuki offers more elbow, leg and headroom than the bigger all-over Jeep. That’s the beauty of putting things in boxes, it makes the most of any and all available space.
While maintaining space, the Jimny still features a practical console and drink holders, door pockets, and comfortable seats. The flat windscreen and low door windows enhance the open-space feeling as well. It’s not lacking anything you need. There are power windows and mirrors, single-zone climate-control air-conditioning, and a large A/V screen for satnav and audio functions.
Size is everything when it comes to the practicalities of the Jimny, which is limited by its stature and capacity. A 1435kg GVM leaves you with around 340kg of payload. Towing is available up to 1300kg braked and 350kg unbraked. The 40-litre fuel tank is just enough for the lightweight vehicle.
Seeing the worldwide popularity of the Jimny, the aftermarket has come to the party to help rectify any of its shortfalls, and there’s a growing list of equipment available to make it an even better off-roader. Suspension, wheels, storage, bullbars and even supercharger and turbo kits are all available.
Jeep Wrangler Overland – Pure & Simple
Jeep’s JL Wrangler line-up hit our shores not long after the Jimny did in the first part of 2019, and with it came the surprise that the traditional SWB two-door model would be available in Sport S and Overland model grades, and with the V6 petrol and eight-speed auto transmission powertrain. While this meant no off-road focused Rubicon shorty and no diesel engine or manual gearbox the Wrangler remains one of the best off-road wagons in showroom trim. We’d even say that the JL ups the on-road ante over any Wrangler before it with improved refinement and features.
Power & Performance
Jeep’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine was considered state-of-the-art for petrol mills when it was introduced almost 10 years ago. It might be getting long in the tooth, but there’s nothing wrong with it and it feels like it has a new lease of life in the lighter JL Wrangler now that’s it’s backed by the excellent eight-speed auto.
The two-door JL Overland is 138kg lighter than the equivalent four-door model with the same powertrain, and this allows it to make the most of its 209kW and 347Nm. The ‘little’ Wrangler feels sporty by comparison as it willingly spins up in revs and shoots through the gears. Jeep’s claimed numbers put the shorty half a second ahead of the four-door in the zero to 100km/h dash. You can only imagine how much fun this is until you give it a go yourself!
The eight-speed TorqueFlite auto built under licence from ZF helps the Pentastar achieve better fuel numbers as well as performance. The official ‘combined’ fuel economy figure is 9.6L/100km, so it can make the most of that 66-litre tank. The four-door Wrangler gets an 81-litre tank and claimed 9.7L/100km combined cycle.
On-Road Ride & Handling
The Wrangler is an overall bigger vehicle than the Jimny, and that affords it more suspension travel, bigger wheels and tyres, and hence better overall ride and handling. The Jeep still uses live axles front and rear, in its case suspended on a three-link front and five-link rear arrangement with coils.
The Overland’s 255/70R18 tyre size is a good compromise for both handling and ride. It is tall enough to give a smooth ride, while low enough to not move around too much when pushed hard. The Dueler H/T pattern is definitely aimed at on-road use.
With the JL model, the Wrangler moved to electrically assisted power steering, which is well suited to this type of vehicle. It delivers enough feedback to the driver at higher speeds yet offers plenty of assistance at low speeds, both when driving on tracks or when parking around town.
Any Jeep Wrangler is a good off-road vehicle, and the short wheelbase variants are better than the long ones as they are easier to manoeuvre in tight spaces and have a far better ramp-over angle than the long-wheelbase models. We were happy not to experience any of belly scraping with this Overland shorty.
Any off-road enthusiast also has the luxury to go crazy with aftermarket gear to make their Overland truly theirs.
Cabin and Accommodation
In Overland trim, the JL interior is a nice place to ride. It’s comfortable, well-appointed and everything is easy to find and operate. It offers more space than the Jimny’s cabin but is still best suited to just two passengers. You don’t need to throw that rear seat to the rafters to maximize the Wrangler’s cargo space. The rear seat easily folds in one piece.
The one big thing the Jeep offers that no other vehicle does is an open interior, that’s what four-wheel driving is all about. You can even fold the windscreen flat to the bonnet for a full flow-through cabin; there’s nothing else like it in this day and age.
It must be noted that only the Sport S specification comes standard with a soft-top and is an option for the Rubicon. A hardtop is standard on Rubicon and is all that is offered on Overland variants.
With its extra size, capacity, refinement and comfort, the Wrangler is extremely practical; but you would expect that at twice the price of the Jimny. Towing capacity for the shorty Jeep is 1497kg braked, while the payload is 551kg. As mentioned, the tyres are a sensible and practical size and a +1 upsize to all-terrain rubber will vastly improve your tyre choices and the vehicle’s off-road ability.
The Jeep Wrangler is the most accessorised four-wheel drive in the world, so you can get everything you need, to modify your Wrangler to your desires. Wheels, tyres, snorkels, half doors, suspensions, complete axle assemblies, custom roofs, lights, engine conversions … the sky is the limit!
Jimny or Overland? – You Can’t Go Wrong
While their respective manufacturers have stuck to traditional off-road values in their design and construction philosophies, and these are the only two two-door 4×4 wagons you can buy at the moment, they are very different in many ways. Buyers might think they both look cool, but we doubt the Overland and the Jimny would attract the same buyer type.
Price has the most to do with this. You can buy two fully-kitted Jimnys for the cost of a Wrangler Overland, however, the Suzuki will never be able to offer the comfort and refinement of the Jeep.
Of course, if you are after a soft-top your choice has been made for you. It’s criminal that Suzuki doesn’t offer a soft-top Jimny. C’mon Suzuki, give us a soft-top … and a ute while you’re at it.
Both cars and are certainly fun fourbies made for enthusiasts. There are enough boring SUVs in the marketplace. Bring on the fun factor and pedal either of these little rippers to find yourself driving miles of smiles.