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1999 Suzuki Jimny 4WD

This one is aimed squarely at the young fun-loving four wheel driver, single or not, with small kids if any. What it does, the Jimny does very well. Don't get it confused with a Rangie or a Benz M-class and there won't be any disappointments.

First, the Suzuki Jimny is a "proper" four wheel drive with a full chassis and separate, rubber-mounted body. The engine drives through a 5-speed manual gearbox (auto' optional) to a 2-speed transfer case giving part-time four wheel drive, and on to live axles front and rear. The axles are located by radius arms and Panhard rods and are fitted with coil springs. Tyres are 205/70R15 on stylish alloy rims giving an overall diameter of 26", the standard tyres having a non-aggressive road pattern.

The engine is a 1.3 litre, 4-cylinder unit with 16 valves operated by a single overhead camshaft. It loves to rev, but will pull well from 1800rpm. You are aware of it going about its business past 3000rpm and there is an edge to its note after 4000rpm.

The gearbox has a nice action (apart from a stiff first gear, this being a new car) and the ratios seem to be aimed at pleasing the boy or girl-racer. It is a real 5-speed box, rather than a 4-speed plus overdrive, that is to say the gap from 4th to 5th is small, and the Jimny will pull 5th on the flat from below 50km/h and up a fair hill at 60km/h.

At 110km/h the engine is spinning at 4200rpm (indicated) and you can hear it. On a day-trip you can live with this, but if you were driving around Australia, doing long daily runs, it could soon pale. Around town, acceleration is very lively but if more relaxed progress is in order it is quite possible to skip a gear and change from 2nd to 4th or from 3rd to 5th. For long-distance touring, a taller 5th gear (it wouldn't need to be big jump) would be easier on the ear.

In Suzuki-style, the transfer case is mounted well to the rear of the primary gearbox and near to the centre of the wheelbase, connected to the gearbox by a propeller shaft. By the by, this is what makes it relatively easy to transplant engines in Suzukis. The transfer-case has high and low-ratio gears. In conjunction with vacuum-operated free wheel hubs, four wheel drive (2H->4H) can be selected at up to 100km/h. It is necessary to halt before changing to low-ratio (4H->4L). The transfer case takes the drive lower and to the right hand side of the vehicle where propeller shafts take it to the front and rear axles. (That's three prop' shafts and six universal joints in all.) A little whining from the transfer-case gears can be heard under low-speed acceleration.

Each axle is well-located by radius arms and a Panhard rod. The springing is firm and, the Jimny being a small, light four wheel drive, there is inevitably some bouncing on lumpy country roads. The ride is helped by having the axles right at the ends of the vehicle which greatly reduces pitching and also makes for excellent approach and departure angles.

The power-assisted steering is light and responsive. Directional control is good with no vagueness in a straight line. Manouevrability is excellent and parking is easy due to a small turning circle and good all-round visibility. In the rough, corrugations can have the rear-end stepping out sideways, but the move is easily met by the driver; engaging four wheel drive (4H) improves stability on loose surfaces.

The power-assisted brakes are very light (jumping back into the old family car . . . nearly drove it through the end of the garage!) but easily mastered. The hand-brake acts on the rear drums; it holds well, even on steep hills, but the effectiveness of such a set-ups needs watching after creek-crossings until the linings have dried out.

Fuel consumption over mixed driving - bush tracks, freeway and around town - worked out at about 8.6L/100km (33mpg).


Inside, the front seats (cloth in the JLX) are comfortable and provide good lateral support for spirited driving, although this driver would have liked more lumbar support (it's age, you know). The Jimny is a two-door car: The front passenger's seat folds and slides forward to give rear-seat access although it does not "remember" its previous setting. There are just two rear seats - this is a narrow vehicle - and again they are comfortable and have good lateral support. The Jimny is not a car for four tall people, not for long trips at least. With the front seats well back, rear leg room is limited. There is a small luggage space behind the rear seats, and the rear seats can be folded forward.

The main instrumentation consists of a speedometer and a rev-counter. A Clarion radio / CD-player is fitted and works well. The Jimny comes with air-conditioning as standard; it didn't get much of a work-out in Melbourne's winter but was needed to prevent windscreen condensation when carrying four on a cold, wet day. On the passenger's side there are twin glove-boxes, an upper one and a lower one, the former space being filled by a passenger air-bag in some markets.

Gadgetry includes electric windows and electric rear-view mirrors. The latter are very tall, almost square. Perhaps they were chosen to give a cute "Mickey Mouse" look, but they do increase the chances of reflected glare in some circumstances, e.g. with the sun low on the horizon behind you, without usefully increasing rear-vision. Remote central locking (JLX) acts on all three doors, exactly what you need when doing the shopping. The rear door is held open by a gas-strut which will hold the door (plus spare wheel) open on gentle side slopes.

It is hard to think of a direct competitor to the Jimny. There are other small four wheel drives such as the Daihatsu Terios, Mitsubishi iO and Toyota RAV4, but the Jimny is the one with the best hard-4WD features (the others have their own virtues) so your choice should be made on the kind of use you intened for a vehicle. Jimny's best feature: the fun factor in driving. Worst: rear-seat leg room.

- 4wd.sofcom.com/4WD.html

Manufacturer's Data

  • hard-top, 2+2 seats, 3 doors
  • loa: 3625mm, width: 1600mm, height: 1670mm (1705mm with rails)
  • wheelbase 2250mm (88.6"), track 1355mm/1365mm, ground clearance 190mm (7.5"),
  • weight: 1025kg (unladen), GVM: 1420kg
  • G13BB, 1298cc, petrol, 4-cyls, efi, 4-valves/cyl sohc
  • bore: 74.0mm, stroke: 75.5mm, c.r.: 9.5:1
  • power: 59kW at 6000rpm, torque: 104Nm at 4500rpm
  • transmission: 5m/4a, 2-speed transfer-case, part-time 4WD
  • suspension: live-coil / live-coil, brakes: disc/drum
  • tyres: 205/70R15 (26" oad) on alloy rims, fuel tank: 42L
  • Towing an (aus') Jimny 4x4
  • price: base JX $16,950, JLX $18,750 manual, $20,250 auto, $au 1999
    prices drop slightly with the GST, from $16,890 [7/2000]
  • rivals: Daihatsu Terios, Mitsubishi iO

Go to the  Jimny (current), 1998 and Suzuki pages


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