LONG-TERM UPDATE 6 | What's it like to live with a Suzuki Jimny five-door?

The Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX MT five-door proved an enduring companion that proved as capable in the concrete jungle as it did exploring remote bundus.
The Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX MT five-door proved an enduring companion that proved as capable in the concrete jungle as it did exploring remote bundus.
Image: Thomas Falkiner

It has been nearly four months since I was handed the key to our Bluish Pearl Black Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX MT five-door; a chaotic time in my life which has seen the passing of a cherished pet, the sale of my Melville house and an imminent relocation to a new province. After 30 years I am saying goodbye to Johannesburg and replanting my roots in the Western Cape. Unfortunately the off-roader can’t come with, so it has been delivered back to Suzuki’s Linbro Park headquarters after clocking up more than 6,000km. 

That’s a fair amount of mileage and it has given me ample time to assess what is surely one of the most important additions to the carmaker’s local line-up in recent years. For no matter how popular the three-door version might be, its relatively cramped aft quarters and feeble excuse for a boot alienated an entire demographic who wanted to buy into the Jimny’s styling and mystique but couldn’t work around the space constraints.

Well I am pleased to confirm the five-door addresses these shortcomings and makes this blocky 4x4 a practical proposition to space-intensive singletons and small families alike.

Geared for the daily grind

Though the larger trunk might still only measure in at 211l, it proved capacious enough to dispatch with the daily grocery run or swallow two rigid carry-on travel bags and a pair of daypacks. Go the duffel bag route and you’ll be able to squeeze even more in. The rear bench seating is agreeable enough with a decent amount of leg and knee-room on offer — even with my lanky 1.88m frame sat behind the steering wheel. In practice you can easily accommodate three people back there on shorter jaunts but on longer road trips it would be more realistic to whittle this down to two for comfort’s sake. Either way, the Jimny five-door is genuinely more people-friendly than its tight three-door brother.

Fold flat the rear seat backs and you might be surprised at what you can cram into this little 4x4 when you have to; its squared-off interior architecture allowing more ungainly items of cargo to tetris right in. Perfect case in point is when I went on a mission to the nearby Boxman store to purchase some heavy duty double-sided cardboard boxes for transporting things like my drum kit, tool box and MX-5 soft top. The latter needed the biggest they had in stock: a 75-inch flat-screen television box. After scrutinising it in the shop it was clear most bakkies would battle to accommodate its gargantuan proportions. But after folding it in half (kind of), removing the front headrests and sliding the front seats forward, I made it fit inside the Suzuki with all the other boxes sans any drama. 

Mostly rad out on the road

The Jimny five-door driving experience is dominated by that extended wheelbase, which does a great deal to smoothen the vehicle's ride and generally makes it feel a lot more planted and stable. You’ll notice this most when taking corners at speed and when faced with strong crosswinds like I was during my last trek down to the Western Cape. Look, it’s still not the pinnacle of refinement — there’s no escaping the rudimentary nature of that ladder chassis — but compared to the three-door that has a tendency to toss one around like a cantankerous rodeo bull, the five-door represents a marked improvement. 

Old-school five-speed manual 'box offers a pleasing mechanical action.
Old-school five-speed manual 'box offers a pleasing mechanical action.
Image: Thomas Falkiner

Though one certainly doesn’t buy a Jimny for handling prowess or corner-carving ability, it still can be quite amusing to drive at speed (a relative term here) across winding urban streets — or around the curvature of Red Star Raceway. While those skinny Bridgestone Dueler H/L 195/80 R15 tyres might squeal in protest and the steering will feel like it isn’t actually attached to anything on initial turn in, I was surprised at how hard the little Suzuki could press into curves when I felt like unleashing my inner driving enthusiast. 

I also enjoyed the five-speed manual gearbox; its long-throw notchy action reminiscent of the 915 transmission in my old Porsche 911. In fact, driving the Jimny in many ways reminds me of piloting an older car where everything has an analogue and mechanical feel; something that’s refreshing in this era of ultrarefined, ultra-homogenised vehicles with their dual-clutch trickery and fly-by-wire controls. Sure, it won’t be for everyone but if you like this kind of ‘character’ then the Jimny will get under your skin.

An excellent urban commuter, the Jimny five-door makes less of a case for itself out on the open road if you’re one for putting the hammer down and getting to your destination in the shortest time possible. While it can sit at 140km/h for extended periods, the resultant increase in engine noise (the coarse-sounding 1.5l engine is pulling well over 4,000rpm at this speed) makes progress raucous and tiresome. Travelling at higher velocities will also impact your fuel consumption because the quicker you go, the more that brick-shaped front end fights against the atmosphere. As such it’s best to readjust your expectations and take things slower. I found the sweet spot was at 3,500rpm in fifth where you’ll be travelling at a GPS-verified 110km/h; more than enough for somebody like me who enjoys the journey and taking in the roadside scenery South Africa has to offer.

Click here for an in depth view on my Jimny five-door long-distance driving experience.

A rustic but well equipped cabin

Like its three-door sibling, the Jimny five-door is endowed with a fairly utilitarian interior hewn out of hard, scratchy black plastics. While they might not look or feel very premium (especially the variety used on the inside door mouldings), they’re easy to wipe clean and seem well put together. Indeed, unlike in some more expensive vehicles I’ve had on long-term review I’m happy to report I experienced no buzzes or rattles over my tenure.

Despite it's no nonsense architecture, the Suzuki’s cabin in flagship GLX trim is well appointed with a crisp and easy to use nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system offering wireless Apple CarPlay, a reverse camera and a handy fuel-consumption app (I wrote about this in a previous update). There’s also a fairly punchy four-speaker sound system, automatic climate control, electric windows, two 12V power sockets, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, cruise control and a fairly comprehensive on-board computer nestled in the middle of the old-school analogue instrument cluster. Though front seat warmers would have been nice on chilly mornings (curiously they are offered as an option in other markets), I didn’t find myself wanting for anything else. 

In stock form the Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX MT five-door offers enough off-road capability for most buyers. Those seeking more can upgrade with a myriad of aftermarket parts.
In stock form the Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX MT five-door offers enough off-road capability for most buyers. Those seeking more can upgrade with a myriad of aftermarket parts.
Image: Thomas Falkiner

Enough off-road aptitude for most

Part of my rationale for getting a Jimny five-door for long-term evaluation was to actually take it on an off-road adventure. This journey began with a comprehensive training session with Jimny Drive: a slick 4x4 training school operating from De Wildt 4x4 Nature Park and Resort on the outskirts of Pretoria North. As a total newbie to the world of off-road driving, this course provided me with some much-needed theoretical and practical training and showed me just how capable a Jimny is in standard form. It also taught me where and when to use the low-range transfer case and hill descent control — two key weapons in the Suzuki’s bundu bashing arsenal. I also got to experience the vehicle’s torque vectoring traction control system; a feature that basically apes the effect of a mechanical limited-slip differential by automatically applying brake force to any wheels it senses are slipping and seamlessly redistributes drive to those that are not. 

After getting a feel for how the Jimny five-door drove off the beaten path and confident with my abilities to control it, I headed on down to the Western Cape where local 4x4 guide Dieter Pey took me on an adventure mission to the oldest known train tunnel in South Africa. The route took us down some fairly challenging terrain — including a drive down some abandoned railway track — and the Jimny shook it off like a walk in the park.

For me this demonstrated a bone-stock Jimny five-door offers enough off-road aptitude for the majority of owners. I for one wouldn’t want to do anything more advanced than what I attempted behind the wheel during my test period, and this was more than enough to get a taste of the 4x4 lifestyle and the freedom that comes with it. And if I did want to tackle tougher routes I would want to upgrade to larger, off-road orientated tyres and maybe bolt on some underbody protection in case the terrain got a little too gnarly.

Keep it as it comes from the factory on those Bridgestone Dueler tyres and the Jimny five-door delivers compact commuter car chops with the potential to deliver you to most remote destinations with ease; something that opens your life up to new adventures. 

1.5l four-cylinder petrol engine averaged 7.3l/100km over the author's test period.
1.5l four-cylinder petrol engine averaged 7.3l/100km over the author's test period.
Image: Thomas Falkiner

Easy to live with, affordable to run

There were a few niggles to report during my test period, all relatively minor. These included a clicking/ticking interior fan, a faint popping noise from the driver-side window midway through its closing or opening cycle and overly sensitive automatic headlamps that turned on when passing through the smallest of shadows. Other than that the Jimny five-door was a joy to live with and ran with all the reliability of a Japanese chronograph.

Not even the engine needed a drop of oil, which was surprising considering how high it revved on the open road. Wanting nothing other than a regular wash and wax (that black paint is a nightmare to keep clean for long), the Jimny five-door proved relatively affordable to fuel during a period of record high petrol prices. During the three and a bit months it was in my possession I averaged 7.3l/100km. Around town I regularly averaged less, the built-in fuel consumption App often recording trips around the 6l/100km mark.

Compared to its three-door sibling the Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX MT five-door offers a cushier ride and much-improved practicality.
Compared to its three-door sibling the Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX MT five-door offers a cushier ride and much-improved practicality.
Image: Thomas Falkiner


Seasoned readers of TimesLIVE Motoring will know I’ve long been a fan of the fourth-generation Suzuki Jimny. Reason being that unlike so many modern vehicles on sale today, it exudes a character and personality that gets under your skin — it’s not just another faceless appliance. Those who own them love them; a fact made evident by the myriad headlight flashes and/or waves exchanged by Jimny drivers when passing in traffic.

While still a relatively flawed product in many senses — particularly in overall refinement stakes and in terms of long-distance highway driving ability — the five-door model makes a stronger ownership proposition thanks to its noticeably smoother ride quality and much-improved load-lugging ability. If the latter concerns put you off parking the three-door version in your garage, then the five-door model deserves your scrutiny.

2024 Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX MT five-door | Update 6





PRAISES: An excellent urban commuter that will deliver you to most off-road destinations within reason. Easy to live with, affordable to run and chock full of feel good factor.

GRIPES: Can get tiresome on the open road — you need to readjust your expectations some. 


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