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PREVIEW: 2019 Suzuki Jimny–The Plus Factor

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Back in November 2018, television production company Sunshine Television Ventures staged its Auto Focus Multi-Brand Test Drive Festival at the Mall of Asia Concert Grounds in Pasay City. Contributor Onyl Malabanan was there, eager to get behind the wheel of one of the most anticipated car models to be launched in recent years: the all-new, fourth-generation Suzuki Jimny. Here is his first impression of Suzuki’s new yet competent mini SUV and why he’s looking forward to buying it soon, a day before Suzuki Philippines launches the Jimny locally.

 

It was a hot Saturday afternoon at the MOA Concert Grounds. Despite the weather, I was excited to test drive the cars on display at a test drive event. I had some cars in mind to test but I was very eager to drive the much-hyped 2019 Suzuki Jimny. Yes, it does look good in the photos and in off-road reviews on YouTube, but does it handle well on Metro Manila’s roads? That is what I wanted to find out.

When I got to the Suzuki booth, the screen showing the queue for the two-tone, top-spec ‘Kinetic Yellow’ automatic Jimny variant was at number 3. I then went up to the counter and asked for a test drive of the top-spec model and to my shock, I was already the 15th on the list! This is an indication of how many people are hyped up about this cute little off-roader. Coming back after almost two hours, our number was finally called. The sales agent handed me the car key while walking toward the Jimny and I was quickly filled with excitement. It was now my turn to finally test and prove–or disprove–the reviews I watched online.

Getting in the Jimny was very easy. It was high enough for good ground clearance but low enough for easy ingress to the front seats. The doors are big and boxy, and closes like that of how a 4×4 truck should be, solidly and with confidence. Getting to the back seat was a challenge for the sales agent though despite the big door; this is due to the height of the Jimny. And lest I forget, the rear seats only has room for two occupants–there’s simply no space to accomodate a fifth passenger. Rear luggage space was also almost non-existent if you have passengers at the back.

2019 Suzuki Jimny
2019 Suzuki Jimny

Settling in the driver’s seat, the steering wheel was nice and thick but was only tilt-adjustable. The seats were comfy but the seat adjustment had no lumbar support and height adjustment. I noticed the amber gauge panel on the dash, and it can be read easily compared to other amber-lit gauges I’ve seen in other cars I’ve driven before. Checking the dashboard further, I liked the LCD screen that came standard with the unit. Another thing I liked was it has Cruise Control, something I did not expect from a small SUV. Before driving out, I wanted to know how the 4WD selector is adjusted. Apparently, the automatic shifter needs to be in Neutral to shift the 4WD selector. Now that I knew how it works, I shifted it back to 2H as we won’t need 4WD during the test.

Going out of the booth,I noticed that forward and side visibility was really good. Driving on the brick-tiled parking lot was quite comfy, the tires and suspension absorbing the surface well. Then we approached a ‘hump’–a cable protector. I saw this as an opportunity to test the suspension bump. It absorbed the bump really well given that it is a small and light car. This was a positive mark for the new Jimny. Before entering the test area, we were the fifth in line. I used this time to simulate a traffic scenario. When it was time to move, I tested how well it will ‘creep’ or crawl with no input on the throttle. Surprisingly, the car ‘creep’ was really strong on the Jimny, which makes it ideal for everyday Manila traffic! Another PLUS on my scoresheet.

When it was our turn to enter the test area, I turned the Traction Control OFF. Once I knew my passengers were ready, I pressed hard on the throtle pedal, making the Jimny’s engine rumble to life as we accelerated quickly to the short slalom course. I felt it shift to second gear as I entered the first slalom cone. As I was turning in, I felt the body roll slightly and a little understeer, but the car gave me confidence not to lift as much and continue. Holding the gas pedal steadily after the first cone, I crossed the second and then the final slalom cone quickly. Still steady on the gas and with confidence that the suspension was handling well, I did a quick left-hander to approach the rumble strips. The Jimny turned quickly and rotated neutrally, without drama. What surprised me was I was expecting a huge body roll, but the new Jimny was so planted, it gave me the confidence to turn without fear of rolling over! Steering feedback was better than expected too, given that this car is designed more for off-road than on it. The good steering and suspension gave me confidence that in case I need to do an emergency maneuver, I won’t have to fear that the new Jimny might turn over. Another PLUS for me.

2019 Suzuki Jimny
2019 Suzuki Jimny

Entering the alternate rumble strips, I maintained the speed at 20kph to test how it will behave at some speed against bad roads. It did hop a little, which was expected from a small vehicle, but what I liked was how composed it was on the rumble strip. A fourth PLUS for me there. Getting in and out the parking box was a breeze given the great visibility. Before I proceeded to the acceleration and braking section, I turned ON the traction control. I then floored the gas pedal ahead of the first cone, thinking that the new Jimny might be underpowered. I was surprised that it accelerated quickly! Approaching the stop box, I braked hard but not too hard to initiate ABS. The brakes performed really well, making me stop ahead of the box. This gave me more confidence on the second acceleration strip before the exit. Approaching the second acceleration and brake stage, I floored the gas pedal again, this time with confidence, and slammed on the brakes approaching the final stop box to initiate the ABS again. I did stop at the box precisely as expected.

The drive was undoubtedly a ‘prove-me-wrong’ drive. It did dispel for me the stereotypical expectations of SUVs and proved that the new Jimny is a fun-handling, small SUV. I can confidently say that the hype does live up to its expectations and more. The new Suzuki Jimny is a cute, retro-themed SUV that is not just good off-road, but ideal to drive as a city car, especially with the notorious Manila stop-and-go traffic. This makes the Suzuki Jimny a contender for my car purchase prospect this year, though I just need to add to my budget a body kit and wheels to make it look like a Little Defender or a Baby G-Wagen.

Pros

+ Good suspension, perfect for Manila’s bad roads
+ Minimal body roll for an SUV, confident to quick-steer in an emergency
+ Great forward and side visibility
+ With Cruise Control, Climate Control, A/C on the top-spec model
+ Good AT response and strong car ‘creep,’ perfect for the typical Manila stop-go traffic

Cons

– No telescopic steering setting
– Rear luggage space almost non-existent if rear seats are used
– Rear seats can only sit two adults, not recommended for those over 5 feet, 7 inches tall due to legroom

 

Review by Onyl Malabanan

 

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