Here’s the thing about the Suzuki Jimny: it’s been essentially the same for five decades (yes, it was called Jimny in Japan right from the start). It’s a mountain-goat 4x4 with ladder-frame chassis and low-range, and it’s always been as small as practically possible.
But there’s a major change for 2024: extra doors. Yes, the Jimny is now finally a 5-door SUV, thanks to this Indian-built model that adds an extra 340mm into the wheelbase to liberate actual rear-seat space for adult passengers and provide two-and-a-half times the luggage space, albeit for a still-modest total of 211 litres.
In fact, the whole car is still modestly sized. Despite that proportionally enormous gain in wheelbase, the Jimny 5-door is still less than four metres long. Compact in the extreme.
The 5-door adds $5000 to the price of the equivalent Jimny 3-door: $40,990 for the manual and $44,990 for the automatic. Beyond that, very little has changed in terms of the basic mechanical package: behind that chrome-and-grey grille (unique to the five-door) there’s the same engine, same transmissions and same rigid-axle off-road suspension, save a little strengthening at the rear to compensate for the larger model’s extra 90kg weight.
Even putting aside the extra space, there are some compelling reasons to choose the longer version. The interior ditches the 9in infotainment screen of the 3-door for the swish 12in unit from the S-Cross, which also brings wireless Apple CarPlay. Android Auto is included but that still theoretically requires a cable; although after a morning with an Android phone plugged in, we jumped in the same car later in the day sans cable, and the phone projection software reconnected automatically and worked perfectly. Maybe the car is more clever than it says it is.
We’re not talking lounge levels of comfort in the back, but it is genuinely big enough for two adults.
The Jimny 5-door also gets a dual-camera driver-assistance active safety system, including autonomous braking and lane-departure functions, but if you opt for the automatic you also get adaptive cruise control. A reversing camera and rear sensor package is standard on the 5-door.
We’re not talking lounge levels of comfort in the back, but it is genuinely big enough for two adults (no centre seatbelt, so it’s a four-seater only) and the whole seat structure has been redesigned for this model: thicker backrest especially.
The Jimny has never claimed to be a performance machine and 75kW/130Nm is modest even for the 3-door.
While 211 litres still doesn’t sound like a lot of bootspace, it’s pretty practical. It passed the International Motoring Writer Standardised Cargo Test of being able to fit a carry-on roller case lengthwise, at least. The 50/50 split backrest can also be locked in two different positions.
With a kerb weight of 1200kg and GVM rating of 1545kg, you won’t be able to load too much into the Jimny anyway. That’s just 345kg to play with and if you’ve got four passengers aboard… enough said.
What the 5-door does bring is improved refinement, better ride and improved stability – those last two thanks largely to the extra wheelbase length.
Four passengers aboard will also tax the little SUV’s performance. The Jimny has never claimed to be a performance machine (at least not on-road!) and 75kW/130Nm is modest even for the 3-door. The extra 90kg of the 5-door doesn’t help, but then again – this is not a press-on kind of car.
What the 5-door does bring is improved refinement, better ride and improved stability – those last two thanks largely to the extra wheelbase length. It’s a Jimny much more capable of long-distance driving, although the low-ish gearing (top is 1:1, not an overdrive) and rigid axles do still limit the little Suzuki on the open road. No matter, it’s not that kind of car. Did we say that already?
We drove both 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatics on Suzuki NZ’s launch programme – the latter not due until March-April, if you’re a two-pedal person (the company reckons a 50/50 sales split, like the three-door).
Both could arguably do with an extra gear (or even a couple in the case of the auto), but the choice will be a matter of personal taste. We found the manual preferable on-road, mainly because you could extract that bit more performance out of the 1.5-litre engine when required for hills or overtaking. But we preferred the automatic on the off-tarmac drive route along Skipper’s Canyon Road, a narrow and bumpy affair where the two-pedal car enjoyed a much more relaxed gait and seemed to shift pretty smoothly.
While hard-core 4x4 people may swear by manuals, there’s an argument that automatics allow easier low-range power application in the rough. They’re certainly easier for non-experts.
We didn’t get right down to the nitty gritty of the Jimny’s off-road abilities this time, but for the record the 5-door has the same approach and departure angles as the smaller model (36/24deg), losing just a little in rampover (24 versus 28deg). Still a world-class rock-hopper, in other words.
This is sure to be a hero model for Suzuki NZ. Sales will depend on allocation from the factory, but it’s hopeful of 800 registrations this year (and about the same for the 3-door). It already has 1000 expressions of interest from prospective customers; people do love their Jimnys.
In fact, there are precious few SUVs that have the same combination of heritage and cult status at any price. During the media presentation for the new model, Suzuki NZ flashed up images of two other 4x4 adventure vehicles that started out short and grew extra doors: the Jeep Wrangler and Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Fair call.
ENGINE: 1.5-litre petrol four POWER: 75kW/130Nm GEARBOX: 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, part-time 4WD with low-range CONSUMPTION: 7.1-7.7l/100km (3P-WLTP) PRICE: $40,990-$44,990 (two-tone paint $510)