Why would I buy it?
- Unique form factor
- Off-roading ability
- Ride quality over bad roads
Why would I avoid it?
- Mediocre performance
- Basic interiors
What is it?
It’s a Maruti Suzuki product that has gotten us all hugely excited. It’s not something we usually say for a mass market model but honestly that is the magic of the Jimny. One look at it and you know it is a far cry from the convention. And in some ways underneath, it legitimately is.
The Jimny is mostly about making a lifestyle choice and having fun while at it. Now, hardcore Gypsy fans have been waiting a long time for this thing. Then there are some who think it doesn’t fit into the everyday life as we know it. But the question is, are you pleased that it finally exists for us Indians to own? Let’s see if the made-for-India 5-door Jimny is more than just an off-roader.
Is the cabin of the Jimny any good?
The Jimny doesn’t have a pretty looking cabin. It’s an off-roader, after all. More of a rugged bad road basher than your regular SUVs in the Rs 10 to 16 lakh price range. The focus here is on durability rather than avant-garde look or, honestly, particularly good ergonomics. And that dual-pod instrument cluster is so early 2000s Gypsy. It’s a spacious cabin for four, but not the most practical if you are someone who really, really values cup holders or door pockets.
There is no space to keep a bottle in the door though you have enough room to keep a wallet or something wider but just as narrow. There is a decent size glove box, an open cavity on top of it and something similar under the center portion of the dashboard to keep your phone or cables.
The Jimny, of course, is an old school SUV which means you get a compact dashboard that reduces the distance between you and the windscreen. Also, the door cards are quite narrow so you are in close proximity to the greenhouse although it’s not the worst feeling ever. It’s just something you will get used to as you spend more time in the Jimny. The most commonly used controls are within easy reach and they are chunky. I like the finish on the toggle-style switches and the dials for the climate control system. Yes, there are hard plastics everywhere, but you might need to hose your Jimny out if things get really mucky so it’s forgivable.
Thankfully, the cushioning on the front seats is not as soft as we have seen in other Maruti vehicles. What’s also worth adding is that the driver’s seat cannot be adjusted for height although it’s set a good height and most users should be okay with it. I am five foot eight and I was seated fairly high with a great view up ahead and on the sides. Legroom at the back is very good. I had a good amount of room to move my legs after keeping the front seat to my driving position. There is more than enough headroom, too. It’s just that the Jimny is a strict four-seater - it’s really narrow (narrower than some hatchbacks) and it shows. With two generously sized adults at the back there isn’t a lot of shoulder room to spare.
The infotainment system here is Maruti’s SmartPlay Pro system that you may have seen on the Brezza. It’s a solid multimedia system that’s smooth and easy to use, however it’s something that’s limited to the Alpha variant. The Jimny will also come in Zeta which will be the base variant. It gets a smaller 7-inch touchscreen display, steel wheels, manual AC and halogen headlights. So if you want all the nice features then you will have to go for this Alpha variant. There’s body coloured door handles, alloy wheels, auto headlamps, headlamp washers, keyless start, cruise control, climate control and a nicer sounding audio system. Having said that, there are no differences in the safety features as both variants come with six airbags, ESP, and hill hold assist as standard.
Is the Jimny any good to drive?
SUVs by nature are dual purpose vehicles, aiming to offer comfortable road manners and some ruggedness to roll over badly built roads. The Jimny? It truly comes into its own when you take it off road. It has impressive approach and departure angles, good amount of clearance and a low range transfer case supplementing a brilliant 4WD system.
Unsurprisingly, the Jimny was a blast off road. We got to spend a lot of time with it around a vast riverbed wherein Maruti Suzuki had setup a few purpose-built obstacles. The Jimny scrambled down steep descents with ease, went across fairly big boulders without scarping its underside and made use of its 4WD system to get us to the finishing side of every obstacle. We had off-roading experts who were not only showing us the right lines to take while going up or down the tricky sections, but also telling us when to shift from 2WD to 4WD or in some extreme cases, engage low range.
We had automatic and manual cars to experience the off-road obstacles. For our first drive out on public roads, we chose the automatic which gets a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that’s paired to a 4-speed torque converter. Let’s talk about the engine first. So it’s a proven unit that we have always liked for its refinement and reliability. What about power? Well, there is some that you will feel once you rev this engine past 2,500rpm. Anything below that and it’s pretty much a dud. You will have to work this engine a lot even for everyday driving, for things like merging into traffic or overtaking on the highway. The real culprit here is the extremely old-fashioned, 4-speed torque converter automatic which struggles to keep the engine in its sweet spot. Despite the lack of solid ratios, it’s a busy unit, always shuffling between second and third to maintain momentum, especially when you go beyond part throttle.
The old-school theme continues as we move onto the ride and handling of this thing. The steering work is handled by a recirculating-ball type system and not a rack and pinion setup which is far more modern. What’s more, the Jimny rides on a rigid, three-link suspension setup at the front and back which, I admit, works well off-road but on the road, takes you back to the Gypsy days. The steering is slow and wayward, becoming tiresome within an hour of driving. The suspension also has some give and take. It is fantastic off-road when it comes to ironing out sharp rocks, delivering a surprisingly plush ride although I suspect a good amount of it is down to the high profile tires. But on the road, it is a bit fidgety. The Jimny tends to follow the undulations without the suspension reacting quick enough, thus resulting in more side to side movement than we would like. Ultimately it’s because of the rigid axles and their lack of adjustability when the road isn’t flat.
Should you buy the Jimny?
If you want a small, nimble vehicle that can go off-road with ease, then, yes. There is a good chance that you will be pleased with your decision. But, if you want an off-roader which can also be used every day on wide open roads and in traffic, then, the Jimny would be a tough sell, especially with an automatic gearbox.
There are no firm details on pricing yet though we are expecting the Zeta manual version to be launched at around Rs 10 lakh ex-showroom. The top-spec Alpha automatic, meanwhile, is likely to come in north of Rs 12 lakh. We will get to know the actual prices for the Jimny on the launch day which is June 7, 2023, so stayed tuned.
Pictures by Kapil Angane