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Jiminy Crickets – With Five Doors & Mild Hybrid!

Above: Three and Five door Jimny. Talk about spoilt for choice!

Ever since the new JB74 Jimny by Suzuki debuted in 2018 there’s been talk that it would make a ripper LWB 5 door model and offer a better payload and importantly more room. Seems if you cross all your fingers and toes you might just get what you wish for! Speculation is growing that there’ll be a bigger Jimny Sierra in 2022 on Australian roads and we can’t wait!

Above: Kinetic Yellow that colour is called and we love it! I’d like mine Hemi Orange with a black lid thanks! Pic thanks to AutoDeal

Suzuki, since it released new-Jim, has been rushed of its feet with international orders exceeding all expectations and for those who put down a deposit and order, a waiting time for delivery that extends into months if not a whole year hasn’t been unusual! It’s nice to be popular, but the wait times have pissed plenty of buyers off who need a vehicle sooner rather than later. To counter the delays and further exacerbated by Covid, Suzuki’s Japanese factory at Kosai runs 24/7 building complete cars for the world and CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits for the Indonesian market and I suspect elsewhere in Asia. But it’s not enough. Maruti in India have commenced local production this year to take some pressure off Kosai, but Covid isn’t helping their cause at all with a Ganges full of floating pyres (so sad). More delays can be expected.

So, why is it that new-Jim has been a sellout success?

It’s the perfect antidote to the bland drivel that most vehicle makers serve up as 4WDs these days. A cute as a button package that’ll embarass plenty of off-roaders costing four times its price and it’s the real deal.

Above: Properly kitted out and ready to take on any bush track!

The modern idiom of 4WD wagon design dictates an independent front suspension setup (struts, coils and wishbones) and either independent rear or a live rear axle setup and styling designed to appeal to the passenger car set. Burdened with impractical cabin spaces thanks to unnecessary roof contours and complex shapes in body panel pressings and light assemblies, they have become the antithesis of what a 4WD should be and become bloody expensive, not very good off-road and too pretty to take into the scrub for fear of scratching them.

Above: There’s a sensible shape for a cabin if ever I saw one!

Land Rover have learned that straying from their classic Defender range has bought them a world of hurt and an opportunity lost/created that the new start-up Ineos have decided to fill with their Grenadier wagon (it might as well be the Defender that Land Rover should have/could have built for the modern world). Ineos will sell a ton of these in the coming years.

Jimny JB74 has stuck true to its roots, possibly even more so than the JB33 series from 1998-2017, as a real live transfer lever returned to do duty as the 4WD selection method of the stars, instead of stupid push-button affairs. There’s some good old analogue reliability right there! A JB74 Jimny is swimming in practicality with box sides and plenty of internal volume, no superfluous trims or chrome wank and a chassis made for the rough stuff.

Above: No, not a dial, not a button, just a simple old-fashioned transfer lever… remember them?

Apart from the 70 series Toyota range and the Ineos Grenadier, no-one makes a ladder chassis with live axles front and rear anymore. Crazy!

The greatest strength when you’re off-roading is flex. Keep those wheels on the ground and you’ll go places, something that was at the core of Land Rover’s logic right through the 80s and early noughties in the coil spring era.

Above: This baby will flex when asked!

But in the face of mass-market appeal and meeting the safety Nazis ridiculous dictums on what they reckon a modern vehicle should look like and how it should perform, the essence of 4WD has been lost and that’s bullshit. Lots of people couldn’t care less about carpets, leather chairs and rear cross-traffic alert, what we want is something stripped-down, honest and fun and that’s Jimny to a tee!

We’ve been lucky enough to drive the JB74 series and came away mightily impressed, so much so that had there been a bigger variant there’d likely be at least one and possibly two in the Wilson driveway right now. Looks like that might soon be a reality as Suzuki Japan and along with Indian partner Maruti have been making noises and teasing a five door version, that will likely grace Japanese roads in the next 6 months and hopefully spur production for Australia and the rest of the RHD world shortly after.

Above: Wearing the camo of a thousand prototypes is this 5-door Jimny in Japan.

It’ll be longer and therefore heavier so some more pep will be required and the talk of the town is Suzuki’s BoosterJet turbo 1.4L petrol four (103kW/202Nm) and perhaps coupled to a mild 48V hybrid battery/motor pack (making 235Nm and essential to meet emission targets in world markets and currently seen in Euro Vitara and S-Cross) to give it some added zing. The transmission choices in the current three-door are a five-speed manual and a four-speed auto. Both boxes were my only source of criticism when I drove them, the auto an old three-speed with overdrive sucked the sparkle out of the 1.5L K15B (75kW/130Nm) naturally aspirated petrol four and the manual was a gear short at highway speed. It needs a six-speed box to make better use of the tiny torque that motor offers.

Above: Taking a splash in the Werribee River at Melbourne 4X4, revs up in second gear LOW range!

Dimensionally the 5-door model will measure 3,850mm long, stay at 1,645mm wide and retain a 1,730mm height. The wheelbase is said to be 2,550mm long (300mm more than the 3-door) so that’ll make the rampover angle a bit shallower, so it’s just as well there’s still 210mm of clearance. It’ll pick up another 100kgs in weight and hopefully the engineers have got the slide-rules out and factored in a heap more GVM than the current 1,435kgs, which will permit only 340kgs in manual guise and 325kgs in auto. A nice round 600kgs would be heaps more practical.

 

Above: The 3-door model is TIGHT on space in the back with the seats up, so another 300mm of space here will work wonders.

One of the things I noted with the 3-door was just how compact the footprint was, fitting into car park spaces that really didn’t exist and with the electric power steering it was easy-going anywhere. Even with the added length (205mm) of the new body it’ll still retain the crown as the easiest parking 4WD wagon on the planet bar none! Totally suited to an urban environment and fit-for-purpose in the bush!

Jimny in the wild is great fun, the JB74 scored traction control which was okay for harder surfaces and following modern thinking, can be turned off, but will default back to being on once over 30km/h. There’ll be a hack I’m sure to get around that one day and in the meantime a trip to your local ARB store will get you an ARB Air-Locker which will make much of the pain go away. Whilst you’re there an Old Man Emu suspension kit and an ARB bullbar will finish things nicely along with a set of LT235/75R15 Toyo OPAT2s on some steelies for grip way in excess of the stock rubber. Have a look at the rendered drawing with the lift, bar and rack!

Above: An artist rendering of 5-door Jimny with some ARB barwork splashed around it and a bit of a lift.

Suzuki Australia please bring this here sooner rather than later!!!

 

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