Intrepid road trippers, Calvin and Kelly Fisher, recently returned from a sojourn across our borders, where they got to experience the best of Botswana and Zambia from behind the wheel of a Suzuki Jimny.
As the sun melted into the horizon, the sky awash with pink and gold, I found myself at the wheel of a small automobile. The manic lyrics of a Talking Heads song came to mind. In fact, it was as if David Byrne himself was next to me exclaiming: “This is not my car. This is not my beautiful wife. How did I get here?” In truth, it wasn’t even my country, nor its sunset. This was Botswana. And the car belonged to Suzuki because we were the brand‘s guests for what was pitched as an unforgetable Suzuki Jimny Safari. It was my wife though, and we were on this particular adventure together.
We started in the parking lot of Maun International Airport, the Jimny already seducing us with its air-conditioned cabin fighting against the sweltering ambient heat. This is a car that needs no introduction, a plucky compact 4×4 that
does precisely what it says it will on the tin. And it’s an attractive tin indeed, ours covered in paint best described
as prosthetic beige. Yet it is immediately and fiercely endearing, a box on wheels, contrasted with black plastic
wheel arch moldings, roof and grille.
Its round headlamps stare like eyes on a face that implores you to love it, like a puppy. A puppy with a mere 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine, good for 75kW and 130Nm of peak torque, paired with a five-speed manual transmission. No matter how you look at it these are not large numbers, but to gain the full picture you need to consider that
– at 1 075kg in kerb weight – the Jimny has a lot going for it. I refer to its incredible power-to-weight ratio, which in combination with its ALLGRIP 4WD system, can drag it up almost any ascent imaginable.
The Suzuki Jimny is the quintessential plucky underdog, famously capable of bloodying the noses of some large and impressive machinery. (Yes, I’m looking at you Jeep, Land Rover and Cruiser!) But we weren’t here to plug mud or
crab walk across some gnarly off-road course. We were here as intrepid explorers and had three nights and two countries to camp in. That meant a short stint on tarmac to Shorobe, before properly covering our Jimny in dust on the way to Mababe.
I had the important duty of piloting the Jimny, but Kelly had the significantly weightier tasks of ensuring a constant
supply of snacks and deploying choice road trip playlists for the duration of our trip. This is a partnership after all, and we both needed to be sharp to witness the array of wildlife just outside the safe confines of our bog-standard Jimny. The only ‘modification’ made to it was to simply lower the tyre pressures circa 1.2 bar, enabling us to scythe through the thick sand and loose gravel of the control gate lanes and cut lines throughout the conservation. It was here, under an oil painting of a sky, that we would spend our first night of camping in a wafer-thin tent with zero barriers between us and the hippos, hyenas and crocodiles. And that was just what we saw with our own eyes. In truth, the evening
air was full of noises of beasts of every shape and size, mostly unrecognisable.
We easily managed a hundred kilometres on this day, which doesn’t sound like much until you consider the rutted and pockmarked gravel underneath us. The Jimny wasn’t fussed, easily gobbling up the sort of surfaces you’d typically encounter the aforementioned vehicles on. Often kitted to the literal roof with racks, lift kits, shovels, and fridges. As the sun waned, we made our way back to camp, slowed down by the frequent spotting of wildlife… often at a picturesque waterhole.
Less than a minute from our tent, I caught myself thinking about how – despite having travelled the world – there’s nothing quite like exploring our own beautiful continent. Suddenly I was hurling expletives at my wife: “Babe! It’s an effing lion!” It was, in fact, a trio of lionesses out on the hunt. Svelte and purposeful, they retreated from our headlamps and skulked off into the dark, in a direction that I like to refer to as a beeline to my pillow. But, as our guide reiterated, when you hear them growling, it means they’ve caught their prey and are about to feed. This didn’t comfort me one bit.
We woke up the next morning, grateful not to have been eaten alive, but still full from the previous night’s meaty cuisine. After a bushy breakfast, I pointed the beige bonnet of the little dirt champ to our ultimate destination, Mwandi View Lodge in Zambia. This would be our final dirt stint, all that remained after that was boring tarmac, but with it a gentle reminder that the Jimny is more than comfortable on asphalt. Sure, the lack of a sixth gear means you’re cruising near its limits at 120km/h and to a bit of a din from the four-pot motor.
Personally, it doesn’t bother me – in fact I’ve done an all-tar drive between Springbok and Cape Town in an auto, where the engine noise was relegated to a supporting role to my driving music. We performed a similar trick here and simply enjoyed the views. By now the outside temperature had cooled down to 34 degrees, not a meaningful reduction by any means. Still, our cabin ticked over at 18⁰C leaving us to soak in the last of the scenery from our chilled vantage point. Bliss.
Kelly and I have been on most continents together. We’ve also driven just about every road in South Africa and will continue to explore. Yet, there’s something so alluring about exploring the rest of Africa and it boggles my mind to think you could do so in a tiny box on wheels, unmodified, straight from a dealer floor for under R400k. I guess it’s true what they say about dynamite coming in small packages.
Jimny in a nutshell
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol
Power: 75kW @ 6 000rpm
Torque: 130Nm @ 4 000rpm
Transmission: 4-speed auto/5-speed manual
4×4 system: ALLGRIP Pro (+ Braked LSD)
Claimed fuel consumption: 6.3 litres/100km
Length: 3 625mm
Width: 1 645mm
Height: 1 720mm
Wheelbase: 2 250mm
Ground clearance: 210mm
Kerb weight: 1 110kg
GVM: 1 435kg
Approach angle: 37.0⁰
Departure angle: 49.0⁰
Breakover angle: 28.0⁰
Wading depth: 300mm
Maximum towing capacity: 1 000kg (braked)
Tyres: 195/80 R15
Model line-up & pricing
Jimny 1.5 GA MT: R334 900
Jimny 1.5 GL MT: R356 900
Jimny 1.5 GL AT: R378 900
Jimny 1.5 GLX MT: R377 900
Jimny 1.5 GLX AT: R399 900