Maruti Suzuki may have bared all its arsenal to win the SUV battle at home and models like Brezza, Grand Vitara and Fronx are becoming a common sight. But it is the Jimny that is carrying the overwhelming weight of expectations because it is the only true-blooded SUV in the camp and one that would instantly connect with fans of the Gypsy. But with mammoth expectations, with unparalleled hype and with a deafening buzz come humongous chances of falling short of perceived potential.
The Jimny, therefore, is looking to not just battle past its rivals but rise to the occasion. India is the first to get the five-door version of the vehicle and because Jimny finally comes calling after over five decades of its global existence, the stakes are enormous.
Maruti Suzuki Jimny: What are the exterior highlights
First things first - the Jimny does not have the road presence that some its direct rivals command. Someone who already drives a Mahindra Thar is likely to even scoff at it. Superficial? Maybe. But this Maruti SUV has plenty of aces up its visual and body styling sleeve, and its comparatively smaller footprint is actually a practical leg up.
The Jimny traces its roots back to 1970 when the first-generation model was launched in global markets. And the latest Jimny does a fine job of blending classic styling cues with catchy modern elements. The circular head lights, fog lights and front indicators on the face are a smart throwback in time while the five-slot front grille adds plenty of contemporary character. The clamshell bonnet adds to the muscular appeal.
And the same muscular appeal is carried forward to the side where large and pronounced wheel arches stretch over the 15-inch wheels with black alloy design. The side windows are generously large considering the overall proportion of the vehicle and there is also a fixed vertical glass panel towards the very end.
The rear of the Jimny is straight as a pole with the spare wheel mounted on the side-opening door. The tail lights are fitted onto the rear bumper and there is a rather tiny brake light at the top. Now while the stock version of the Jimny does indeed have plenty of raw appeal, Maruti Suzuki will also offer a mile-long list of accessories like roof rails, spare wheel cover, side cladding, chrome garnish and decals. There is also an extensive list of lifestyle accessories like tent, sleeping bags and the likes.
But while one will have to pay extra for these accessories, a potential buyer can still choose from a wide array of body shades. Maruti Suzuki Jimny colour options include two dual-tone shades - Kinetic Yellow with Bluish Black roof and Sizzling Red with Bluish Black roof, as well as five monotone choices - White, Black, Blue, Grey and Red.
Maruti Suzuki Jimny: What are the cabin highlights
Maruti Suzuki deserves a whole lot of credit for bringing in the five-door version of the Jimny. The more common three-door version just won't have appealed to the practical senses of the Indian car buyer, not with these overall proportions anyway.
Therefore, let's just start from the usually ignored part of lifestyle SUVs - the back seats. The Jimny is essentially a four-seat vehicle because three persons behind would be intolerably cramped. For two though, the leg room and head room are both adequate. You also won't have to leave your mother-in-law at home because getting in and out of this SUV is significantly easier than on the three-door rivals. On the flipside though, the nearly missing under-thigh support will be felt within a short while. There is no pampering of a rear-seat armrest, no rear AC vents, no sunroof and no rear charging options. There is no storage option for the rear passengers either. Instead, the no-frills cabin offers a pleasent view of the surroundings courtesy a high seat position and those relatively large windows. It is almost like the Jimny wants you to experience the authentic elements of the drive rather than cocoon yourself with modern world paraphernalia.
This is not to say that the feature list of the Maruti Suzuki Jimny is bare. The SUV gets a nine-inch SmartPlay Pro+ infotainment screen with support for wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Three dials to control the automatic air-conditioning unit are placed just under the horizontal center AC vents. There is a 12V charging point on the center console and a USB inlet too, just under the four switches - two for the front side windows, one for traction control and the other for Hill-Hold Assist. The drive display system consists of two round-shaped dials and looks mighty retro.
The gear-shift lever and handbrake find conventional places where there are two pockets for cups or bottles and another set of two switches to control the rear side windows. These windows have dedicated switches on the rear doors too.
The front passenger also gets a grab handle on the front dashboard but where the Jimny feels shortchanged is the lack of wireless phone charging, dismally small glovebox and a near negligible front door pockets which are wide enough for only documentation papers. Overall, the Jimny cabin - complete with its dark colour theme - is respectably spacious and packs a neat bunch of features without going the extra mile to mollycoddle.
Maruti Suzuki Jimny: What are the drive capabilities
The Jimny itself does not need any mollycoddling on the move. It may or may not be driven on beaten paths regularly but the fact that it has enormous potential to tame the wild was amply evident in our one-day experience with it.
The Jimny, in fact, is a light-weight boxer that is competing in the heavy-weight arena. A ladder-frame chassis and a kerb weight of just around 1,200 kilos are the two instant highlights while the Suzuki AllGrip 4WD system works overtime to tame challenges ahead.
There is no differential lock - a system that allows all of the available torque to be sent to the wheel with the traction - but an electronic traction control system seeks to overcome any possible issue with considerable ease. The ability to switch between 2WD-high, 4WD-high and 4WD-low allows for further precision and skill as well. And then there are crucial aspects like approach angle, departure angle and a high ground clearance as well.
What all of these jargon translate into is that the Jimny is able to negotiate rut, rocks and rain-drenched streams with nonchalant ease. Here is an SUV that hardly bats an eyelid and more often than not, we were doubting ourselves far more than the vehicle itself, in front of what appeared to be a rather daunting obstacle.
Cross over all of these and move into conventional roads and there are plenty of bits to both like and dislike. At the core of the Jimny is a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol motor which is quite familiar. It is paired with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission unit. We had the AT with us through the day.
The Jimny is a mile-muncher and at low to moderate speeds, it is a pleasant mover. Its small proportions mean it can be weaved in and out of traffic congestion with ease and the well-engineered steering helps big time. The stiff suspension is also great over ungodly speed breakers. There is hardly any bobbing around anywhere in the cabin which is quite unlike SUVs that are bred for the outdoors. But on the other side, the Jimny's AT unit takes its sweet time to find the right number and doesn't always quite match up to throttle inputs and the required engine response demands. Overtaking will need careful planning and the engine begins to groan once the pedal closes in on the metal.
The Jimny is excitable as long as one is not looking at getting anywhere in a torrid rush. It has the genetics to make it a winner off the road and the character to be a typical daily commute option too. For more still, one may have to look at an entirely other segment altogether.
Maruti Suzuki Jimny: Verdict
The Maruti Suzuki Jimny dips into its five decades of experience to dole out a scrumptious option for the evolving Indian buyer. It is capable and yet practical. It is compact and yet stylish. It is Maruti Suzuki and yet a Jimny.
Should you buy the Jimny over any of its SUV siblings from the Maruti Suzuki camp? It would entirely depend on the kind of statement you want to make. But here is an SUV - with all its strengths and some of its flaws, that deserves a serious look.