RE: Suzuki Jimny versus... the Lake District

RE: Suzuki Jimny versus... the Lake District

Tuesday 21st May

Suzuki Jimny versus... the Lake District

Is the much-hyped Jimny capable of more than winning hearts and minds?



You've got to feel for off-roaders. Seemingly reviled by nearly every other countryside user and with ever-greater restrictions placed on where they can drive, it would be easy to feel victimised. Even fellow petrolheads can't resist the odd snigger, the 'gripped, sorted' stereotype still resonating years after The Fast Show's Simon and Lyndsay were last on our screens.

To add insult '4x4s' have gone mainstream, the go-anywhere image co-opted for lifestyle posturing by drivers who wouldn't be seen dead with mud on their tyres. So you'd be forgiven for thinking the dedicated hardcore would be an embittered and defensive lot, wary of piss-taking from one side and public opprobrium on the other. But when we meet our fellow Jimnyists for an attempt at Gatescarth Pass you couldn't wish to meet a cheerier bunch.

Inspiration for this caper came some months previously as snapper Sim and I hauled up the same for an aborted mountain bike shoot. To distract from the slog I found myself pondering "I wonder if you could get a Jimny up this?" The seed of an idea was planted but I soon discovered the terrain isn't necessarily the biggest challenge for driving 4x4s in the Lakes.


Anti-4x4 sentiment is well-documented, especially in places where recreational visitors have very different ambitions for a day out in the countryside. Meanwhile some of the more hysterical reporting would have you believe the locals wave pitchforks at anyone who dares enter the National Park in anything more lairy than a Land Rover Discovery. The reality, inevitably, turns out to be rather more nuanced.

Gatescarth Pass is a Lake District classic and once among many such routes across the region. Now there are just a handful, access to them coordinated through the National Park and various user groups. Cumbria County Council's 'Hierarchy of Trails' initiative meanwhile works with volunteer groups like Cumbria Trail Riders Fellowship and the Green Lane Association, publishing detailed guides as to when and where enthusiasts on two wheels or four can responsibly get mud on their tyres. There will always be idiots out to spoil it for everyone. But, by and large, mutual respect and a sense of responsibility prevails.

On Gatescarth a Traffic Regulation Order manages access through permits, of which just 12 are available for 4x4s on the single day the pass is opened to traffic in summer months. If you were dreaming of going full Trophy Truck over it with your new Ranger Raptor don't bother turning up - it would rather go against the spirit of responsibility but, more pertinently, there's also a wheelbase limit of 100 inches, restricting it to Defenders, Jimnys and the like.


Having successfully booked a Jimny and picked a date I discover a further complication - you can only drive the pass in multiples of two (and a maximum of four) and I don't have any off-roading mates. So to the BigJimny forum, my 'need a buddy for Gatescarth' appeal lighting up the message board.

There's obviously a lot of curiosity about how the new Jimny will fare among the fanboys, most of whom haven't seen the new one in the metal before. Riccy, John and Adam are my nominated collaborators, their willing +1s joining the fun to help with gates or just enjoy the spectacle of a have-a-go numpty in a press car potentially getting way out of his depth. As we gather at Tebay services my bravado is somewhat diminished given how undernourished our totally stock Jimny looks in terms of ride height, tyre swagger, tow hooks and winching gear. I'm definitely lacking in the waggly aerial department too. Previous suggests it's up for the challenge. But for this kind of terrain 195 section street tyres on 15-inch rims look dangerously puny. Ah well, nothing ventured...

At the gate at Mardale Head I nervously ask the marshal checking permits if he thinks we'll be OK. "If an old Series I can do it I reckon you'll be fine," he says, peering over his clipboard.


Without further ado our merry little band is off, the loose rocks and tight corners offering an immediate taste of what's to come. I'm in low-range from the get-go, though truth be told the road gearing is pretty frantic, even in supposed 'high range'. Safe to say, motorways are not the Jimny's forte. This is though...

The going is best described as bouncy, the Jimny jiggling over the rocks with its revvy little 1.5-litre motor howling away in second gear, tyres clawing at the loose ground. There are no diff locks but the brake-nibbling traction control does an effective job of grabbing a spinning wheel to send power to where it can be best deployed. Given the short wheelbase that does result in frequent diagonal lurches this way and that but already the Jimny is showing its tenacious side and seems untroubled as the gradient steepens. I am somewhat reassured, though aware there's tougher to come.

Challenging enough without being too demanding and with a proper 'out there' vibe this is a good trail for a novice off-roader in a borrowed car. Noting the branch-scratched flanks of the other Jimnys I'm glad to see Gatescarth is mainly open and free of paint-bothering vegetation. Admittedly the rocks are a constantly moving test of traction and commitment and there's the odd worrying clonk from beneath. But the Jimny's clearance seems enough to be getting on with and it cheerily scrabbles its way over anything in its path, its lack of weight a huge advantage. True, a fit hiker would probably cover the same ground just as quickly, but the opportunity to be out in such epic landscape is such a privilege, especially for the knowledge we're doing it responsibly and with official sanction.


Things start getting a bit tougher as we climb further. A section of tight hairpins raises the game in terms of steepness and ground conditions, loose rocks now interspersed with unyielding shards of bedrock hungry for sumps and diff casings. There's reasonable exposure on the outside turns too, every lurch towards the precipice making my heart jump. Some of bends are tight enough to warrant a couple of goes, even in something as short as a Jimny, rather explaining that wheelbase limit.

I'm in first gear now, striking a balance between rock-crawling caution and maintaining momentum with carefully timed bursts of throttle. From there it's a case of gunning it, reaching for the long gearstick and enjoying the properly mechanical feeling shift, grinning and repeating. Frankly the Jimny is romping it, occasional scrabbles as wheels lift in the air over before they've begun, rock gardens dismissed with a cheeky hop, skip and a jump. The cheeky character promised by the looks is more than delivered on by the way it behaves in the rough, put it that way. By the time I crest the summit I'm almost wishing it had been a bit harder. So I use the excuse of going back to pick Sim up to have another go.

If anything going down proves trickier than coming up, though a stab at the Hill Descent Control button helps rein it in, the creaks and groans as it feathers the brakes on individual wheels proving it's doing its job. Even 3mph seems a little much though, first and low range easing us over some of the bigger steps. After some tight, loose hairpins the terrain eases off, verdant pastures on the valley floor now visible between the brooding peaks. If Gatescarth hasn't quite delivered on the epic in terms of terrain it's more than compensated with the scenery.


What's more, all our interactions with fellow green-laners, enduro riders, hikers and mountain bikers have all been entirely affable, everyone conscious we need to present a friendly face and going out of their way to be super courteous. Local footpaths and bridleways round my way have sprouted 'Be nice, say hi' signs of late - for all the talk of friction between different user groups this approach seems to work here in the Lakes too.

We regroup at the bottom, I'm feeling pretty chuffed and it's smiles all round. Then the maps come out, sidelong glances are made at our plucky little Jimny and murmured plans are hatched. "Ready to give it a proper test now?" ask the Jimnyists.

Hell yeah!


SPECIFICATION - SUZUKI JIMNY SZ5
Engine:
1,462cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, selectable four-wheel drive, low-range transfer box
Power (hp): 101@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 95@4,000rpm
0-62mph: Eventually
Top speed: 90mph
Weight: 1,135kg
MPG: 35.8mpg (WLTP combined)
CO2: 178g/km (WLTP)
Price: £17,999 (before options/as tested)

With special thanks to all the guys on www.bigjimny.com; for information on Gatescarth driving permits see the Lake District National Park website















PHOTO CREDIT: SIM MAINEY

Author
Discussion

yme402

Original Poster:

52 posts

44 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
One of the most desirable cars to be launched in a long time. Love it!

Ilovejapcrap

2,500 posts

54 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Still disappointed by engine choice feel the 1.4t From tthe sport with a tune for low down grunt would have helped sell better.

Having said that having a N/A engine makes it nice and simple. Love the looks and owning a swift am a Suzuki fan.

Are they selling ? I’ve not seen any on the roads

Ursicles

825 posts

184 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Not only are they selling - they going for a premium!

Demand is outstripping supply hugely.

Thinking of ordering one for next yr as a company car.

SydneyBridge

4,311 posts

100 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
brilliant- well played Suzuki
good to see it does the business as well as looking the business

tim0409

2,533 posts

101 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Ilovejapcrap said:
Are they selling ? I’ve not seen any on the roads
We put our name down in December, and received a call later in the month stating the dealer was getting 3-4 and we were number 4 on the list and should expect the car in March/April; the dealer called back at the start of February as there was a cancelled order in the colour we wanted (black) ready for immediate collection, which was a result!
Demand has seriously outstripped supply, with a 10-12 month waiting list due to Suzuki only importing 600 cars for this year.

My OH and I were talking about the Jimny yesterday and she said that she can't think of another car she would rather own at the price; she said when she gets off the train and it's parked at the station she always has a smile on her face! The dealer told us we would be unlikely to see another one on the road in the first 6 months....that was until another resident in our small village bought one....


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Dave Hedgehog

10,246 posts

146 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
There are roads in london in worse condition than those 'tracks'

Suzuki has a mightily impressive budget for PR for this car

does look a lot of fun

Hairymonster

433 posts

47 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Ilovejapcrap said:
Are they selling ? I’ve not seen any on the roads
A friend of a friend works in a Suzuki dealer - apparently their annual allocation for 2019 was very small and they're all sold. They have a demo Jimny which they are not allowed to sell, and there's always a scramble to see who gets the keys for the weekend. They have been trying endlessly to get their hands on more of them without success. They have really caught the imagination with this one and they have a waiting list.

Something actually fit for purpose in this category really makes a difference rather than some nonced-up Chelsea Tractor (Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Lexus, VW, Lambo, Bentley etc.)

SydneyBridge

4,311 posts

100 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Are Suzuki spending much on advertising/PR?

it seems to pretty much advertise itself..

Roger Irrelevant

1,259 posts

55 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
That is quite impressive actually - I recently ran up Harter Fell via Gatesgarth the same way the Jimny did it and I did think that it would be a good challenge for a 4x4. It's loose, rocky, steep and some of the corners are really tight. In fact I also ran down most of the Longsleddale side a few weeks ago and thought that it would be horrible in a car - much of it is basically cobbled but with massive stones on a steep slope - not surprised 3mph seemed a bit much over that!

300bhp/ton

36,733 posts

132 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Ilovejapcrap said:
Are they selling ? I’ve not seen any on the roads
Yes and no.

I believe Suzuki only provisioned 1000 units for the UK this year. All are sold, but I suspect they could have sold a lot more with a little more foresight. I believe you can't or couldn't even place a factory order, only get on a waiting list at a dealer and hope for one to turn up next year.


Burnham

3,490 posts

201 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
I saw one in the wild this weekend and it really did look good. Id love a used one in a couple of years. Perfect for where I live (as the nearest motorway is ferry trip away).

richs2891

758 posts

195 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Saw 2x black new Jimny this weekend, Want to see a green one in the flesh
Good pictures in that article.

ash73

15,989 posts

163 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Nice car undermined by 5 speed box, supply problems and daft marketing decisions; white is such a stupid colour for an offroader and they didn't offer green in the UK, iirc?

Loved the mini-me Land Rover version.

AFourCab

44 posts

1 month

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
It's to Suzuki's credit that they persevered with the tried and true roots of the Jimny/SJ line and stayed away from the modern soft roading aesthetic. Now they have a market all to themselves and presumably poaching sales from other types of small cars, too. Having owned a Swift Sport, I can safely say when Suzuki get a car right, they get it very right indeed.

Andy20vt

835 posts

128 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Nice to see a proper 4x4 on here for a change rather than the usual parade of over-wheeled chav chariots. Great little vehicle and good to see it being used as it's maker intended. Big thumbs up smile

bungz

1,008 posts

62 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
I really like these but that's a serious lack of poke under the bonnet.

300bhp/ton

36,733 posts

132 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
bungz said:
I really like these but that's a serious lack of poke under the bonnet.
Not really. They have more than enough for their intended use and return similar performance to a Defender on road.

LittleBigPlanet

747 posts

83 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
LOVE these.

Have no need for one but I want one. Great cars!

tch911

340 posts

153 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Ilovejapcrap said:
Are they selling ? I’ve not seen any on the roads
Having been on a waiting list since day one, allow me to expand a little on what people have written above.

My wife absolutely adores the G-Wagen, but I would be the first to admit that I don't work hard enough to put her in one. When the very first images came out, I was straight on to my local dealer to put down a deposit on a Jungle Green one.

The UK dealers should not be taking deposits, and I was told to register online with Suzuki, on a first come first served basis, which seemed a bit tough on those that have an existing purchasing history with the dealers, which I don't.

Its not just the UK that love the Jimny, the domestic market has gone absolutely wild for them, and Suzuki have quite rightly diverted global production to satisfy that local demand, as a priority.

It then doesn't help that all of the UK press reviews have positively imbued this feelgood factor by backing up the mechanical qualities of the little Jimny.

I was invited to drive one back in December but a combination of work, and bad weather (the dealer didn't want it on muddy lanes as it was primarily a showroom model) meant that it never happened. When explaining the inability to drive an off roader on muddy lanes, the dealer mentioned that they had an allocation of just two cars in 2019, with no steer over colour choice, and hence why they didn't want to over-market the vehicle when they couldn't actually get any more ( and this showroom one that they couldn't sell) and have to constantly spend time cleaning it, to then put back in the showroom. I get that.

Come early spring and a third car became available, a white one, which I declined, but viewed anyway. They really are a fabulous little thing. And I mean little. The interior is lovely, with nothing of the brittle cheapo plastic that one might have expected. The design of the dash is lovely, and the basics like handsfree calling, Apple CarPlay and heated seats are all there.

My wife was going to use this to ferry our boys about, but the total lack of boot space ( I am guesstimating that an uncased guitar might just fit, and I am thinking, might....is a killer. Its a much smaller boot than a Gen 1 MINI if you've ever had one.

So, what you have, is an absolutely cracking looking, and off-road driving, three door, two seat utility vehicle. Did someone say "New Defender"...... I can quite see this as a potentially brilliant agricultural workhorse, but one will have to put some awfully tempting deals out there to get the keepers/builders out of their beloved pick up trucks.

As for me, and my order, I cancelled my place on the waiting list, and I will toy with the idea of buying one as a school run wagon once they come on the 2h in a year or so, in the right spec, of course! The number of these that get bought in Kinetic Yellow, and binned will be high, so many people are buying on looks without really considering what it might be like to have no boot space, or doors that close with a "dink", or make you go deaf on the motorway.

A cracking little car. For the right person.

schaeffs

229 posts

84 months

Monday 20th May
quotequote all
Love these as well and am in the market for a relatively cheap and cheerful car for my soon to be 17yo son. The one thing that stops me pulling the trigger is the frankly awful EuroNcap crash test result. Maybe I'm being over-critical but how can a similar sized Polo be so much safer?