Motoring writers don’t really need to buy new vehicles. There are 65 brands in Australia selling new cars, SUVs and commercials that need testing, ensuring our garages are rarely empty.
This is why we more commonly own clunkers or ‘classics’ of varying repute; ones we swear will get that restoration some day... I’m guilty, having not owned a new car for a few years, opting to tinker in lieu with an E36 BMW 3 Series and Volvo 240.
Yet I’ve had a rethink. I suddenly feel quite strongly that it’s incumbent on us to have some skin in the game, and to invest in the automotive industry in the same way we advise others to. I tip my hat to those colleagues who’ve been doing this all along.
But let’s not go too far down Sensible Street. I’m still going to have a little fun. I’m 31, like getting back to my regional roots from time to time, and am happier away from civilisation than surrounded by it. A proper 4x4 with scope for mods was called for.
So I went and bought a Suzuki Jimny. Shamelessly, I ordered one immediately after the press launch, thereby avoiding the subsequent enormous waiting list Suzuki has accrued. I had mine within a few months. I won’t deny my connections came in handy.
I love my colleague Kez's lines on the Jimny, specifically: "Despite the march to slowly transform the automotive landscape into a sea of crossover-styled hatchbacks that promise a lifetime of adventure seeking but never venture beyond a Westfield carpark, the Jimny sticks to its guns as an off-roader.
"It’s not the only car to do so. The new Jeep Wrangler, new Mercedes-Benz G-Class and carbon-dateable Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series maintain a similar focus, but none of those cross the sub-$25K barrier. In fact, a JL Wrangler is almost double that, even in its most basic form."
It was a few years ago when I interviewed a senior Suzuki engineer visiting from Japan, who excitedly admitted plans for a new Jimny were underway.
From that day, I kept the desire for one in the back of my head. I truly loved Suzuki’s willingness to make niche throwbacks, to break away from industry homogeneity, and knew that the only proper way to show my appreciation was to cough up.
Plus, I recalled seeing Sierras everywhere in the sticks as a kid, covered in mud and dust and tailing along behind the GQ Patrols and 80 Series LandCruisers like an overeager puppy. Call it a personal connection combined with a genuine user case thrown in.
Part of the point of buying a hyped new model like this (albeit a polarising one) was to make the purchasing process vaguely authentic. So, while I gave Suzuki a heads-up, I didn’t request mates rates.
My Jimny is electric blue with a black roof and a manual gearbox. I paid around $28,000 on the road, though I did take advantage of my access to a car-only novated lease. My point of purchase was Brighton Suzuki in Melbourne, who were fantastic throughout the purchase.
Do I love it? You bet your arse I do. It’s a car with foibles, but that’s precisely why it’s so endearing. It’s just such an outlier today. It’s tiny, has rigid axles, a separate shifter for engaging low-range, and retro styling inside and out that’s effectively pre-aged.
I’ve only racked up about 1300km so far, averaging 8.2L/100km fuel economy. The five-speed manual gearbox has relaxed a smidge, as it should, and it’s picked up its first scratch – a nick on the dash thanks to my overeager bulldog friend, Sarge. It’s also been nudged across a paddock by an enormous pet cow. I kid you not.
Mods have been limited to a new set of BFGoodrich ATs (215/75) on 15-inch Dynamic steelies in place of the OEM 195/80. I’m not after a caricature here. Soon I’ll be taking it away with our 4x4 editor Sam alongside some bigger, badder machinery – potentially that new Wrangler we’ve got kicking around…
People ask if they should buy one, believe it or not. Top of mind are the bloke who works at a nearby warehouse, and a random I met at a servo in his Fiesta ST. I tell them all it’s a car with a very specific purpose and narrow focus – illogical for most, but perfect for just a few.
I’ve had long engaging chats with the bloke a few houses down who owns a LWB Land Rover Defender, and can’t tell you the number of kids who’ve stopped and pointed as my bright little cartoon car shuffles on past.
Flaws are there, of course. I’m 194cm so my knees hit the doors. There’s no telescopic adjustment on the steering column. The infotainment system is cheap and a bit glitchy. Its NCAP crash rating is only three stars. Its forward-collision alert system is too eager. There are only five forward gears, so you’re sitting at a vibey 3200rpm at 100km/h. Et cetera, et cetera...
Yet it’s surprisingly good in town. I live in the inner city, and there are scarcely any cars with a smaller footprint and bigger side windows. And off-road? There’s little that bests it. It has no overhang of note, heaps of clearance, low-range and a super-short first. The 1.5-litre engine isn’t overwhelming, but the car weighs as much as a tissue box, too.
But more importantly, owning the Jimny will give me a greater understanding of what comes with having a new car. It’s why I’ll keep you all informed of the trials, tribulations and adventures I have, and am happy to answer any questions from the other way.
I’m writing this little op ed at 6pm on a Thursday, and I’m looking at a key safe with my weekly loan car in there – an expensive European. But you know what? I’m going to grab my Jimny’s cheap old key (no fob, still an ignition barrel) and leave the exxier offering safely garaged here at the office. It’s a charm offensive after all.