Suzuki Jimny sort-of-review/Easter Island
(this is 100% a repost from Medium since I had the photos and words kicking around)
Last summer I was lucky enough to go visit Easter Island as part of an eclipse trip. It was awesome, but this is not the story of an eclipse. Rather, its the story of the car I had while there, a truly fun little rental car (things not often said about rental cars). What follows is the story of three days on Rapa Nui, from the perspective of driving this little 4x4 around.
Full disclosure: My father and I paid around $40/day to rent this 3rd gen facelift Jimny, made sometime after 2012. That price might have been higher but the car rental place gave us a discount since we had already rented a Daihatsu Terios from them the previous day. That was also a semi-fun car-tiny RWD 5 door SUV, but the Jimny had character in spades and went on many more fun adventures. All photos are by the author c.2019.
In a time where safety tech and automatic everything is standard on base model cars in the US, the Jimny is perhaps best defined by what this Chilean-market base model 3rd gen didn’t have:
-No power windows
-No power locks
-No power steering (to my knowledge)
-No automatic transmission (thank goodness)
-Not very much tire grip (never noticed any form of TC or ABS)
-No air conditioning
-No electronic throttle bodies, and thus no rev hang of any sort (yay!)
Instead of all this tech, you get a ladder frame, excellent off-road geometry, low weight, two solid axles, push-button shift-on-the-fly 4x4 with 2hi/4hi/4lo, and an extremely long-throw 5speed that requires a surprisingly strong right arm to throw it between gears, managed by a very heavy (cable-driven, most likely) clutch that had a very high bite point on this rental. It’s as fun as you might think.
Day 1. We picked up the car around noon, having previously driven some friends around the island in a larger rental. I quickly realized the bite point on the clutch was right at the very top of the pedal travel, so low speed maneuvering took some getting used to. With that adjustment made, it became clear this car is in its element on the tiny island. Speed limits are low and roads are rough and potholed when paved and muddy when unpaved, so some bits of 4hi were used to keep the little trucklet moving on rough terrain. As expected, it handled this very well, albeit with a few stalls from operator error. After sunset, a friend drove us out to one of the Moai sites (with a different rental) and some very fun astrophotography happened! This is still one of my favorite photos I've taken-24mm F2.8, two images exposure stacked.
Day 2. Woke up, got on the road to explore more Moai and rock formations, promptly stalled the Jimny again Today’s driving included crossing the saddle road in the center of the island, which meant I got the car up to a truly blistering speed at one point, turning 3000rpm in fourth gear. The little 4cyl and 5MT are definitely geared for low speed precision-5th is 1:1 in fact. I think I tried 5th once but since speed limits on the island were low, going beyond 3rd was hardly ever needed. That said, road manners at low highway speeds were quite calm and NVH was surprisingly quiet, given this is based on a Kei car. Some soft-roading happened again today, and in the typical afternoon rain and mud having 4hi on tap was once again convenient, albeit not required. As someone with minimal offroading experience (other than pick a line around obstacles to not damage the tires and underbody), the Jimny was quite easy to manage, in part to to its tiny size and near-nonexistent overhangs.
Day 3. We started very early, with a flight home around noon. I had woken up with just enough time to catch the sunrise, and got on the road along the south edge of the island, skipping along the rough road along with a line of other rental Jimnys, Hiluxes, and Daihatsus, all hurrying to catch the sunrise at the Ahu Tongariki site (the site with the long line of Moai statues, and pretty much the view that pops into one’s mind when picturing Easter Island). I pushed the Jimny a little bit to keep up with the flow of traffic, some folks were plodding along and some were flying by at a decent clip. Taking the faster pace turned out to be a good call and I was greeted with one of the most spectacular sunrises of my life! The rest of the driving was uneventful, and the car was soon dropped off and we headed home.
The Suzuki Jimny has gone into my memory as a really fun addition to a very memorable trip. While it probably isn’t a great only car/daily in North America (if you can obtain an older imported one) as it’s not really suited to highway cruising, it’s an excellent adventure trucklet and fun to drive. Light, small, and manual everything are usually qualities people like in sporty cars–it makes sense they apply to making 4x4s enjoyable as well.
svend last edited by
A colleague has one at work. In his spare time he goes fishing and shooting in it.
It's his daily driver. He loves the thing.
Just Jeepin' last edited by
I have for a few years now dreamt of renting a Jimny in Iceland, but finances (thanks, Jeep!) and obviously now COVID have precluded such an adventure. Someday, hopefully.
@svend I get why people love them now-not the most practical thing but quite fun.
@Just-Jeepin Thanks! Yeah well worth it if you go somewhere with them available as rentals (when that eventually becomes a possibility). Have never gotten to drive a "proper" Jeep but if this is what it's like I get why folks adore them!
Longtime Lurker last edited by
Damn I want one of these so much.
RallyDarkstrike last edited by
@spacekraken Man....the lack of anything and the small size means I would really love one of these someday....
SilentbutnotreallyDeadly last edited by
I used to own a soft top version of the previous generation. It was surprisingly capable on the open highway given the 1.5 litre engine. It's worth pointing out that there are two versions of the Jimny in the real world - there's the Kei version and the export version with the latter having the bigger engine, wider gearbox ratios and wider track. If you are anywhere but Japan or any other small island then the export version is the one you need...
If I could justify purchasing a new one...I would.
@SilentbutnotreallyDeadly definitely should have noted that-I think this was a 1.5L too, definitely had the larger fenders and wide track.
mtdrift last edited by
@spacekraken Oh man, Rapa Nui is a dream destination for me, the Jimny only seals the deal. Fantastic stuff.
@mtdrift Thanks! Well worth the trip if you ever get the chance (once things settle down, of course). Wish I had more time there-got to go just about everywhere but 2.5 days felt far too short.
mtdrift last edited by
@spacekraken I bet - what an experience.
WhoIsTheLeader last edited by
I would love to get to experience a Jimny in its natural habitat. That sounds like the trip of a lifetime. The Moai picture with the stars is incredible!
@spacekraken We drove one for 5 days in Iceland in February a few years ago. It was possibly the best thing I have ever driven and I will always want one here in Canada.
We called him Jimny, like as in a person. Or Jimnotron like as in an unstoppable superhero. He never let us down. Even in several blizzards with crazy high winds over 12h of driving in a single day. Drove over mountains and volcanos, by the sea, through oceans of volcanic wasteland, through sand, ice, black ice, river ice, 1.5 feet of snow for many km, through towns, hamlets, main roads, highways and potentially non-existent roads.
We picked him up at the airport with keys inside him, and we left him the same way. He was our tour guide, our shelter from the weather and our friend. And yet, every morning like a cantankerous old man, he would refuse to engage 4WD for about 20 minutes of driving. I think he did it as a test. He demanded that I earn his trust and respect while blasting through rural snowdrifts in 2WD laughing and hooting the entire way! He would then capitulate to any crazy whim for the rest of the day.
I miss you Jimny. You complete me.
@just-jeepin It will be life changing. I used to occasionally miss my Wrangler but I never had Wrangler dreams. I have Jimny dreams of cruising down empty moonlight snow covered lava fields while my wife prepares me some Icelandic rye bread and butter. Jimny...
@longtime-lurker if Suzuki gave them out to first time drivers many of them may never own anything but Jimnys. Or they might, but they’d be back. Oh yes, they’d be back.
@sn4cktimes That sounds completely awesome. I keep considering schools in NZ and would absolutely go buy one if I moved there!
Funny-I did the same thing re: airport and keys. Never had the 4wd engage issues. Did you have snow tires? The rear tires on mine were totally shot, and it still would happily pull along dirt roads in the occasional rainstorms.
With your Canadian 15 year import rule some of the 1998-2018 3rd gen (long run, whoa) like those rentals should be importable now...
Now that you mention it, I'm not sure I've driven anything quite as fun. It was quite the arm and leg workout to steer and row through gears, way more involved feeling than anything else I've driven. What a good little tin can.
@spacekraken We were supposed to meet a rep and go over the vehicle when we picked it up, but he was out recovering a car from an accident so just had us snap a few picks and go through the checklist ourselves and snap a pic of that too. Jimnotron had four newish studded tires on him. I think the 4WD had to do with the air actuated hubs. It was cold out at night and I think the humidity in the airlines would freeze up the lines or the hubs themselves. After a bit of driving they would free up and act normal. You could feel when they finally would click in. I could probably get a euro import at this time yeah, but getting one was more than I wanted to spend. At least without my wife having some strong words with me.
@sn4cktimes mmm studded tires probably worked wonders in snow and ice on that thing. Makes sense on the 4WD, always seemed to take a moment to activate even in warm weather.
@spacekraken Yeah, it was pretty great. In the mornings when leaving wherever we were staying and heading out even without 4WD it did remarkably well. And then 4WD would finally lock in and it was full game-on mode while still on rural roads.
It was surprising how many other tourists just rented cars and then ventured out past Reykjavík. Saw quite a few cars in snowy ditches. Icelandic people will not leave anyone stranded in the winter if at all possible. So at least never came across anybody in the boonies freezing their butts off.
If you are in Iceland....bring loads of money (though not literally as it's almost a cashless society). Everything, especially cars, is VERY expensive.