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Maruti Suzuki considering the Jimny for an India debut?

S Muralidhar | Updated on February 13, 2020 Published on February 13, 2020

Here is what we can expect if the compact SUV is prepped for a launch at a NEXA showroom near you

Maruti Suzuki’s legendary ability to keep costs down, and consequently make some of the most affordable cars in the market, has helped it retain the leadership crown for decades. It managed to stay in contention as times changed and buyer preferences evolved; and even top bosses of competing brands readily doff their virtual hats in appreciation.

But, times are changing even faster than anticipated, and one fallout is going to be a quicker than expected change in customer expectations. Maruti’s ability to stay in the race will be tested, as is the case right now. NEXA cars and showrooms, Maruti’s attempt at creating more premium vehicles that are also supported by providing an equally special, premium buying and servicing experience, was born out of this need to evolve in time with the change in buyer preferences. But more buyers are skipping buying low-end entry small cars, choosing public transport and ride sharing options instead, and the others are seeking an upgrade to a B+ segment hatch or compact SUV. That is the segment of buyers who will consider the Baleno and Vitara Brezza. Maruti needs more models of a similar quality and calibre to keep up the tempo.

Spiritual successor

Can the Suzuki Jimny be that blockbuster new model that can keep the interest going for Maruti? It is a special vehicle that has a cult following worldwide, with a lot of fans in India, too. But can Maruti’s special ability to keep costs down help it get the Jimny in at a competitive price? For a start, Maruti showcased the Jimny at the Auto Expo last week in an attempt at trying to get customer feedback and ultimately gauge if it should even attempt bringing the cutesy SUV to our shores. It has long been speculated that the Jimny would be brought to India. But there has been no official word from the company itself and that status continues even today, though this time Maruti does seem to be keen on taking that last step if there is enough buyer interest.

The Jimny has had a spectacular run of about five decades, selling nearly three million units till date. Being related to the legendary Maruti Gypsy, the Jimny also shares a lot of its fundamental design language with the former. The rectangular front, round headlamps and part clamshell bonnet will remind you of the Gypsy. But the rest of the Jimny is more square due to its compact proportions. The original Jimny was a Japanese ‘Kei’ car, sub-3-metres in length and with a small displacement engine. The second generation Jimny was directly related to the Gypsy and was also similarly developed to be offered in a different body style including a pick-up truck. The fourth generation Jimny of today is still primarily a ‘Kei’ car in Japan and even its global version is sub-4-metre in length. But it’s off-road prowess belies its size.

Design influences

The Jimny’s design seems like it has been influenced by a mix of other sports utilities including the Jeep Wrangler, the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen and the Land Rover Defender. Suzuki calls the wider version of the vehicle Jimny Sierra (on display at the Auto Expo 2020). With its tightly tucked-in fenders and compact packaging the Jimny can be brought into India as a sub-4-metre premium compact SUV that would be positioned above the Vitara Brezza. Worldwide the vehicle is offered with the Suzuki K15B petrol engine paired with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic gearbox. The same should be possible here, too.

Under its metrosexual skin, the Jimny is actually capable of tackling the wild, with features like a ladder frame, 37-degree approach angle and 49-degree departure angle, part-time four-wheel drive (called All-Grip Pro) with a low-range transfer gear and three-link rigid axle suspension. My guess is that if the call is made, Maruti Suzuki could end up bringing in a long wheelbase version that is still sub-4-metres in length, but will be a five-door version, that also offers a retrofittable spare wheel at the rear door. It is highly likely it will be offered only in a front-wheel drive version, with the four-wheel drive version being considered post-launch.

Published on February 13, 2020
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