Two decisions that Maruti Suzuki took a few years ago are beginning to bear fruit now. One was its call to focus on increasing sports utility vehicles in its portfolio of passenger vehicles. And the other was the decision to introduce a parallel, premium vehicle-focused dealership network in NEXA. One helped ramp up its presence in the SUV segment to a point where Maruti is confident that it’ll be the top manufacturer of SUVs in India this year. And the other has helped build its brand and improve its bottom line while also enabling it to climb out of the image of being excessively mass-market focused. 

Its biggest opportunity yet to leverage both decisions comes in the form of the new Maruti Suzuki Jimny. The subcompact Jimny is unlike any Maruti before. The 3-door Jimny has been a global icon since 1970, but it has now been extensively reengineered for the Indian market. Unlike previous Maruti models that were largely tested and validated by Suzuki in Japan after getting some engineering input from the Indian subsidiary, the new 5-door Jimny has been specially developed for this market. It is another matter that many other countries, including Japan, now want the 5-door model. It is also a sign of Maruti’s growing confidence that the Jimny is a four-seater and is being launched with 4x4 as standard. It’ll also get only two loaded variants each for the manual transmission and automatic gearbox that are offered with only one engine option.

So, the new 5-door Maruti Suzuki Jimny is obviously not for everyone. It is not an upgrade for the average current Maruti hatch owner unless that buyer wants the genuine off-road performance that the Jimny can deliver. It is good to know that Maruti is not going to chase numbers in India and that the 3-door Jimny is already being exported from its India operations, with the possibility of the 5-door following suit. So Maruti should have its costs covered even with low domestic volumes. However, it is still going to be a tight rope walk to price the Jimny right, given its subcompact size and relatively small segment of buyers who are genuine off-road enthusiasts.

Flared wheel archesdeliver so much of the SUV flavour despite the Jimny’s sub-four-metre footprint

Flared wheel archesdeliver so much of the SUV flavour despite the Jimny’s sub-four-metre footprint | Photo Credit: BIJOY GHOSH

The global fourth-Gen Jimny hasn’t grown much in terms of proportions. But the Indian 5-door model’s wheelbase is over a foot longer. Yet, it is still just short of four metres in length. The width is also barely 1.7 metres, and the tread is just 1.4 metres, indicating that the cabin will be quite compact. But it is not just its ladder-frame chassis and mechanical underbody that are off-road focused. The Jimny’s approach angle is 36 degrees, its departure angle is 47 degrees, and the breakover angle is 24. Its ground clearance is a generous 210mm, which is huge for a small wheelbase SUV. 

The design of the new Maruti Suzuki Jimny is a mix of three ingredients: a big dollop each of retro-modern appeal and nostalgia, and a hint of cutesy charm. The Jimny was showcased earlier this year at the Auto Expo, and its design evokes a lot of nostalgia, even amongst those who may not be aware of the brand’s global popularity. Much of that comes from the fact that the Jimny is like a spiritual successor to the legendary Maruti Gypsy. The sharply angled clamshell bonnet, round headlamps and circular turn indicators inside a squared-off housing, and even dummy vents on either side of the bonnet, clearly point to where the design inspiration has been drawn from for the Jimny. It also gets legacy design features in its bonnet grille, the upright A-pillar, and boxy profile. The side character line, shoulder line, and waistline are all parallel to the ground, and those large, flared wheel arches captured by the resin moulded black panel deliver so much of the SUV flavour despite the Jimny’s sub-four-metre footprint. In fact, the 15-inch alloys and the Bridgestone Dueler tyres don’t fill out the wheel arches enough, and yet, the stance of the Jimny is still good.

The other highlight is the flat roof with its rain gutter (drip rail), making the design unique and giving the Jimny its appeal. It also gets LED headlamps with individual washers and a front fender constructed to handle the rough and tumble of off-roading while also complementing the rest of the front design. The rear design is simple but apt for the Jimny, with a vertical square slab-like tailgate that is hinged on the side. And the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate adds a lot to the SUV’s stance. The rear fender is a simple straight unit with the kind of tail-lamp design that we have seen in the Gypsy. 

The mix of circular and squared-off elements in the cabin design is interesting

The mix of circular and squared-off elements in the cabin design is interesting | Photo Credit: BIJOY GHOSH

The Jimny’s interior is also very different from the cabins of other models in Maruti’s portfolio. The SUV-like vertical layout for the dashboard, with the utilitarian bits like the grab handle on the passenger side and the easy-to-operate flip-switch style controls for the power windows, hill descent control, and ESC (electronic stability control). The mix of circular and squared-off elements in the cabin design is interesting. The aircon vents, the circular dials inside the square twin-pod instrument binacle, and the mix of controls for auto climate control, etc., reflect this dual theme. The dashboard panels and trim inserts are a combination of textured plastic panels and faux aluminium.

The Suzuki signature 3-spoke steering wheel is leather-clad in the top trim and is offered with controls for the infotainment system and cruise control. The infotainment touchscreen is a 22.86cm unit in the top trim and a smaller 17.78cm unit in the lower ‘Zeta’ trim variant. There’s wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for connectivity and the top trim Alpha gets Maruti’s interface suite Smart Play Pro+ with Arkamys surround sound tuning for the 4-speaker music system. The Jimny doesn’t get a sunroof, and wireless phone charging is also missing. The front seats are comfy with a good set of squabs offering enough support. The rear seats feel a bit less so. I would also have liked seat height adjustment at least for the driver’s side, and few more cubby holes and storage options in the cabin, more so since the thin door construction means the space in the panels is enough only for maps or small bottles. The boot space in the Jimny is also a bit low at about 220-litres when all four seats are in use. It goes up to about 330-litres when the rear seats are folded.

The 1,462 cc engine produces a peak power of 104.8 PS and peak torque of 134.2 Nm

The 1,462 cc engine produces a peak power of 104.8 PS and peak torque of 134.2 Nm | Photo Credit: BIJOY GHOSH

The Jimny is being offered with the 1.5-litre, K15B petrol engine. The 1,462 cc engine produces a peak power of 104.8 PS and peak torque of 134.2 Nm. That is a healthy output for a vehicle that weighs only about 1,200 kg. Large, heavy off-roaders need the low-end torque advantage that diesel engines offer, but I was sure that the Jimny should feel nimble despite its small displacement petrol. The engine is paired with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic gearbox. There are only two trim variants each –Zeta and Alpha – on offer for the two transmissions. I test drove the top trim of both the gearbox variants on the roads surrounding Dehradun and through multiple off-road courses that had been curated during the media drive event last week. The manual is, of course, the one that can be more engaging, the auto doesn’t get steering-mounted paddles or +/- gear selection. The auto gets the usual complement of P, R, N, D slots for parking, reverse, neutral, and drive. But also gets a low and “2” gear slots. In both, there is a smaller shift stick for selecting 2H (two-wheel drive), 4H (four-wheel drive high speed) and 4L (four-wheel low for off-road). The ARAI rated fuel efficiency of the Jimny is 16.94 kmpl for the MT and 16.39 kmpl for the AT (would be in 2WD mode). The mileage average you see in these pictures was after a whole day of driving with a mix of 4H and 4L modes.

The engine feels peppy enough on the road and manages to pull through the off-road sections with relative ease. Even the rock crawl is put away confidently, and the Jimny climbs over large boulders that can be handled by its clearances. I certainly wouldn’t try any of the off-road sections with a vehicle that has any less prowess. Gear shifts on the slightly long-throw manual gearbox are still crisp thanks to a progressive clutch and clean gating. But the shift to 4L with the low-range transfer gear stick is a bit notchy.

Off-road prowess

The Jimny is a genuine off-roader and will surprise you with its abilities. It is a sight to behold a sub-compact drive upstream in the middle of a rivulet, take on water that’s nearly a foot deep, climb a rocky hillside, and hustle down a steep muddy slope. The Jimny’s off-roading ability is built into its genes. The mechanical limited slip differential and the transfer case for engaging four-wheel drive high and low are just some of the features that the Jimny gets under the All Grip Pro umbrella. But under the skin there’s more, including the ladder frame chassis, steering dampers to reduce kickback and the long-stroke 3-link rigid axle suspension. The Jimny is also offered with features like hill hold control, hill descent control, brake assist and six airbags as part of standard fitment.

Much more than the curated tracks which may have needed some preparation for the Jimny’s clearances, it was picking my way through the massive, rock-strewn riverbed that inspired more confidence. The Jimny is as capable as any of the off-roading icons in the automotive world, and is limited only by its relatively small footprint. 

Bottom Line

The Jimny’s suspension is aided by its full-width rigid axle, which ensures better grounding while off-roading by applying higher pressure on one wheel, when the other one is forced upwards. The suspension is equally adept at keeping the vehicle stable and unruffled while driving over broken tarmac. It is just a bit bouncy over speed breakers. 

So, is this the compact off-roader we have all been waiting for? In my view, it is. Maruti is expected to officially announce prices next week, and my guess is that a lot of potential buyers are waiting for that info before taking a call. In its current form, the Jimny is unlikely to be priced right for the average subcompact SUV buyer. Apparently, there isn’t going to be a two-wheel-drive only version anytime soon. But if you are a fan of either the Jimny or of the great outdoors, this is the best sub-four-metre all-terrain SUV your money can get. Prices should range between ₹11 lakh and ₹13 lakh.