New Jimny is due soon and its legacy looks secure
As a motoring journalist, with privileged access to Suzuki’s ‘inner sanctum’, me and my colleagues are provided with some truly outstanding test drive opportunities. One of the most entertaining took place towards the end of last year, at a ‘secret’ off-road ground, in South Wales, that is also used as a competitive stage of the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB (scheduled to take place 4th to 7th October 2018, should you wish to spectate).
With the latest Swift, S-Cross, Ignis and Vitara models also displaying their off-road and 4x4 prowess, the Jimny was in hallowed company. Despite its compact dimensions, it remains one of the most competent all-rounders. Incidentally, the current model has been part of our motoring scene since 2013, although its lineage stretches back around 48 years.
Featuring a push-button selectable 4WD system, complete with both high and low-ratio gear sets, a Jimny will take you into serious off-road territory (as long as you have permission to be there in the first place!). In fact, it can tackle broken surfaces and difficult terrain with as much aplomb as any Land Rover, with the added bonus of being lighter, which means it is less likely to become stuck fast in really difficult conditions.
Yet, with automatic freewheeling hubs and a comfortable specification in either SZ3, or SZ4, trim levels, a Jimny also makes sense as an on-road car. A rigid body-on-chassis construction, all-round coil sprung suspension and ALLGRIP PRO 4x4 system ensures that Jimny is both sturdily built and exceptionally dependable.
With 190mm ground clearance, obstacle, or ramp, approach and departure angles of 34 and 46 degrees respectively, there is little danger of its undersides being scarred by even the most challenging of routes. Tackling a series of challenges at the Welsh ‘proving ground’ that included 45-degree steep hills covered in a treacherous mix of mud and rock-strewn surfaces, the wee Jimny was barely fazed by the experience. It ploughed through sill-deep water courses and tests that most customers would never contemplate. The joyful smiles on the faces of my colleagues further underscored the genuine pleasure attached to Jimny driving.
Yet, a new model is due soon. The durable 1.3-litre petrol engine is replaced by an all-new 1.5-litre 101bhp alternative, with a choice of 5-speed manual, or 4-speed automatic gearboxes. In looks alone, it is unmistakable as a go-anywhere vehicle.
It is an immensely humble small car and still rides on its separate ladder chassis, sprung by coils and with a low-range transfer gearbox. It is exceedingly robust and available in a choice of eight cheerful and purposeful colours. While remaining easy to drive, even if the driver is wearing thick gloves and boots, the new Jimny features a much larger luggage area and more equipment than the outgoing model, especially with the latest driver aids, and it really looks the part.
Luscombe’s summary: Suzuki has a strong reputation for the off-road capabilities of its 4x4 models and none more so than with the purposeful Jimny. The new model expands its repertoire, without losing any of its kerbside appeal.
Next week, Iain reveals why the Vitara 1.4S is the best rallycar for all surfaces!
Cruising at an adjustably safe distance
Known as ‘distance cruise control’, several new Suzuki models feature a semi-autonomous driver aid that Iain Robertson has grown to trust and rely on, even though he admits that he struggled to understand its relevance originally.
We are confronted by increasing amounts of ‘new technology’ in our cars, some of which can seem completely unnecessary upon first acquaintance. However, in today’s motoring environment, recognised by governments, as being potentially lethal, a huge emphasis is being placed on ‘autonomous motoring’, by which the human variable is removed from the responsibility of driving.
It is fair to state that we have become familiar with antilock brakes, or ABS, which can stop a car very quickly and without skidding uncontrollably, especially on challenging road surfaces. By the same token, stability control (also known in a less technical form as traction control) ensures that your vehicle can progress safely in difficult climatic conditions, whether they be blisteringly hot, or icily cold, by retaining its balance, as required. Both are now standard features, as dictated by the EU, on all new cars.
Distance cruise control, also known as adaptive cruise control (ACC), uses some of that technology but factors in a compact radar unit that, on my Suzuki Baleno, is sited behind the ‘S’ badge on the radiator grille.
It is regarded as ‘smart’ technology, in that the system ‘reads’ what lies ahead of your car and, if you are using the cruise mode and the vehicle ahead slows, it will decrease your vehicle speed gradually, by electronically reducing the pressure being applied on the accelerator. Ultimately, it will even apply the brakes, unless you take avoidance action by overtaking, or the vehicle/obstacle ahead is assessed as being no longer a ‘threat’ to steady speed progress. If you touch the brake pedal, the cruise setting will be cancelled until reset.
If it reads like an episode from a Star Wars movie, it is not so long ago that it might have been that way! My initial reluctance to use the adaptive cruise control arose from a stoical resistance, perhaps even arrogance, to accept that my car can sometimes ‘know better’ than me. Well, the truth is, it does not. I have always believed that I can use my 20:20 vision and my hyperactive brain to work out distances and closing speeds, which help to keep me out of trouble. Yet, the Suzuki system does have a small amount of Artificial Intelligence, by which its admittedly small learning capacity can operate within exceptionally safe parameters.
A fingertip control switch on the right-hand cross-spoke of my Baleno’s steering wheel allows me to adjust through three pre-set distances that can be read on the central display screen (between the speedometer and rev-counter).
If I desire an early-warning of approaching a vehicle, the maximum of three ‘blocks’ will be displayed. If I can tolerate a closer warning, only one block will appear but, at around 200 feet ahead, I can still take safe avoidance action in plenty of time. If the car’s brakes are applied ‘autonomously’, that is without my intervention, they are illustrated on the screen and I can feel the retardation, without touching anything. Should I be unable to overtake the slower vehicle, such as on a motorway, when the outside lane might be full of faster traffic, the brakes will continue to be applied by the technology, until I clear the obstacle, at which time the accelerator will return the car to the speed at which I have set the cruise (also legible on the small screen).
The truly smart bit lies in the fact that, if a hold-up occurs, my Baleno will come virtually to a full-stop, giving me both an audible and a visual warning that I need to depress the clutch pedal, to avoid stalling, and draw to a halt. Once familiar with the system, I have found that it works faultlessly and allows me to enjoy my driving even more. It is especially useful, when I am feeling bored by traffic densities on our over-crowded main roads.
Incidentally, when setting the speed at which I want to cruise, having depressed the ‘SET’ rocker switch on the right-hand spoke of the steering-wheel, I simply dab its upper edge to increase my intended speed in 1mph increments, or hold it in, taking care not to exceed posted speed limits. By dabbing on the lower edge, I can decrease the set speed in the same way, glancing at the small screen to ascertain what that speed might be.
It is very easy to acclimatise to adaptive cruise control and, while I do not use it every day, it is available to me as I require it.
Luscombe’s summary: Last week, we showed the results of a survey that showed 71% of over-55s found it much easier to acclimatise themselves to new technology than around 51% of 18-24 year olds. Luscombe Suzuki helps customers of all ages and, should any technological issues be brought to bear, a member of our team will be sure to find a solution for you.
Next week: Iain takes a closer look at ‘keyless entry and start-stop’.
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