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Four tough SUV rivals the Suzuki's giant-slaying Jimny must battle in SA

2018-11-20 15:00

Charlen Raymond

2018 Suzuki Jimny

Image: Motorpress

Earlier in  November 2018, Suzuki launched its all-new Jimny in South Africa. Though the local motoring fraternity had a good, long glimpse at the SUV at the 2018 SA Festival of Motoring prior to its launch, the hype around this little vehicle continues to excite off-road enthusiasts.

The latest Jimny, the first of a new generation since 1998, is a big departure from the SUV it replaces, yet it retains the familiar design traits we’ve come to recognise it with. The architecture, Suzuki says, has been altered for greater off-road abilities and a new engine/gearbox combination has also been added to the equation.

Work cut out

As much as the hype around Suzuki's giant-slaying 4x4 persists the little SUV still has its work cut out for it as it battles tough local competition.

READ: Suzuki's giant-slaying Jimny driven: Could this be the toughest little 4x4xfar?

First impressions are that the Jimny does not have outright practicality most of the rivals in our below list enjoy (read: bigger boot), but it claws back some ground in terms of bringing a package to market that is truly aimed at the budget-conscious off-road enthusiast.

The new Suzuki Jimny is priced from R264 900 and R319 900.

1. Mahindra Thar: R228 999

Albeit new or used, the Mahindra Thar is the most affordable Jimny rival in our list.

Doing duty without the reputation the Jimny enjoys, the Thar has a similar body style to the Suzuki. Built around the explicit needs of off-road enthusiasts, the Thar offers two front seats only but the roof can be removed manually for those trips through and under the Karoo skies.

At 200mm the ground clearance is some 10mm lower than that of the Jimny’s, but it has a rugged 2.5-litre diesel engine under the nose that develops 79kW and 247Nm of torque. Couple it to a five-speed manual gearbox and a 4x4 system with low range, and the Thar seems to be a go-anywhere proposition.

Carrying a weight of 1.7 tons the Thar is not on the light side but boasts approach and departure angles of 44 and 27 degrees, respectively, which should see it scale and exit inclines without too much hassle. 

The Mahindra Thar is substantially more affordable than the Jimny, but it does not enjoy the reputability of the Suzuki. Nor does the Mahindra name instil the same buying confidence in consumers as Suzuki does. But as an unapologetic alternative that can wander deep into the unknown, the Thar has the credentials.

2. Fiat Panda: R250 900 - R270 900

Fiat has two candidates that can take the fight to the Jimny in its Panda 900T 4x4 (R250 900) and Panda 900T Cross 4x4 (R270 900). Both cars make use of the same turbocharged 0.9-litre two-cylinder engine and torque outputs remain unchanged at 145Nm.

Power output, however, is 63kW for the standard model and 66kW for the Cross. The Panda is perhaps an unlikely rival to the Jimny, but it is one of the few 4x4s in our market retailing for under R300 000 - like the Jimny.

In this company, the Panda is more of an alternative 4x4 to the traditional crop of options, and it has the another unique factor - as its name suggests it's rather cute. 

Though it does not have hardcore off-road toys - like low range and diff lock, for example - it can scale the occasional hill and tackle minor sand dunes if and when the need arises.

It should not be expected of the Panda to be able to do and handle the same excursions as the Jimny, and serious off-road missions should also not be on the to-do list. 

The Cross model does at least have a driving mode selector with which one can toggle through a few driving modes, including Off-Road; which alters the drivetrain for the selected mode. Plus it boasts slightly wider tyres than its sibling.

3. Jeep Renegade 1.6L Sport: R308 900

The only 4x2 on the list, the entry-level Jeep Renegade is built more around practicality but with the benefit of having the renowned Jeep heritage accompanying it. The 1.6-litre engine develops 81kW and 152Nm, mated with a five-speed manual gearbox that sends power to the front wheels.

This Renegade is geared towards the family person that will do little more than hop shopping mall curbs and tackle the occasional stretch of gravel; hence the ground clearance of 175mm that is markedly lower than the Jimny’s.

Jeep Renegade 1.6L Sport

                                                                    Image: Quickpic

To further enhance its family appeal, the Renegade can fit five occupants, whilst also carry their luggage in its 351L boot - 1 297L when the rear seats are folded flat. 

There are 4x4 options in the Renegade’s model range, but the entry-level option is nearer to the Jimny in terms of price; which justifies its inclusion as a rival the newcomer has to beat.

The Renegade has butch looks and the stubby stance makes it instantly recognisable as a Jeep, but it lacks the go-anywhere characteristics of not only the Jimny, but of other vehicles in the Jeep stable.

4. New Renault Duster 1.5 dci 4WD: Price R321 900

Like Suzuki, Renault also launched a new version of its highly popular Duster and has the vehicle been available to the public from 1 October 2018. Selling like hotcakes in our local market, the Duster has proven to be a very popular choice amongst consumers, and leading the charge is the 4WD model.

Despite not having as much 4x4 credentials in its arsenal as the Jimny, the Duster can tackle off-road excursions in much better fashion than some of the above-mentioned rivals.

Renault Duster 1.5 dci 4WD

                                                                  Image: Supplied by Charlen Raymond

The 4WD Duster is powered by the same turbocharged 1.5-litre diesel engine as the outgoing model and power outputs are rated at 80kW and 260Nm - which sees an average fuel economy of 5.2-litres/100km.

This Duster does have a ground clearance of 210mm - same as the Jimny - as well as improved approach and departure angles over the outgoing model. Hill Descent Control has also been added to the 4x4 model. The Duster 4WD is not equipped with low range, but first gear offers enough pulling power to get out of a sticky situation. 

This Duster is available with a six-speed manual gearbox and retails for R321 900.

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