We spent four days in the wild at the helm of the feel-good Suzuki Jimny … 

Behind me? Three shipwrecks, a haunted house and about 500 km of the Northern Cape’s finest gravel. Under me? Suzuki’s beloved underdog, the plucky and resilient Suzuki Jimny … This model hides a secret, but we’ll get to that later. For now, it’s another hundred or so kilometres of gravel travel, followed by a 580 km stint back to Cape Town on more urban (read asphalt) roads. I was elated.

Suzuki Jimny

Day 1: getting on with it

We landed at an empty Upington airport, and before you could say “low range”, we were in the front pews of our Jimny. The next stop would be Pofadder.

What’s better than being invited to spend four days “coddiwompling” through the desert in one of your all-time favourite adventure whips? The answer: an opportunity to do so with your significant other, as was the case when Suzuki invited me to spend a weekend at the wheel of the new, India-assembled Jimny. Yup, that’s the secret I mentioned earlier. Despite each of its parts and components being meticulously crafted in Japan, the Jimny is ultimately built somewhere else in Asia. How do you feel about that? Me? Honestly, I couldn’t be bothered because we were only informed of this some 600 km into our meander, during which my silver Rhino Edition model had already proven a trusty ally.

My other ally was my wife, Kelly, who had undertaken a few crucial roles of her own, such as DJ, ensuring nothing but the choicest tracks were pumping through our Jimny’s sound system. Equally important was her custodianship of the cooler bag, the source of snacks and drinks. Together, the three of us were ready to take on the world but thankfully only had to contend with the tarmac to Pofadder… for now.

So, a couple of things: the Jimny is renowned for its ability to bloody the noses of larger, more pedigreed 4x4s. What I mean is, it’s properly capable off-road, tremendously tenacious and has all the articulation required to scrabble up most surfaces and over rock gardens. Counterpoint, as a little city runabout, the 75 kW and 130 Nm from its 1.5-litre engine are more than up to the task, provided its compact dimensions can carry you and your squad. For the pair of us and our luggage, it was adequate. Were there any more occupants than this? Well, prepare to compromise. But on this 230 km stretch of freeway, space wasn’t an issue. The Suzuki Jimny’s highway demeanour, however, was. I refer to a maximum speed of circa 130 km/h, the battle with crosswinds, and the engine drone at 5 000 r/min.

Our test car was endowed with a four-speed automatic transmission. But damning the Jimny for the way it goes on the blacktop between towns would be missing the point, a fact we were reminded of as we relegated Pofadder from the Jimny’s flat windscreen to its rearview mirror and began crunching up gravel and dirt to Pella in the Namakwa. We trundled through dried-up riverbeds, passed remote caves, saw sheep and goats and met their herders too. We heard stories of old churches, carved tracks through canyons, drove through a giant date farm and ultimately camped under the stars in the most remote part of South Africa I’d ever had the privilege of being in. And this was still the first day.

Suzuki Jimny

Day 2: Klein Pella through the Namaqualand

At 6:30 am, we cracked our tent’s window ever so slightly, immediately filling it with far too much sunlight for this time of day. Dusty, and a bit groggy, we succumbed to the great outdoors in search of our first cup of coffee. A couple of hundred kilometres of tar between here and Springbok via Spektakel Pass and then back onto the dirt to Die Houthoop guest house near Kleinsee was also on the menu. This meant meandering alongside the Orange River, flirting with the Namibian border and taking in oil-painting vistas, spotting all manners of antelope and forming quite the bond with our Rhino Edition Suzuki Jimny. That I had my curly-haired wife at my side and Tom Petty in my ears only helped make this car and this trip that much more memorable.

Before we knew it, we arrived at our accommodation for the next two nights. The sky was as pink as it was yellow, and it was plenty yellow with wild slashes of powder blue. It looked like a veritable piece of art. I parked my Jimny under it, we filled our bellies and rested our heads.

Day 3: a sojourn through the Skeleton Coast

Look, I didn’t mean for this to become a journal, but here we are – fresh, recharged and revving for adventure. So imagine our joy at being told that, for the next five hours, we’d be crawling along the Skeleton Coast. Here the ground was thick sand, and we’d spend most of the day in low range as a result. The Suzuki Jimny took it all in its stride. As I mentioned at the start, we rolled by and explored the wrecks of three ships, dwarfing our little Suzukis. I saw a few ostriches, plus several birds of the flying variety too. The waves were tall and crashed hard into the rocky banks of beaches, covered in sharp seashells. As a Capetonian boy, I enjoyed seeing my Joburg colleagues delight in the experience and could scarcely believe we got here – deep in diamond-mining country – by

Jimny. We returned to our accommodation just long enough to recharge our cameras before heading into the red dunes around Kleinsee to play well into the night, kicking up rooster tails as we went. The sunset was a deep purple when we left the dunes, but by the time we arrived back at our lodge, all the colours and light had drained from the sky.

Day 4: the long journey home

The final day began like all the others – with a gratuitous meal. Gosh, we ate like kings and queens in the Northern Cape. I think I’ll carry some of the memories with me for the rest of my life. But eventually, we got around to packing our Jimny to the rafters (something that happens quickly in a car this tiny in stature). First, we pointed its silver bonnet South in the direction of Springbok, eating up the gravelly mountain passes in between. Then, we aimed it much further South – homeward to the Cape, to be precise – along the quiver tree-lined N7 and, with that, just under 600 km of asphalt.

As I said before, this isn’t the Suzuki Jimny’s favourite place to be. Yet, after four days in the wild, I was relieved to thumb the cruise control button and let the auto’ box handle swapping the gears while I revelled in my wonderful company and took in the views and sounds of the journey back home. Memories made.

Suzuki Jimny 1.5 AllGrip GLX AT

  • Price: R385 900
  • Engine: 1.5 L, 4-cyl, petrol
  • Transmission: 4-spd AT
  • Driven wheels: 4
  • Power: 75 kW @ 6 000 r/min
  • Torque: 130 Nm @ 4 000 r/min
  • 0-100 km/h: n/a
  • Top speed: n/a
  • Fuel consumption: 6.8 L/100 km
  • CO2: 158 g/km