Having unveiled the Suzuki Jimny 5-door at the 2023 Festival of Motoring, our editor Damian Adams headed to Durban to drive the new model 400 km to the inaugural Suzuki Jimny Gathering in Clarens in the Eastern Free State.
Following an early and rushed start to the morning, my wife and I arrived in a naturally hazy and humid Durban which certainly provided some reprieve from the icy-cold and wet spring weather Cape Town had been serving us. Once the JHB flight had disembarked and joined us, we then made our way to the hotel in a Suzuki Ertiga, checked in and freshened up. After a very chaotic morning and quite a bit of waiting around, we were starving, so there was very little hesitation when we found a Lamb Curry Pizza on the menu, when in Durban! It was deliciously spicy and certainly not for the faint of heart.
The evening wound down with some chats & drinks as we soaked up the last bit of sun before settling in for the night. Excitement was in the air as we prepared to meet the 5-door Suzuki Jimny the next morning. It’s a vehicle that many have been talking about and with just six units in the country (one of which is a homologation unit) we were exceedingly keen to see whether the 5-door offers the same level of fun, character and 4×4 prowess as its popular sibling
We were up at the crack of dawn and off to Suzuki Durban to collect the 5-door units fresh off the boat from India where the vehicles are built. There are currently six of them in the country, and it was a privilege to be one of the first few to get behind the wheel of the new Jimny. They come in seven colour options including two dual-tone choices – Sizzling Red, Nexa Blue, Granite Gray, Pearl Arctic White and Bluish Black. We chose the latter for its gorgeous paintwork. In the light, the SUV looks navy blue with a metallic sparkle while in the dark it comes across as jet black.
We signed the necessary indemnity forms, smashed a coffee from the dealership’s café, took some photographs, dragged some Suzuki employees into shooting some content with us and finally packed our bags into the relatively cavernous boot of our Blueish Black Jimny. We were finally off to a Jimny Jol in Clarens for the Jimny Gathering Weekend 2023. We made numerous stops between Durban and Clarens to ogle at the Magical Valley of a Thousand Hills, mountain passes, fauna & flora as of course the closer we got to Clarens, the best view was the seemingly endless stream of Jimny drivers entering the town.
The camaraderie was simply unmatched, one may even call it cult-like. Did you flash the person you were approaching? Did you hoot and a broad smile split across your face? Did you throw up some “lekker” hand signals out the window and wave it about? Then you were in a Jimny, greeting a complete stranger, yet a defacto family member in another Jimny. We drove into the scenic town and very quickly cottoned on to the way of life in this Moer and Gone village. Being a Jimny owner is that owner’s entire personality, respectfully. And I can honestly see why. It’s a simple, affordable, adaptable, purpose-built 4×4 that manages to be simultaneously cool and cute.
When we finally arrived after much genuine smiling, waving and flashing like faulty a strobe light in a sokkie bar, we were fitted with many festival bands which spoke to the exclusivity we were about to experience as drivers of the esteemed Jimny Giants, because we were pulling into the event in one of the only six 5-doors around. The Jimny fraternity over the first few hours after arriving absolutely swarmed the vehicle and if we were driving by too quickly, we’d overhear “Kyk daar! Dis die vyf-deur!” And see a number of excited pointed fingers.
We settled into our glamping accommodation, accustomed ourselves to the most important things at the campsite and then we were off to a business presentation with none other than the Jinmy’s chief designer Hisanori Matsushima. Matsushima has seen his Jimny design become a global best-seller and see it named the Urban Car of the Year at the World Car of the Year Awards in 2019. He of course penned the new five-door. It was a privilege to hear the sheer passion and dedication from Matsushima as he discussed his process of designing the current generation Jimny with and got into the challenges he and his team faced. Equally, it was tremendous for us to the man responsible for the Jimny’s iconic design witness how strong the Jimny community is in Mzansi.
After the business session, there were so many things set up for the weekend for us to experience at the campsite from lawn games, a ping-pong table, a kids play area, a communal braai area and an incredible firepit, relatively decent ablution facilities and obviously the entire area was adorned with Jimnys. We drove into the official town of Clarens to grab some dinner and when we returned to the Campsite the silent disco had commenced and we fell asleep to the sounds of the purring generator (which was providing us with electricity and, albeit exceptionally patchy, WiFi for the weekend). Chattering teeth were apparent in the midst of the night as temperatures had dropped from 33 degrees to a solid 3 degrees Celsius that night.