Enroute to Mahabaleshwar, the SUV tackles the pothole-ridden highway well, but we also discover some shortcomings.
It was a road to hell before I reached heaven, a hellish drive on NH66 to the heavenly Mahabaleshwar. Dashing up to the hill station to catch the tail end of the monsoon is my favourite time to visit my favourite place in the world. In early October, Mahabaleshwar is cool, misty and still cloaked in a soothing bright green. The departing clouds play hide and seek with the sun, which graces the hills with an appearance after four months of non-stop rain.
But whilst Mahabaleshwar is best at this time of the year, the roads are at their worst. This year’s prolonged monsoon has pummeled the erstwhile NH17 Mumbai-Goa highway (now NH66). It’s still unfinished in large parts, and when it’s pouring and visibility is poor, this highway – which suddenly morphs from a superbly paved three-lane road to a single lane of broken tarmac – is particularly treacherous. Perfect conditions then to break in (not break!) our long-term Jimny into the Mahabaleshwar ritual.
Long-travel suspension makes easy work of potholes.
We’ve lived with the Jimny long enough to see how well it can splash through a river, scurry up and down precipitous dirt tracks and generally pull itself out of any sticky situation, but just how good would it be on a road with potholes big enough to swallow this little SUV?
I was hugely impressed with how this dainty Jimny danced over potholes with the deftness of a ballerina. The Jimny has lots of wheel travel so even the deepest of potholes don’t faze it, unlike many soft-roaders which hit their bump stops with a jarring thud as if you’ve broken something. However, straight-line stability isn’t great, and it gets affected by crosswinds and tends to rock from side to side on the bumpy patch of NH66.
Fuel efficiency impressive for a tall, body-on-frame SUV.
Also, what I wasn’t impressed with is the gutless 1.5-litre petrol, which is mated to an equally sluggish 4-speed auto. Overtaking on the single-lane bits of the NH66 required serious concentration and planning. The naturally aspirated engine needs to be wound hard and the 4-speed auto’s widely stacked ratios lazily serve up the power for passing manoeuvres. The easiest way to overtake is to wait for potholes that the Jimny doesn’t have to slow down for. So when I see a line of cars crawling through massive craters, I just pull to the right and sail past all of them!
Cup holders small and inconveniently placed behind in the centre console.
The lack of good storage space is another problem in the Jimny. There’s nowhere really to put your stuff in the narrow cabin. The cup holders are inconveniently far back in the centre console, and even the shelf for your phone (there’s no wireless charging) isn’t well designed and doesn’t hold your phone well.
Lack of power makes overtaking hard work.
Hard driving, which included a 30km charge up the Ambenali Ghat, took its toll on fuel efficiency. A figure of 10.1kpl is low by Maruti standards but, quite honestly, great for what the Jimny is. If I drove the same way in any turbo-petrol, I would have been hard-pressed to better 7-8kpl. Driving it downhill, I got 15kpl, which is 50 percent better than the journey up. Gravity is a wonderful thing!