Indeed, it’s the cultural impact of the feisty little Suzuki that has refocused attention on what a proper 4WD can do. And in the case of the three you see here, that’s plenty.
While comparing a $24K three-door manual box-on-wheels with a $73K diesel seven-seat wagon and a $75K off-road-bashing dual-cab might seem like madness, it’s not about how many marbles you have in a jar, it’s what you do with them that counts.
So, we have the one-spec-only Jimny GLX AllGrip up against Toyota’s second-from-top Prado (the VX) and Ford’s most well-rounded Ranger (the pumped-up Raptor) – each aiming to impress with their on-road versatility and off-road invincibility. Time to get dirty.
One of these dedicated 4WDs is definitely not like the other ones – or any other new car on Earth. The Suzuki Jimny remains steadfastly committed to a vehicle type we fell for in the 1970s, and while this characterful newborn maintains that utility focus, today’s Jimny features the mod-cons expected for its $23,990 (before on-roads) price.
You get LED headlights, front fog lights, 15-inch alloy wheels, power windows (auto-up/down for the driver), climate control, cruise control, a hill-holder, hill-descent control, a leather steering wheel, a rear-view camera and a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with embedded sat-nav and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, plus USB and 12-volt outlets (including one in the boot). But that’s it for the highlights.
Admittedly, you also electrically adjustable mirrors and a rear window washer/wiper, but this isn’t 1985 anymore. A pair of switch blanks says someone else’s Jimny also gets heated front seats, but not ours. And you best not go searching for a reach-adjustable steering column, a digital speedo read-out or more than two audio speakers because they don’t exist.
At $73,619, the Toyota Prado VX sits close to the top of the baby LandCruiser tree, beaten by the flagship Kakadu that costs $7500 more and is identical to the VX if you ignore its sunroof, 9.0-inch rear-seat entertainment system with three wireless headphones, wood-look steering-wheel inserts and Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) with air springs.
VX highlights include auto-levelling LED headlamps with LED fog lights, front and rear parking sensors, seven leather-appointed seats with heating and fan-cooling for the fully electric front pair and heating for the outer middle row, three-zone climate control, rear privacy glass, a refrigerated cool box, and a premium JBL 14-speaker stereo with 8.0-inch colour touchscreen, sat-nav, digital radio and a single CD slot.
The Ranger Raptor’s $75,390 sticker is this group’s steepest, though it goes way beyond the Ranger Wildtrak below it in so many areas, including bespoke body panels and suspension hardware, and a high-end interior treatment.
It brings keyless entry and start, heated leather/suede sports front seats (eight-way electric for the driver), dual-zone climate control, a 230-volt three-prong plug outlet in the rear seat, an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with sat-nav, digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, voice recognition, a single CD slot and six speakers, a tray liner, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
In the Jimny’s case, basic but highly functional. There might be a plethora of hard plastic and more than a whiff of a 1970s LandCruiser about the Suzuki’s cabin, but it all works really well.
The steering wheel is a tilt-only affair, though somehow the lack of reach adjustment isn’t really an issue. The window sills are at exactly the right height to rest your forearm on, the seats feature only basic adjustment but are surprisingly comfortable and supportive, and external vision is fantastic.
The multimedia system is reasonably simple to operate and the audio quality of the Jimny’s two speakers is acceptable, while the placement of all the controls is simple and logical.
The elephant in the room is the Jimny’s tiny 85-litre boot – accessed by a swinging tailgate that provides a useful modesty screen when getting changed at the beach – though the (tolerable) rear seats both fold completely flat to extend the rear area to 377 litres. They’re also hard-backed in order to cop a caning, which fits the whole vibe of this car.
As a two-person beach mobile or camping companion, it’s actually quite practical – especially considering its size.
The Ranger Raptor and Prado VX are both in another league when it comes to cabin space, seating opulence and standard equipment. And it’s the Raptor that wins for outright seat comfort and plushness of materials.
Its leather/suede trim combination, tasteful blue stitching, really comfortable three-person rear bench and exceptional sports front seats all befit its $75K price. But if you want to nitpick, only the driver’s window is auto-up/down and you can only manually shift gears via its magnesium steering-column paddles, not via the gear lever.
The current Prado VX now dates back nearly 10 years in design, though it’s stood the test of time far better than anyone could’ve expected. Admittedly, its interior is where that age is most obvious, thanks to a scattering of switches and controls that seem like they were thrown at the dashboard in the hope of landing in an approximate order.
Yet everything is pretty simple to use, there’s a truckload of equipment to play with – much more than the engineering-biased Ranger Raptor – and a stack of room in all three rows, including the boot.
Indeed, the Prado VX is so roomy and well equipped that, besides its less well-endowed engine and towing capacity, you have to wonder why anyone needs a full-size LandCruiser instead of this.
Given the lack of wet-road grip of its 195/80R15 off-road-biased tyres, its instability in strong crosswinds, its taller-than-it-is-wide stance and the lack of precision when demanding quick direction changes at speed, the Suzuki Jimny doesn’t suffer fools and isn’t a car we’d recommend for first-time drivers. It’s a 4WD that needs to be treated with respect because you ultimately can’t overcome physics.
The Raptor’s 285/70R17 BFGoodrich tyres might be loved by off-road enthusiasts, however they’re similarly grip-challenged on wet bitumen surfaces.
What the Raptor does have in its favour, though, is a much higher level of dynamic ability, superior control in our passive-safety exercises, and a five-star ANCAP rating (compared to just three stars for the Jimny, despite its six airbags and whatnot).
The Prado treads a comfortable middle ground. Its overzealous safety electronics lack the subtlety of the Ford’s equivalent systems, but it has a much higher degree of passive safety than the Jimny.
It also has superior on-road purchase from its 265/60R18 tyres, and standard adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and autonomous emergency braking (AEB). The Jimny also offers AEB as standard, whereas the Raptor is currently the only Ranger variant without it. That situation will be rectified later in the year.
Like the Ranger, the Prado also receives a five-star ANCAP rating. And like the Ranger, the Prado was also tested way back in 2011. The Toyota’s rating relates to all Prados from 2013 onwards; the Ford’s from 2015 onwards.
The Jimny’s mediocre three-star score was achieved in 2018 under more strict testing regulations. It received 73 per cent for adult protection, 84 per cent for child protection, 52 per cent for vulnerable road-user protection, and 50 per cent for safety-assist systems.
It’s uncanny that just $12 separates the three-year capped-price servicing cost of these three 4WDs.
The Jimny’s recommended service intervals are six months/10,000km, so even though its maintenance cost is the cheapest after three years ($1428), you’ll have visited the dealer six times.
The Prado is in exactly the same boat – six months/10,000km service intervals and a three-year total of $1440. At least you can squeeze 60,000km out of each of them during that period.
The Ranger Raptor can stretch to 12 months/15,000km between dealer visits, giving it a three-year service total of $1430. But it’ll have only travelled 45,000km during that period. Match the mileage of the other two and its three-year servicing amount would be $2020.
Suzuki offers a basic three-year/100,000km warranty on the Jimny, though if it’s serviced by a Suzuki dealer to the recommended schedule, that coverage automatically extends to five years/140,000km.
Both Ford and Toyota offer five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranties, though Toyota will extend the Prado’s powertrain coverage to seven years if you get your car serviced by a Toyota dealer.
According to Redbook, the limited-volume Jimny (just over 1000 are being imported in 2019) has a projected three-year resale value of 63.3 per cent. Ordinarily, that would be quite impressive, but among the 4WD fraternity it’s outdone by the Ranger Raptor (64.8 per cent) and the gravity-defying Prado VX (71.0 per cent). Only Toyota’s full-size LandCruiser VX does better (71.5 per cent), though it’s also $25K dearer than the Prado VX.
It’s easy to poke fun at the modest naturally aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine under the Jimny’s adorable wrap-over bonnet because it’s no Mike Tyson. Yet, when you take into account its long-stroke design (which is good for overall torque), its perky 75kW at 6000rpm and the Jimny’s nimble 1095kg kerb weight, there’s method to Suzuki’s seeming madness.
In high-range, first gear runs not far past 40km/h and second gear is lucky to reach 85km/h, giving the free-revving Jimny surprising pep off the line. Keep pushing up through the gears and the Jimny will approach 115km/h in third before achieving its claimed maximum speed (145km/h at 5400rpm in fourth). But don’t read into this thinking the Jimny is a slug.
Thanks to the engine’s superb tractability and encouraging spirit, it’s surprisingly easy to belt the Jimny along on the freeway without becoming a mobile roadblock. It’ll breach most hills on the Hume Highway in top gear, yet there’s some fun to be had in flicking the slick though relatively long-throw gearshift from ratio to ratio.
The main issue is the engine’s noise beyond 115km/h. It sounds like the carby has just opened its second throat, even though the Jimny is fuel-injected! You’ll find it either charming or draining.
Unusually for a Blue Oval product wearing ‘Raptor’ branding, the Aussie-developed Ranger flagship shares its drivetrain with the regular-line Wildtrak, meaning a 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel driving through a 10-speed automatic.
It’s a surprisingly suave and cultured engine, with a ton of gear ratios to keep it shifting along and a pleasant rumble to keep performance lovers happy, though even all that technology isn’t quite a substitute for what a larger-capacity V6 turbo-diesel could achieve. Or a ballsy V8.
The Prado’s 130kW/450Nm 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four and six-speed automatic – introduced in mid-2015 – is typically Toyota conservative, offering less power and torque than rival diesels of the same capacity, but an intelligently balanced driving experience.
It’s no powerhouse but is strong enough to handle country-road overtaking and full-load lugging without too much of a struggle. And its torque delivery is excellent – gifting the Prado an effortlessness that really comes into its own when off-road.
It’s also a truckload smoother and quieter than the same drivetrain in a HiLux, which makes a big difference after many hours behind the wheel, though it can’t match the overall refinement of the Ranger’s 2.0-litre bi-turbo.
Not surprisingly, the Jimny is easily the most economical at 6.4L/100km for the ADR81/02 official government combined cycle, though its pint-sized 40-litre fuel tank only gives it a theoretical range of 625km.
The Ranger Raptor uses more fuel (8.2L/100km of diesel), but can also achieve 976km from its 80-litre tank.
The Prado’s 8.0L/100km official combined number enables a 1088km range with our test car’s 87-litre tank, though if you opt for the 150-litre long-range version (indicated by having the spare wheel mounted on the rear tailgate), the Prado can achieve a whopping 1875km before refuelling.
The 4WD testing process involved an emergency lane-change, a slalom, dry braking from 100km/h, and general handling and stability-control assessment around Wakefield Park Raceway, as well as a thrash along our bendy and bumpy country-road loop.
And, because these are dedicated 4WDs, some genuinely challenging off-roading at a dedicated facility outside Goulburn in NSW to see whether they truly cut the mustard when life gets dirty.
Yet it’s really a case of the big boys versus the Jimny in all driving situations, because it isn’t easy to reconcile that all three 4WDs here are expected to achieve the same goals.
Where the Jimny truly nails the brief is in the city. Measuring just 3645mm long, with a 9.8m turning circle and expansive fields of vision, it’s able to do things that so many other vehicles can’t. This manoeuvrability also works in its favour off-road, where the Suzuki can thread itself between trees and down narrow tracks that make you think twice in the much broader Ranger Raptor and Prado.
But the Jimny’s driving experience definitely has a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. The electric steering system doesn’t really have the assistance grunt to make parking feel much easier than an old manual-steered set-up, and with four turns lock-to-lock, you’ll be doing a lot more wheel twirling than you’re probably used to.
In the wrong hands, the Jimny can also be quite sketchy because its off-roading tyres are terrible in the wet, and it isn’t easy to predict the attitude it’s going to adopt in faster corners. At lower speeds, using deliberate driving technique to pin its nose and prevent it from washing wide, it can be perverse fun – especially in the wet! – but this is a far from sophisticated machine.
And then you take it off-road and walk away staggered at the Jimny’s able-bodied ability. It does lose out to the Raptor and Prado in ground clearance, though, and it would definitely benefit from even shorter low-range gearing and a locking rear diff.
Whereas the Jimny requires a swelling in testicular size to mentally contemplate some of the feats it can achieve off-road, the Ranger Raptor demands nothing of the sort. Its intimidating size and hugely supple suspension enable this Big Foot to turn mountains into molehills, elevating it well beyond a traditional dual-cab in seriously challenging off-road terrain.
And while that feeling of size doesn’t escape it on-road, there’s genuine ride quality and a lovely, flowing gait to the way the Raptor moves that can’t help but draw you in.
On a long trip, it feels kinda like what a four-wheel-drive Ford LTD would feel like – big and wafty, with lounge-like seat comfort leaving passengers to splay themselves out and enjoy the cushiness.
But the Raptor’s wet-road performance on its dedicated off-road tyres – while fluent and predictable – isn’t what you’d call grippy. And due to those tyres, its braking performance (in terms of stopping distance) is no better than a regular Wildtrak’s, despite having four-wheel discs.
But the Prado manages to outride the Ranger Raptor in general driving. The Toyota doesn’t have the sporting Ford’s lateral seat support, but you can take it anywhere for any length of time and emerge feeling fresh.
In fact, the Prado is now so well mannered that you’d never know it was a separate-chassis design on-road. It feels like a tighter, sweeter, smoother LandCruiser, with ride-quality plushness that comprehensively trounces its Kluger stablemate.
And it’s a better off-roader than the HiLux because it can dig deep without shaking you to bits – adding a tangible layer of refinement to the torquey, unburstable nature of its dual-cab cousin.
The Prado even managed to scale the test route’s rocky climbs without even having its diffs locked, such is the effortless competence of this Toyota 4WD.
These are heavy-duty vehicles designed to be put through what they’ve been designed to do, so you can rightfully expect a long service life – especially if treated kindly and serviced properly.
Both Toyota and Suzuki have outstanding reputations for reliability, and there’s no reason why you’d question the mechanicals of the Jimny and Prado.
The Ford’s drivetrain, however, is much newer and more high-tech, and is yet to be proven to the same extent that the Transit-sourced 3.2-litre turbo-diesel five beneath it has been. That’s not to say it won’t be unbreakable – it’s just that it’s yet to earn its reliability stripes, especially in heavy towing.
You should also approach the touchscreen multimedia systems with a level of long-term scepticism. While none of them glitched on test, it’s these electronics that can be prone to gremlins.
The Ranger’s proven SYNC3 multimedia system has been honed over several generations now to deliver relatively trouble-free operation, as has the outdated multimedia set-up in the ageing Prado. The Jimny’s touchscreen is shared with pretty much the entire Suzuki family, which bodes well for commonality of parts and software backup.
There’s so much character and individuality in all three of these 4WDs that you feel like you’re dudding a vehicle by putting it last. As judge Andrew Maclean pointed out, “This is as close to an equal three as you’re gonna get”.
Ultimately, though, all three judges placed the Suzuki Jimny third. Despite the obvious compromises of its bluff sides, baggy tyres and non-independent suspension, it’s amazing just how capable this square-edged, great-value bundle of joy actually is.
It’s such a likeable little critter, from its adorable shape to its urban manoeuvrability and drivetrain spirit, that you can’t help but fall for its charm. However, it’s not the sort of vehicle you have in a single-car household.
There’s fun to be had in a Jimny – especially on sand or off-road – but not if it’s too windy or the road surface is too slippery. A wet and gusty freeway can be a noisy, white-knuckle experience in a Jimny as it wanders all over the road, and it’s at this point you realise there’s only so much a Jimny can comfortably withstand.
The other two were harder to separate, with one judge voting for the Raptor and the other two voting Prado – meaning second place for Ford’s pumped-up dual-cab.
From its widened tracks and bespoke exterior styling to its proper sports seats and tastefully furnished cabin, the Raptor stands head and shoulders above its less-classy Ranger siblings. Yet it’s the effortlessness of its loping chassis, the fluency of its handling, and the towering off-road ability of this unique dual-cab that demand affection.
Yes, it would be even more alluring if it had a lusty V6 or free-revving petrol V8, but as it stands, the high-riding Ranger Raptor remains a stand-out.
For its type, so too does the Toyota Prado VX. Ten years young and now more capable than ever, it manages to be more things to more people than the delightful Raptor, and comfortably puts its less-capable HiLux and Kluger siblings back in their place.
As judge Dave Morley stated, “I think that this Prado really does beg the question ‘Do you need a LandCruiser?’. I think it’s going to become the default buy for a lot of people, and fair enough – it’s that good”.
16 Gauge Galvanized Tie Wire
You’ll also be able to get parts for it everywhere, cover a massive distance when fitted with dual fuel tanks, and it’ll easily retain the largest amount of its value when you want to sell it. In 4WD circles, that spells a winner.
Why is the comparison between a $23K and two $73K cars, especially when the verdict leaves out the cheaper option, you guessed it, on cheapness?
Steel Wire Products, Metal Wire, Wire Mesh, Steel Bar, Coil Nails - Five-Star Metal,https://www.fivestar-wire.com/