Try A Jimny, You’ll Be Converted

Try A Jimny, You’ll Be Converted

It is with some enthusiasm that I watch the new craze of hand-wringing that is sweeping the country in the build-up to RWC 2011. Will the waterfront look nice? Is party central going to be a) up to standard or b) even up in the first place? How will our transport infrastructure deal with the influx of egg-chasing fanatics trying to access Eden Park? People have become so fixated on the potential banana skins waiting to slip up the whole shooting match that they’ve forgotten to ask the most important question of all.

Does it really matter?

Barring a few overly precious journalists and merchant bankers complete with trophy wives who will be frequenting the corporate boxes, do rugby fans give a stuff about the window dressing that everyone else seems in such a tizz over?

Steve wasn't too happy about handing over the keys to the Jimny

Speaking as a Pom who has for many years occupied the terrace at Leicester Tigers – arguably the biggest rugby club in England in every way – the answer is “probably not”. Despite the clubs’ status it still has stands made from wood and scaffolding, comes with bugger all in the way of parking facilities and offers no food more glamorous than chicken tikka massala pie; absolutely none of which stops people showing up in their droves for every single game.

I suspect you could upholster each seat with barbed wire and greet supporters with a punch in the face and there would still be queues on match days. The simple draw of having a few beers and a good laugh with some mates whilst watching top class rugby (please remember that we from the northern hemisphere still appreciate the noble arts of rolling mauls) is what really appeals – anything beyond that is rather unnecessary.

And come November, when all is done and dusted, while a few hacks may be cooing over the canapés or bitching about  transport, the majority of stories will be coming from the fans regaling their friends with tales of all the interesting people they met, watched rugby and got drunk with. Which begs the question, why spend millions on redeveloping the waterfront when, if you want people to have a really good time, you could simply hire enough marquees to turn the main street in Kingsland into an Oktoberfest-style beer tent and be done with it? Flamboyant extravagance is all very well, but what people really get their teeth into is a bit of good old fashioned, back to basics fun.

All of which would rather explain my love affair with the Suzuki Jimny.

For a long time now, the combined engineering genius of the world’s motoring manufacturers has been striving to make 4×4’s a bit more like regular cars. Long into the night, men in white coats sit pondering how to tweak chassis, suspension and drive train settings in order to eliminate body roll and increase occupant cosseting to almost limousine standards.

Except at Suzuki, where the engineers are content to continue pumping out the Jimny with its thrashy, underpowered engine, agricultural drive train and handling so woeful that each corner presents a very real risk of breaking the unwritten “shiny side up” rule. And I suspect they do this because the realisation has dawned that none of it really matters – the Jimny is first and foremost a 4×4 and all the things that make it terrible on the road combine to make it an absolute riotous laugh when the going gets brown. Taking this little weekend warrior into the forest is the motoring equivalent of standing on the terrace at the rugby with your best mates and a few beers. So simple, yet so utterly brilliant.

You may, of course, disagree and think that a 4×4 should be chock full of creature comforts, designed to make it superlatively comfortable during the school run and, if you’re really pushing the envelope, over speed bumps. There’s nothing wrong with that; it just means that you’re more likely to be one of the corporate box brigade.

And that makes you a bit of a merchant banker.

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