Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB

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-   -   suzuki sj - tuff enuff? (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/4wd-overland-tech/suzuki-sj-tuff-enuff-19902)

desert soul 9 Feb 2004 18:58

suzuki sj - tuff enuff?
hello out there,

has anybody been in the sahara with a suzuki 4WD of the sj-series? i'm thinking about buying one, because it's the only one i can afford and i like it's "topless"-design.

what about reliability?
what about offroad-suitability?

please no hearsay, just first-hand-experience (if there is any...)!

good luck to everyone

banano 10 Feb 2004 18:19


Suzuki SJ are realy realiable cars.
They are very easy to fix if something is broken. The suspension is well made with solid axles and leaf springs.
It will be suitalbe for one or two persons when going to the desert.
On the road SJ is not very comfortable, but when going off-road you will enjoy these small 4x4. SJ works preety beautifull off the road, its not heavy so you will have no problems when dogging out, etc.
The good thing about SJ are the prices. its a cheap car, and the spares are too.
So you will need not much money for preparations.

hope these helped a little.

ManxScamp 12 Feb 2004 00:00

I'm sorry I'm not going to be of much use to you probably, but I have wondered the same thing myself, thought about taking a small cheap'o vehicle as a kind of "first trip learning vehicle", to get to know the ropes before taking anything more valuable.

I was also thinking about a Lada Niva 4WD, which are covered in the CS book Sahara Overland as well, "tough and not much goes wrong" I think it says, but with the same draw backs as the suzuki, a little rough around the edges (agricultural). They're cheap and I think there was a soft top version as well. Being a bit heavier they might be a bit nicer to drive on the road as well, but are perhaps a bit harder to find.

Seems like a good idea, and with the points that Peter made sounds like a lot of fun, apart maybe from the drive down across europe! I'll be very interested to hear what advice you get, we've got the little 1.3 SJ's on the farm and they're very tough (much tougher than my SIII LR) and fun as long as you don't mind the 'tin box' effect.

If you do take one please try and let us know how it goes, might try it myself.

When/where/how far are you planning to go?

Thanks. Sorry if no help.


[This message has been edited by ManxScamp (edited 11 February 2004).]

Finian 22 Feb 2004 16:35


I just bought an Isuzu Trooper LWB with a dodgy engine for 700 squids and then bought an engine rebuild kit for 350 and drove it down to Morocco where we've just had the engine rebuilt, the clutch changed and other work done for 120 quid. You have to find an unsly mechanic but there are plenty to choose from. We leave for Mori in two days so will let you know how it fairs.


Runner 23 Feb 2004 10:49

Never used an SJ but Ive used Vitaras and V6 Vitaras quite a bit in the desert. Only consider the LWB versions - you need space for fuel and water.


Vitaras drink more fuel than they can carry on long trips

Not that strongly built, inside or out.

Limited in terms of underbody clearance and space

Limited-slip diff, not locking

Parts not hugely common, though there are main dealers about.



Good, powerful engines


In the UK SJs seem to do well offroad as they are light with good power-to-weight ratios - they lack carrying ability though....

cedar 23 Feb 2004 22:43


I used an SJ out in the bush in Kenya, great things, no overhangs and very light so will climb anything, but you will have to watch the weight with fuel and water, but possible. The other cheapo choice is a lada niva, easy to sell a left hand drive sub sahara.

Good luck


ctc 24 Feb 2004 17:24

I agree with the jist of the previous posts. These are fun cars and very capable. We owned a precursor model to the suzuki's SJ range out in Abu Dhabi which looked like a Willy's jeep. We then bough a Samurai years later in Devon. Used both off-road and can vouch that they are very capable.

However the main downside of these cars is 1) Lack of carrying capacity. 2) Power: whilst they are quite spritely with one person on board as soon as you load them up and put another passenger in them, their 1.3 engines (samurai) start to look less powerful. They are also poor towing vehicles because of lack of weight and power.

Perhaps tellingly since then my parents switched to a Nissan Patrol when they wanted a 4wd and I have a Defender 110.

I would therefore class them as an alternative to the Van-backed 2CV as a light-weight desert tourer for one or maybe two people but not a real alternative for a fully loaded expedition wagon.

Having said that for a 2 or 3 week short desert trip probably ideal. You could rig two fuel jerry cans and two water jerry cans in a rack behind the driver and passenger seat add a light-weight tent and sleeping bag and expedition multi fuel stove and jobs a good-un.

If you do buy one, I would also check the clutch and whether you can engage the high and low ratio gears. Chris Scott has a tip in his book which may work re checking clutch.

[This message has been edited by ctc (edited 24 February 2004).]

Madrid_CapeTown 3 Mar 2004 16:32

Hi !!!
I am actually driving one from Madrid to Capetown !. The 1000 version SJ410 , hard top.


Its heaps of fun to drive it in the desert ! . Its so light that drives over dunes which couldnt be driven over with Tenere's & XTs !.
A Zuk with reasonably fat tyres will drive you to the end of the world

Most parts of the car will fall of (door handles , mirrors , etc.. but the mechannical "core" will run forever. Really . They are rock solid .

They are also very easy "pushable" out of sand , and for one person only is probbably the best combination .

The drawback is the ridiculous lack of power . It didnt get stuck in the dunes ! , it JUST RAN OUT OF POWER to keep on advancing , EVEN in 1st LOW !. Also , its quite easy to overload a Suzuki , even travelling alone ! . I did ! .

A few cons:

Its virtually unknown in some areas (Senegal ) .God assist you if you need spares ! Fortunately , in Gambia , and Kenia they have some spares , and there are a few around.

It is petrol (non-diesel) , and that begins to be a nuisance in some areas . (mali/ Mauri)

Its lack of power , sometimes forces the driver to overload the engine , using gross amounts of petrol (Nouadibou->Nouatchokk took 100 litres of petrol !) .

and lastly , there appear to be a few design flaws with the clutch lever , the low-range engagement , and a few other knowns flaws.

The non-critical stuff -made in Spain , btw- (windows , door handles , lights , seats ! , door hinges! , locks , winlets , logos , aerials ,indicatos etc.. will be falling appart after few weeks of hammering.

but the (japanese made) drivetrain will drive you forever.

Id honestly'd say that the powertrain is more reliable than any other thing on the road. And definitely ,much more fixable.

>>has anybody been in the sahara with a >>suzuki 4WD of the sj-series? i'm thinking >>about buying one, because it's the only >>one i can afford and i like it's "topless"->>design.

ManxScamp 4 Mar 2004 00:32

A pair of guys competed in the 2003 Plymouth to Dakar banger rally in a bright pink SJ413.
Don't know if they finished, or even if they started, but if you go to the website you might be able to get in touch with them. They were called The Brockdish Bodgers!

moggy 1968 10 Apr 2004 06:53

I am That brockdish bodger! The jeep was magnificent. email me at moggy1968@hotmail.com if you want to be bored by my memoirs of the trip

The pink torpedo

moggy 1968 11 Apr 2004 03:37

The only timeI needed low box in our sj413 was when towing out other vehicles. I even managed to dead tow montego estates and a fiat panda 4x4 several times. Did you air down your tyres. That makes the biggest difference. 15 psi worked fine most of the time but the montego's needed 10, being 2wd. It's not the width of the tyre that changes much, it's the length of the footprint. (don't drive off sand with deflated tyres though, they may delaminate or explode) we each broke the bead on tyres by hitting bumps too fast with low pressures but they can be easilly re-inflated.

If you can drive the dunes in a renault 4 (which you can) then a suzuki should present no problems, but the old adage of knowledge experience and skill being more important than equipment holds true. Beady, one of the montego drivers who is a hill rally winner and former paris dakar support driver only got stuck once on the piste.

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