Our comprehensive review of the Suzuki Jimny
By Shahzad Sheikh
I have been waiting two years to do a full review on the new Suzuki Jimny. It’s had people lining up around the block to get one since its launch in 2018, thanks to the adorable, yet too-cool-for-cute looks that make it appear tough yet tonka toy-like. It’s akin to a mini Mercedes G-Wagen and in fact you can get body kits that convert it to look like one – they love those in the Middle East.
Don’t dismiss the Jimny because ‘it’s an off-roader’ and you live in the city. This car very much could indeed be for you. But you need to act fast because this hugely popular and in-demand little Suzuki will be taken off sale in the UK next year because it doesn’t meet emissions criteria for its size of vehicle. Read this review first though!
A simple square box silhouette manages to embody a tough persona in its tiny package, this Jimny, like its predecessors continues to employ old-skool off-road construction, being a ‘body-on-frame’ car (more resistant to flexing and twisting when tackling extreme terrain) rather than a monocoque structure like most passenger vehicles.
But it is really small, something you only really notice when you’re standing next to it, at three and half metres long and exactly the same height and width at 1.7m. It just fits into the Japanese ‘micro car’ Kei car category, but has to be sold in the three-cylinder guise without the extended wheel arches and spare tyre on the back to qualify.
The car tested is a 1.5 SZ5 Allgrip model with part time four-wheel drive and a five-speed manual – an auto is also available. The engine produces 100bhp and 95lb ft is capable of 90mph and 0-60mph acceleration sometime before it gets there – we’re not exactly talking sports SUV. Still it’s light at just over 1100kg and that helps with fuel economy – officially 35mpg, though I saw over 40mpg. Prices start at £16,000. This one is around £18k.
It may be small but is it spacious? Well no, not really. Especially when it comes to the boot – barely enough space for shopping – or the rear seats – something of a torture chamber for adults, just about tolerable for kids. On the other hand, drop the rear seats down, and it’s like a mini-van. So the Jimny is best considered a two-seater with occasional 2+2 ability if you really need to carry passengers. But if you’re just around town mostly, that’s not often the case is it?
For front passengers, space is not much of an issue at all, and even at 6ft 2in tall I had no concerns. Indeed its large opening door and step-in height actually makes it comfortable and easy to get in and out of. There are ample-sized windows, you can lean your elbow on the window sill, you won’t feel claustrophobic, and not only is all-round visibility great, but this car is very easy to place because of its squared-off dimensions.
This model is well equipped with electric mirrors, heated seats, trip computer and a reasonable sized touch screen with Sat Nav and Apple Carplay. It could do with a better sound system though, you’d probably want to upgrade the speakers. Plus maybe an additional storage space around the gear levers (there’s two, one is for selecting 4WD and 4WD Low).
On the motorway it’s best kept at just under 70mph (it does have cruise control and lane assist). Its brick-like aerodynamics do create too much drag and wind noise, and trying to drive this like a sportscar on B-Roads will leave your nerves frayed as it proves a little wayward and less than planted and precise in speedy corner-carving. It also feels like it could use a sixth gear ratio. You have to work the gears hard to get the best performance out of it, which is okay as the gear change is slick and the clutch is light.
I didn’t take it off-road, but its all-terrain ability is well documented and highly regarded, it’s essentially like a mountain goat and can do remarkable things. The only environment it might struggle with are sand dunes, if you happen to be reading this from where there are some, because of the lack of power for that type of off-roading. In the UK, it would pretty much go anywhere.
However around the city, it actually comes into its own for several reasons. It affords you the good visibility of a tallish SUV, but it’s compact dimensions mean it’ll nip through any gaps and parking it is a doddle. Performance is no issue, because you’re never really going that quickly, and it has enough poke to keep up with the cut-and-thrust of the typical commute.
The ride, which is a little too soft and bouncy for B-road activity and has a tendency to lean if you corner too enthusiastically, actually settles down nicely around town, easily managing potholes and speedbumps. And those 15-inch wheels with the massive tyres will never be kerbed.
It does feel a little antiquated from behind the wheel in the drive compared to other SUVs. It’s very much an off-roader rather than ‘car-like’, but it’s easily managed and adapted to. And after a while it’s unique personality and characteristics start to endear themselves to you. Every time you try to accelerate from the lights quickly, and the whole car seems to lift in anticipation like an eager puppy that’s just been told ‘walkies’, you will find yourself smiling.
Frankly I loved it. It’s fun and enjoyable to run and drive, should prove rugged and reliable and is surprisingly at home in the urban jungle. Would I get one myself – a moot point since it will be discontinued… but hypothetically speaking, if they put a cleaner engine in it, extended the wheel base and added two extra doors… then yes, absolutely I’d have one!