Suzuki Jimny review
Cute but dated, the Suzuki Jimny offers rugged 4x4 ability in a package that's the size of a city car
The Suzuki Jimny combines chunky 4x4 looks and off-road ability with city car dimensions. Even though it’s quite a rare sight on the road these days, its cute design will be familiar, as the car has been in showrooms since way back in 1998. There’s only one engine option – an 84bhp 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol – and it needs to be worked hard, while buyers also get a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. They can pick from SZ3 and SZ4 trim levels, too, although neither is especially well equipped. So while the car is cute and fun, it can’t disguise its age, and is outclassed by the Fiat Panda 4x4, Vauxhall Mokka and Nissan Juke.
Our choice: 1.3 SZ4 manual
There’s no getting away from the dated looks of the Suzuki Jimny. The boxy design comprises a bluff front end with large headlights, while the flat rear is distinguished by the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate. But it stands out in the 4x4 market as it’s so small – at only 3,645mm long and 1,600mm wide, it’s similar in size to a city car. It’s taller than most city cars, at 1,705mm, though, so drivers get a great view above the traffic. The interior is dated, with the dash’s squared-off lines, hard plastics and limited equipment, although SZ4 models feature air-conditioning.
You get a great view out of the Suzuki Jimny from the driver’s seat, and those compact dimensions make it very easy to park. However, the controls feel very dated. There's a light cluch, but the gearbox is vague and feels like it will jump out of gear at the slightest bump, while there's a huge amount of lock for the vague steering. A dated four-speed automatic is available on the SZ4, but no matter which gearbox you go for, the 84bhp 1.3-litre petrol engine has to be worked hard to make meaningful progress: 0-60mph takes 14.1 seconds in the manual car. It’s 17.2 seconds in the auto. Once you’re up to speed, the tall body doesn’t inspire confidence in corners, with body roll a real issue, whle the short gearing means the Jimny drones on at motorway speeds. The bouncy ride makes town driving uncomfortable, too, but you soon forget all the downsides as soon as you head off road. The Jimny is virtually unstoppable in the rough, and can venture farther off road than most other 4x4s.
The Suzuki Jimny upholds the company’s reputation for reliability, and has only been recalled twice since it first hit showrooms back in 1998. That’s an amazing record. The 4x4 transmission will also provide reassuring grip and traction in the worst winter weather, and while the interior plastics feel hard, everything is solidly put together. But the Jimny leaves a lot to be desired in terms of standard safety features. There are airbags for the driver and front seat passenger only, while stability control isn’t even available as an option. The likes of the Nissan Juke and Fiat Panda 4x4 offer a much more comprehensive list of safety kit for the money.
Space is at a premium in the tiny Suzuki Jimny. While driver and front passenger will enjoy the great view of the road, legroom is poor, and there’s not a lot of space in the two back seats. The boot is cramped, too. It has a capacity of 113 litres with the rear seats in place, and expands to only 286 litres when you fold the seat backs down, although there's a big step in the floor when you do this. Suzuki does offer a lockable glovebox, and there are a couple of cup-holders up front as well, but the lack of clever storage, particularly in the boot, only serves to reinforce the dated feel of the Jimny.
The age of the 1.3-litre engine becomes even more apparent when you look at the efficiency figures for the Suzuki Jimny. The car weighs only around one tonne, yet the manual model has claimed economy of only 39.8mpg and emits a filthy 162g/km of CO2. So buyers can expect large fuel and road tax bills. And although the prices look competitive, you don’t get a lot of equipment for the money – especially when you compare the Jimny to the likes of the Nissan Juke or Fiat Panda 4x4. Service intervals of only 9,000 miles mean you’ll spend a lot on maintenance, too.