Suzuki Jimny review
Cute but dated, the Suzuki Jimny offers rugged 4x4 ability in a package that's the size of a city car
There’s no other car on sale that’s quite like the Suzuki Jimny. It’s a chunky looking 4x4 with excellent off-road ability, but its city car dimensions mean it’s the smallest go-anywhere 4x4 you can buy. It’s becoming a bit of a rare sight on the road these days as rival car manufacturers are now offering supermini-sized crossovers that are better to drive on the road. But the Jimny rises above these rivals thanks to off-road ability that’s on a par with the Land Rover Defender.
There are two trim levels; SZ3 and SZ4, although neither is particularly well equipped. There’s only one engine option, too – an 84bhp 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol – and it needs to be worked hard, while buyers going for SZ4 trim also get a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. While the Jimny is funky looking and fun in the rough, it can’t disguise its age, and is outclassed on the road by the
Our choice: 1.3 SZ4 manual
There’s no getting away from the boxy looks of the Suzuki Jimny. The design comprises a bluff front end with large headlights, while the flat rear is distinguished by the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate, which is a throwback to the late nineties, when the Jimny was originally launched. But the Suzuki 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 and artificial leather.
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 clutch, 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, while 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, and certainly a lot further than the new crop of supermini-sized crossovers, most of which don’t even feature 4WD.
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, plus 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 hefty 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.