Road test: Suzuki Jimny
Seemingly unstoppable in the wilds, no more than mediocre on the road
What is it?
The new Suzuki Jimny replaces its 20-year-old predecessor of the same name. It promises to be safer, better to drive, and more highly equipped than the old Jimny.
How green is it?
Goodness, not very. While most Suzukis are available with the excellent and highly efficient BoosterJet petrol engines, the Jimny has a relatively thirsty and high-emitting 1.5.
Who should buy one?
There’s no denying the Suzuki’s character and style. If you fall in love with the Tonka-toy looks or regularly go off road, the Jimny may be for you. But otherwise…
Road test by David Motton, March 2019
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
The Suzuki is a hard car to review objectively. As a road car, it’s poor. So for most drivers, there are plenty of better machines for similar money. But, as an offroader, it’s exceptional. If you live halfway up a mountain track, feel free to at least double that two-star rating.
Let’s get the bad points out of the way first. We’ll start with the engine, which offers just 101PS (100bhp). The Jimny trundles up to speed in its own sweet time, the throttle seeming more like a volume control than an accelerator.
The Suzuki treats each turn of the wheel more like a request than an instruction, and it feels like you are hitting imperfections in the road surface rather than being isolated from them. Even on smooth roads the ride feels unsettled. At the motorway speed limit, the cabin is filled with road noise, so be ready to speak up to make yourself heard.
Head off road, though, and suddenly the Jimny is in its element. The four-wheel-drive system is called AllGrip Pro. It can be switched from 2H (two-wheel drive high-ratio) to 4H (four-wheel drive high-ratio) when extra traction is needed. When the going gets really slippery, select 4L (four-wheel drive low-ratio), and prepare to be impressed.
Even on road tyres, the Jimny will go almost anywhere. The 1.5 engine, which seems so anaemic on the road, pulls doggedly up the steepest slopes, and superb approach, departure and breakover angles mean the Jimny can cope with abrupt changes of gradient. You’d need to be very ambitious indeed to find the limits of the Suzuki’s ability in the rough.
So, pick the bones out of that. A mediocre car on the road, an amazing one in the mud. If you won’t be going any further into the wilds than a Forestry Commission car park, you can buy budget 4x4s that are much better to drive,
most notably the Dacia Duster. However, if you need a car that will happily play axle-deep in the mud, the Jimny has few equals.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
The Suzuki is acceptably practical if you treat it as a two-seater. The trouble is, there’s supposed to be space for four. Legroom in the back is tight for adults.
Luggage space is worse. The Jimny is such a short car that the back seats are where the boot should be, if you see what we mean. With the back seats upright a couple of bags of shopping would be a squeeze. With the seats folded there’s 377 litres for luggage – more or less what you’d expect of a VW Golf-sized hatchback with the seats upright.
Things improve in the front of the car. The cute-but-tough exterior design is carried over to the cabin, with its chunky controls and square edges, although the standard of finish isn’t high. There’s enough head and legroom for the driver and front seat passenger to travel in reasonable comfort, although the narrow-ness of the car means it’s easy to knock elbows when the driver changes gear.
The Jimny’s upright and narrow front pillars and high driving position give a good view ahead and to the side. However, if you do have a collision the Jimny’s crash test protection isn’t great; the safety experts at Euro NCAP have awarded just three stars. That’s despite safety kit including front, side and curtain airbags and lane-departure warning.
The Jimny is well equipped. There are two spec levels; SZ4 and SZ5. The more basic of the two comes with selectable four-wheel drive, a full-size spare wheel, front fog lamps, automated headlights, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, and a CD player/radio. SZ5 adds 15-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, climate control, satellite navigation, heated seats, and smartphone linking. We think it’s worth the extra.
The Jimny SZ4 costs £15,499, the SZ5 is priced at £17,999. As well as the standard manual, the SZ5 is available as an automatic for an extra £1,000. Those are keen prices, although the Suzuki’s closest rival, the Dacia Duster, is priced from £9,995. Unfortunately fuel economy is poor; the Jimny achieves 35.8mpg on the new, tougher WLTP combined cycle. The automatic version returns just 32.2mpg.
WE SAY Seemingly unstoppable in the wilds, no more than mediocre on the road
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: top speed 90mph
Figures for the 1.5 SZ5 manual.