Nothing else looks quite like the Suzuki Jimny, and not a lot will keep up with it off-road. On-road, though, it’s poor, and most alternative small SUVs are more practical inside
If you put tough off-road ability and quirky looks before outright practicality, then the Suzuki Jimny should be on your list of test drives.
Originally launched way back in 1970, the original Suzuki Jimny was launched as a lightweight, go-anywhere 4×4. Given the third generation Jimny has been on sale since 1998, it was well overdue an update. This new fourth generation model keeps the same rugged, boxy looks and proper off-road ability, but with a more modern interior and features inside.
It’s difficult to group the Suzuki Jimny in with alternatives as it offers something quite unique, but other small SUVs that you should consider include the Kia Stonic, Seat Arona and Renault Captur.
A large part of its uniqueness are those looks. Suzuki has intentionally kept the Jimny’s traditionally boxy looks when most alternatives are getting more sleek and less rugged, while the bright colours available really help it stand out. The Kinetic Yellow is eye-catching, spec the car in Blueish Black Pearl Metallic and you’ve got yourself a mini Mercedes G-Class.
Inside the Suzuki Jimny is functional rather than fun. There’s swathes of hard, scratchy plastics might not look pretty, but will happily stand up to a harsh life. If everything gets covered in mud then no bother – you can easily wipe it down and carry on.
Thanks to its better ground clearance for heading off into the wilds, you sit higher up in the Jimny than your do in ‘soft-roaders’ such as the Seat Arona or Renault Captur. Combine this with big windows front and back and you get a great view out.
It’s not particularly comfortable however. The driver’s seat only moves back and forwards and as it’s only a two-door you have to climb into the rear seats. Once in there, headroom in the rear is OK, but kneeroom is a bit tight.
Boot space is also tight. With the rear seats in place there’s just 85 litres of space. Fold these seats down and storage space increases to 377 – but that’s still less space than you’d get in the boot of a VW Golf hatchback.
The Suzuki Jimny a brilliant little car. In black it’s like a mini Merc G-Class. But it is only going to suit a small minority of people
Entry-level SZ4 get 15-inch steel wheels, air-con, CD, Bluetooth and cruise control. Step up to SZ5 and things look more attractive – alloy wheels, LED headlights, climate control, leather steering wheel, 7.0-inch infotainment screen with sat-nav and you can hook up your smartphone with either Apple Carplay or Android Auto.
The Suzuki Jimny has been designed with traditional ladder frame chassis. It also has selectable four-wheel drive fitted as standard and comes with desirable off-roading tech such as Hill Descent Control and brake limited slip differential (LSD) traction control that automatically brakes slipping wheels to redistribute power to the other side of the car to gain traction. It also has a low-ratio gearbox and rigid axle suspension.
All this means the Suzuki Jimny is supremely capable off road. The car can go places that other cars will fear to tread.
However this also means that the car is compromised on-road. True, driving around town or on the motorway is a lot more enjoyable in the new Jimny than in the previous car. But it’s still nowhere near as comfortable as its alternatives.
Drive over any kind of bumps and the Jimny shimmies and shakes and sends vibrations through the cabin. There is hardly any sound proofing, so you hear things like stones rattling against the underside as you are going along the motorway.
On a twisty road the steering is vague. The car rolls around in corners and it pitches and dives when braking and accelerating. It feels very different to drive than a Kia Stonic or Seat Arona.
There’s lots of wind noise and when you are driving at speed the 1.5-litre engine is noisy too. The engine feels lively at slow speeds but with just 100bhp it’s not particularly punchy. Fuel economy is average – expect around 35mpg in real world conditions. The Jimny comes with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed auto.
Unfortunately Euro NCAP awarded the Suzuki Jimny just three stars out of five in its crash testing, meaning alternative small SUVs like the Seat Arona and Renault Captur are far safer. The Jimny’s Safety kit includes all the four-wheel-drive tech, lane departure warning and hill hold control, while you can switch from two- to four-wheel drive at speeds up to 60mph.
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