£12,999 - £15,429 Price range
38 - 39 MPG
The Suzuki Jimny is a tiny 4×4 that has an off-road ability rivalling the 1948 Land Rover Defender with an equally dreadful interior and on-road performance. Its rivals, the Nissan Juke, Dacia Duster and Fiat Panda Cross, run circles around it on tarmac, but will become stuck much sooner when the road disappears.
The cabin would be stylish and modern looking in 1998 and in fact that is the year the Jimny was launched and it has hardly been changed since. Yes, you do get a CD instead of a tape player, but the laughable boot space and almost non-existent rear leg room really let it down.
Where all these problems disappear is the moment when you look around on the top of the hill and see you are the only one who managed to get up. And this is where the appeal of the Jimny hides – it’s absolutely atrocious on the road, but very few can challenge it in the mud and win. Certainly not for that price.
The engine in the Jimny is also a symbol of a bygone era where some cars came with just one engine option instead of 20 power levels of 20 versions of 20 engines. It’s a 1.3-litre and in this current time of downsizing it’s a reasonable size for such a small and light car. That would be the case if it actually was a newly developed engine, but instead its just an evolution of the original Jimny engine, so you get appalling fuel consumption, surprisingly high road tax and the pace of an Icelandic glacier.
There are two trim levels to choose from and in 1998 they would have come with some nice kit, but in 2015, a basic trim without air-conditioning leaves much to be desired.
The Jimny’s interior is probably the current benchmark for hardest plastics and dated design. Some might argue that you don’t need fancy piano black inserts and a soft-touch leather-wrapped dashboard, but that’s what the bestsellers in the class already have and next to them the Jimny looks very dated. The dash is simple and clear, but the plastics feel incredibly brittle.
The Jimny is an exceptionally thin car, so thin in fact, you might find you self rubbing shoulders with your fellow front-seat passenger. The rear is next to useless, there’s not enough legroom and the seats are uncomfortable.
Suzuki Jimny passenger space
Anyway, if you intend to take the plunge, you are better off keeping the rear empty. The slightly upright driving position is useful, especially when negotiating tree roots, potholes and any other obstacles you might find off road. On-road, it’s not that practical though.
Suzuki Jimny boot space
It’s best to think of the Jimny as a two seater, and fold the rear seats to boost the minimal existing boot space – 113 litres with the rear seats up is as much as you get in a modern seven-seater with all the seats up. If you fold the two back seats you get a bit more capacious 816 litres, but the boot opening is narrow, there is a high loading lip and the seats don’t fold flat.
The little Suzuki really only makes sense off-road. With its separate chassis, short overhangs and permanent four-wheel drive, it’ll comfortably handle tricky terrain. On the road, it’s a different story. Critics lambast it for having little grip, too much body roll and an appalling ride.
Not only is the engine uncomfortably loud, but the amount of noise coming from the tires and buffeting can make conversation difficult.
If you look really hard, it’s just about possible to find a slower accelerating car. The manual Jimny takes 14 seconds to reach 62mph, while the automatic takes more than 17. This is because the anaemic 1.3-litre engine only produces 84hp, and 81lb ft of torque.
It’s not very economical either, whichever gearbox you choose you’ll get fuel economy of less than 40mpg. At least it’ll be reliable, though after a time you’ll wish it would break, so you wouldn’t have to drive it anymore.
Yes, there’s an all-wheel-drive system on the Jimny, but the lack of stability control is worrying. Also, given the vehicle is tall, the high centre of gravity means there’s a good amount of body roll. There is ABS to prevent locking up the wheels under heavy braking, but that alone can’t really make the Jimny a very safe option. Euro NCAP doesn’t seem to have tested it either.
Purchasing a new Suzuki Jimny won’t be an expensive affair. Prices are pretty low, but if you decide on getting rid of it, expect a huge drop in its value. Given the engine is reliable and Suzuki’s service is affordable, maintenance would be simple.
Running it would be a different story altogether. The engine needs to worked hard to extract power, which means the fuel consumption stays close to the 40mpg mark. And there’s no diesel option, either.
Suzuki Jimny SZ3
The basic Jimny redefines the word basic – the only notable piece of equipment is electric windows. Everything else is like taken straight from the 1998 brochure – power steering, tachometer, sun visors with vanity mirrors and a remote fuel lid opener.
Suzuki Jimny SZ4
What Suzuki call the top-of-the-range model comes with air-conditioning, synthetic leather seats and a roof-mounted antenna. That’s it.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive 4×4 that can do a bit of mundane tasks as well, the Jimny is far from the worst option. But while it’s good at mud plugging, it is equally bad to drive on the road.
It’s got more negatives than it should probably have. Space at the back is not good, and the absence of stability control doesn’t help its case too.
The Suzuki Jimny is getting old, and it would be good to see an updated version, that can compete with cars like the Fiat Panda Cross. On the whole, this one is far from competitive.