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After 20 years, Suzuki has finally launched a new version of its mini off-roader – and it combines charm and capability

Our Verdict

Suzuki Jimny 2018 road test review - hero front

Was Suzuki's iconic miniature off-roader’s long-overdue overhaul worth the wait?

  • First Drive

    Suzuki Jimny 2018 UK review

    Is charm enough to see the dinky new Suzuki Jimny succeed on British Tarmac? We're about to find out
  • First Drive

    Suzuki Jimny 2018 review

    After 20 years, Suzuki has finally launched a new version of its mini off-roader – and it combines charm and capability
James Attwood, digital editor
17 September 2018

What is it?

This is the new Suzuki Jimny – a simple statement that undersells just how notable that is. It probably needs an exclamation mark for effect. Let’s try again. This is the new Suzuki Jimny! That’s better.

This new Jimny is so noteworthy because of just how rare the arrival of a new version of Suzuki’s small off-roader is. This is the fourth generation of Jimny. The first arrived in 1970, and lasted 11 years. Its replacement was on the market for 17 years, until the third – and most recent – generation arrived in 1998. That was the same year Ford launched the Focus, a car that has just reached its fourth generation.

Given how long the previous Jimny was on sale, it won’t be giving much of the verdict away to tell you that the new Jimny is fairly clearly better than its predecessor – which shouldn’t be surprising given how far car design and technology has come in 20 years.

As an example, the new Jimny has Apple CarPlay. The old one didn’t, what with it being released nine years before the iPhone was invented.

But while much about the new Jimny has changed, much will be familiar to the previous-generation model’s fervent fan base.

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Suzuki’s mission statement to make ‘the one-and-only, small, lightweight four-wheel-drive vehicle’ remains. Under that new body, the fourth-generation Jimny still features a ladder frame chassis, three-link rigid axle coil spring suspension and four-wheel drive. The addition of new tech such as hill hold and descent control, brake support and a host of driver assistance systems are all intended to make the new Jimny even more capable than the old car.

What's it like?

Design-wise, the old Jimny was beginning to show its age, so there’s some irony in the fact Suzuki has modernised it by giving it something of a retro design. The new model is sharper and boxier, while retaining familiar Jimny traits such as the round headlights, independent indicators and front grille design.

It gives the new car something of a mini Mercedes G-Class vibe, served with a side of micro-sized Japanese fun. This is subjective but, to this tester, it looks fantastic.

Fantastic and tiny. The new Jimny retains the small size of its predecessors: in fact, while it’s 45mm wider and 20mm higher, this new model is actually 30mm shorter than the old one. Those dimensions ensure a variant of the Jimny (fitted with a 650cc engine) qualified for Japan’s kei car class.

That small size means this remains a small car inside. The driver’s footwell feels a little cramped, with the accelerator pedal right up against the transmission tunnel.

There are only two seats in the back, without much leg room on offer, and the luggage capacity is a mere 377 litres – and that’s with the rear seats folded down. With the seats up, there’s just 85 litres of storage, accessed through a sideways-opening boot. Still, that 377-litre total is a 53-litre improvement on the old car.

The old Jimny’s 1.3-litre petrol engine has been replaced by a new 1.5-litre unit – the only option, with Suzuki moving away from diesels – which offers 100bhp, 95lb ft of torque at 4000rpm and a top speed of 90mph. Our test car featured the five-speed manual 'box, and a four-speed auto is also available.

As those specs might suggest, the Jimny is not an especially fast car. The revvy engine takes some working to get up to speed, especially with the long gearstick’s substantial and slightly agricultural throw.

Running on 15in wheels and chunky 195/80R15 tyres and with the electrically assisted recirculating ball steering, the Jimny doesn’t offer much in the way of direct feel or driver feedback, although the short wheelbase makes it extremely direct and nimble to drive. And, as you’d expect given the car’s serious suspension, it soaks up even the biggest of bumps with ease. 

The car’s high-riding, box-like dimensions and large windows ensure that visibility is excellent, although that also means wind noise is notable at higher speeds.

Still, people don’t buy a Jimny because they want a nimble city car, or a motorway cruiser. And, despite its lovable retro-stylings, this isn’t a style-over-substance ‘urban crossover’. This is a proper mini off-roader, for people who do proper mini off-roader things.

During our test drive, we were able to sample the Jimny on an off-road forest course, including deep ruts, steep hills and a muddy watersplash – and the Jimny simply never put a foot wrong. 

The ability to switch from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive, and then a four-wheel-drive low mode, gives it real ability, while the rigid axle suspension soaks up everything you can throw at it. For those who need to know such things, the approach angle is 37deg, the ramp breakover angle is 28deg, and it has a departure angle of 49deg.

A serious off-roader, then. And that’s reflected in the interior, which is described by Suzuki as "functional". The mostly black dashboard and switches are predominantly plastic, with many switches shared with other Suzuki models, and the seats are comfortable rather than cosseting. Still, what it lacks in premium, it makes up for in practicality – which is exactly as it should be for a proper off-roader.

There are some nods to luxury – or at least modernity – inside, with features on our top-spec SZ5 model including climate control, Suzuki’s 7.0in touchscreen, rear privacy glass and heated front seats.

Should I buy one?

The Jimny’s retro-cool styling gives it real appeal. But those seeking a stylish mini G-Class city runabout would probably find the engine lacking power and refinement, an annoying gearchange, floaty steering and handling, an unrefined interior, under-sized rear seats and an impractically tiny boot.

This fourth-generation Jimny might have brought it into the 21st century, but it’s still not exactly at the cutting edge. But, then again, it’s not trying to be. And all of those faults listed above, flipped on their head, are what makes the new Jimny superbly fit for purpose, as a truly capable mini off-roader.

This is a niche car that exists almost in a class by itself, and for the 1300 or so people who buy a Jimny each year and need a pocket-sized off-roader, this new model is capable, confident and utterly compelling. Which is probably why Suzuki has already been swamped with interest from eager buyers. 

While UK prices have yet to be set, it will cost more than the old model, likely somewhere in the region of £16,000. For that money, you get a hugely capable off-roader in minature. And oodles of charm thrown in for free.

Suzuki Jimny specification

Where Germany Price £16,000 (est) On sale January 2019 Engine 4 cyls, 1462cc, petrol Power 100bhp at 4000rpm Torque 95lb ft at 4000rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual Kerb weight 1090kg Top speed 90mph 0-62mph tbc Fuel economy 41.5mpg (NEDC) CO2 178g/km Rivals Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Discovery

Join the debate

Comments
37

17 September 2018

I am so glad they have stuck to the spirit of the original SJ's.

Steam cars are due a revival.

17 September 2018

Are you watching, Land Rover? I didn’t think so. The Suzuki is a proper miniature off-roader and, I think, very successfully continues the company’s heritage. There will always be a market for tough, sensibly priced vehicles like this, but clearly the Suzukl’s diminutive size and load/towing ability limits UK sales for working vehicles. Still not holding my breath for JLR to continue this theme when the Defender replacement eventually appears.

17 September 2018

Sweet Jeebus this thing is adorable.

 

Great work Suzuki.

 

 

17 September 2018

I called in at my local Suzuki dealer up here in Scotland to enquire about one and was told that they had taken £500 deposit on all of their first 2 years allocation despite nobody even knowing the price yet....

Seems like this new Jimny is going to be a sell out, with me really struggling to work out why Suzuki don't ad a LWB 5 door version to the mix, as I'm sure that would sell even better and not cost a fortune to develop & engineer either.

17 September 2018
Landie wrote:

I called in at my local Suzuki dealer up here in Scotland to enquire about one and was told that they had taken £500 deposit on all of their first 2 years allocation despite nobody even knowing the price yet....

Seems like this new Jimny is going to be a sell out, with me really struggling to work out why Suzuki don't ad a LWB 5 door version to the mix, as I'm sure that would sell even better and not cost a fortune to develop & engineer either.

Interesting suggestion!

17 September 2018
Surely that's missing the point of this car?
IMHO

FMS

20 September 2018
Malcypoos wrote:

Surely that's missing the point of this car? IMHO

 

Agree, here comes the but...the classic mini, 3 door ALL of its long life...just like the Jimny...nowadays peoples wants/needs are different and varied, they will not stick with a brand unless they get what they want. Gone are the days when the suppliers held the whip hand. BMW seem about to can the 3dr MINI...is there no shame?...and many other brands have/plan to can 3dr versions of their family cars/hatchbacks. At least we can avoid the brands that we feel have gone against core values and buy into one that we feel perhaps has kept them, or at least not strayed too far away.

18 September 2018
Landie wrote:

I called in at my local Suzuki dealer up here in Scotland to enquire about one and was told that they had taken £500 deposit on all of their first 2 years allocation despite nobody even knowing the price yet....

Seems like this new Jimny is going to be a sell out, with me really struggling to work out why Suzuki don't ad a LWB 5 door version to the mix, as I'm sure that would sell even better and not cost a fortune to develop & engineer either.

Damn straight. A five door could be my next car.

Still, I LOVE this little thing!

17 September 2018

1000 a year? Surely Suzuki need to have higher ambitions, they could have a cult hit on their hands, the GWagen is supercool right now, but only accessible to the super wealthy, there’s a big desire for a real Defender with no sign of one coming and this costs £16k?!

18 September 2018
Bob Cat Brian wrote:

1000 a year? Surely Suzuki need to have higher ambitions, they could have a cult hit on their hands.....

Could not agree more! I run www.newjimny.co.uk and you can find there that Japan and Europe are going mad over the new Jimny, not just relying on a 1000 units to be sold?
In the 90's Suzuki GB held an event called the Rhino Rally where 3000 Suzuki SJ/Vitaras would participate in off road trials, that was before mobile phones or the internet to organise such an event it was solely organised by dealers interested in the product they sold and spreading the word.
SGB need to take a good look at what the rest of Europe are doing with not only the new Jimmy but the rest of the Allgrip range

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