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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 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
Simon Davis
5 November 2018

What is it?

According to social media, the new Suzuki Jimny is just about the most endearing, ebullient, retro, fantastic, old-school and wonderful car to be released in 2018. So many times have phrases or words such as ‘cult-like following’ and ‘charming’ been used by the wider motoring press to describe it, you might be excused for mistaking the Jimny’s arrival for the second coming.

However, while this seemingly non-stop praise might all be a bit exhausting, you can understand where it all comes from; new Jimnys don’t come around all that often (the previous model was on sale continuously for 20 years), and the fact that this one looks the way it does certainly isn’t doing it a disservice. 

Anyway, opinions on its image or character aside, we’ve now got the task of finding out how the Jimny - with its ladder-frame chassis, three-link rigid axle suspension and 101bhp naturally aspirated petrol engine - copes with job of dealing with the less-than-stellar British road network. Gulp.

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What's it like?

As a road car, it’s really rather poor. Inherently flawed, even. Those looks can only go so far to assuage any ill feelings you’ll inevitably experience about the way the Jimny goes from A to B, and it’s likely not going to be that much further than 10 miles or so.

The low-speed ride is horrendously choppy over lumps and bumps, to the point where it feels as though it wouldn’t settle down even if you found yourself driving on a road that had the smoothness of glass. Add a little pace to the mix, and it calms down a touch, but stray above 60mph and there are times when the Jimny feels as though it’s about to take off completely. 

Things don’t get much better through the bends, either. Its tall, slab-sided shape gives way to a considerable amount of roll, while mid-corner directional changes are particularly good at eliciting something of a dynamic tantrum. Weight transfer in this instance isn’t particularly progressive - there are times when it feels like all of the Suzuki’s 1090kg mass is shifting around its lateral axis in a manner that’s not too dissimilar from a ship being tossed about by a stormy sea. 

The steering is overly light and not particularly responsive, but to its credit it does provide some idea of what the front tyres are doing beneath you. Which is a good thing, as there’s very little front-end grip on offer here; the Jimny requires only minor provocation before it’ll begin to understeer. You won’t be in any danger of falling off the road, mind – there’s so little performance that you won’t be travelling particularly quickly and the traction control will cut in fairly severely if it thinks you’re being a bit of a wally.

Speaking of the powertrain, that will likely grow to be a source of annoyance for anyone planning on regularly using the Jimny for long-distance trips. Its lack of pace or in-gear shove isn’t the problem here, more the fact that you get the impression Suzuki has done very little when it comes to refinement, and noise isolation in particular. At the sorts of speeds you encounter on British motorways, the engine will be spinning away so furiously and vocally, you feel as though the soundwaves that permeate throughout the cabin might actually melt your eardrums.

Which is a bit of a shame, really, because the cabin actually isn’t an unpleasant place to spend time. The seats position you high up for a commanding view of the road despite the Jimny’s relatively diminutive 1.7m height, and its boxy shape makes for excellent visibility. The controls are chunky and easy to operate (infotainment aside), and quite obviously geared towards making the Jimny as user-friendly as possible off-road. 

And that, ultimately, is where the Jimny should be used.

Should I buy one?

Were you to buy a Jimny with no intention of ever taking it anywhere near a muddy field or rutted farm track, you’re likely to find that whatever thoughts you may have had about its sweet and endearing image will quickly vanish. It just doesn’t work well enough on the road for it to be considered a car that you could easily live with.

On the other hand, to severely penalise the Jimny based solely on the impressions gleaned from driving it on the Tarmac would be really rather unfair. And while that is where circumstance has seen this particular test take place, a proper mud-plugging, rock-climbing off-road review is inbound.

Rest assured, this isn’t the last we’ll see of the little Jimny.

Suzuki Jimny SZ5 1.5

Where Bedfordshire Price £17,000 (est) On sale January 2019 Engine 4 cyls, 1462cc, petrol Power 101bhp at 6000rpm Torque 95lb ft at 4000rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual Kerb weight 1090kg Top speed 90mph 0-62mph 12.0sec (est) Fuel economy 35.8mpg (WLTP) CO2 178g/km Rivals Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Discovery

Join the debate

Comments
26

5 November 2018

You know how this review is going with statements like "anyone planning on regularly using the Jimny for long-distance trips.." no-one buys a Jimny thinking it make a good motorway cruiser so why bring that into the article. After all when did you last see an article about how poor a Lotus Elise at doing supermarket trips. 

The last Jimny had the same negative spin but you try getting hold of a good one for sensible money, it depreciates slower than a Porsche!

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

5 November 2018
xxxx wrote:

You know how this review is going with statements like "anyone planning on regularly using the Jimny for long-distance trips.." no-one buys a Jimny thinking it make a good motorway cruiser so why bring that into the article. After all when did you last see an article about how poor a Lotus Elise at doing supermarket trips. 

The last Jimny had the same negative spin but you try getting hold of a good one for sensible money, it depreciates slower than a Porsche!

And right there is the biggest dilemena facing Land Rover with the Defender. Land Rover knows that these models sell in very low numbers in the UK and Europe. So to justify it the next Defender must be sold as both a Utilitarian workhorse and a premium product. Tough job to get right.

Mercedes G Wagon and this are at the extreme ends of what they must not build.

 

5 November 2018

I think a new Defender could have been pitched at the mid-sized pick up market. Vehicles like the VW Amarok and Mercedes X class. A SWB derivative would be unique and distinctive.

7 November 2018

It's what Land Rover should be doing, and for sub £20,000 - they'd sell like hot cakes.  But I understand the new Defender will be over twice the price of the Jimny - as a starting price!  I own a current Jimny, and I love it.

Reviews by car journalists make me smile.  They pan the Mokka, too, but it's a great car.  They only seem happy if it's German.

I say my bit, then go. So although I'm interested in what you may initially say, I don't care what you think about what I've written, so I won't read whatever your reply is.

5 November 2018
It just looks BRILLIANT!

5 November 2018

at doing what it was designed for “Offroad” use. I bet it drives better than a 110 Land Rover we had in the forces (and you don’t sit on the fuel tank filler cap). That use to wander around all over the road, the steering had so much play in it, driving on the road required constant steering input through the rubber band connecting it to the wheels :0).

But it could go anywhere Offroad and the Jimmy is from the same mould, it’ll get you in and out of places very few other cars would. How much use that is to most people in the uk is questionable, but if I lived in a remote part of the UK, where the weather can be harsh, the roads narrow and comfort was a top priority, a jimny would be a serious consideration, the few cars Suzuki bring into the UK will be sold out very quickly I’m sure. 

5 November 2018

I thought the review was fair, given the conclusion that an off-road test is appropriate and will follow. Although the Jimny could actually be used as a city car, given its compact, slab-sided shape, it is essentially a purpose built off-roader with all the inherent compromises. Bearing this in mind, I’m sure it will be a sales success for its intended market both in the UK and worldwide.

The big intangible, of course, is fashion. However inappropriate the Jimny may seem as a ‘normal’ road car, just look at the use of G-Wagens and Defenders in the big cities. Being so much more affordable, and with ‘cute’ and distinctive looks, who’s to say the Jimny might attract an even wider following amongst younger drivers?

MrJ

5 November 2018

The new Jimny wins stars with me for being basic, and focused on its off-road skills. As for its looks, well, thankfully it lacks the hideous and unecessary visual complications (aka 'styling') of almost all the other pretenders out there.

5 November 2018

I have a feeling it may fill the 2nd car/city car role for many buyers, as well as having cred in the winter should snow arrive... but as the main family vehicle, this review throws water on that idea.  

5 November 2018
I can't imagine many would've thought the Jimny would be suitable as a main family vehicle, regardless if how well it drove. The overall dimensions and lack of luggage space would make that obvious, surely?

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