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Suzuki's unpretentious 4x4 is lovable in short doses. Will its charm wear thin over six months?

Our Verdict

Suzuki Jimny 2018 road test review - hero front

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

Suzuki Jimny 2019 long-term

Why we’re running it: To see whether the modern-day Jimny is as worthy as its iconic predecessor

Month 3 - Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Suzuki Jimny: Month 3

City slicker heads to the countryside, laden with precious cargo - 15th January 2020

Living with the Jimny in London has been a breeze, most notably because of its dinky size and brilliant visibility. But a trip to my parents’ home during the holidays gave me the perfect opportunity to spend some time in the Jimny in its natural habitat – the countryside.

As soon as I hit the familiar, rural roads of Bedfordshire where I grew up, the Jimny felt a suitable companion: petite for tight country lanes, elevated for big puddles and with no need for high speeds, which we know aren’t the Jimny’s forte.

When I was growing up in a tiny Bedfordshire village and winter came around, every night there’d be a slight uncertainty as to whether we’d be able to get anywhere in the morning. Being at the bottom of a valley, there’s a hill in every direction, but not enough people living there to warrant road-gritting. Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of cars in ditches and only just escaped patches of stealthy black ice myself.

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Knowing I was coming home for Christmas in the Jimny eradicated any of those concerns. This one particular hill, on which I’ve seen many a car abandoned, was no contest for the lightweight, sprightly Jimny in four-wheel-drive mode. My parents’ house doesn’t require getting away from Tarmac but, with plenty of mud-laden fields (I very nearly lost a walking boot on a local hike), I briefly took the Jimny offroad and it coped as well as I expected. A proper off-road test, with 4x4 aficionado Matt Prior, will be on the way in the coming weeks.

Doing short journeys on Bedfordshire roads, the Jimny is the perfect runaround. Its ruggedness and no-frills approach mean I’m happy taking it anywhere, and the muddier it gets the better. Its shortcomings compared with the average new car today – such as ride comfort and stability at high speeds – also become less relevant for this sort of living. You’re rarely in the car for more than 20 minutes at a time and your average speed is probably 35mph or 40mph.

And, Suzuki reckons, this is precisely how most Jimnys are used. It says they are “invariably purchased by our customers in rural areas who use them for leisure with some winter use, too”, adding that Jimnys are most likely to be a second car that covers low annual mileage.

Based on those previous-generation Jimnys I’ve spotted, that’s correct. They tend to look rough and ready, and consistently have their back seats down, with a few seemingly permanent fixtures in the back such as old blankets, bags full of junk and more. Not that I’ve been snooping in the rear of Jimnys…

As for the interior itself, it is only ever going to win prizes for durability, but there are a few other areas worthy of note. I’ve mentioned the heated seats before: I’ll admit I’m shamelessly won over by some warmth in winter but, nonetheless, it’s a welcome feature – although I’ve also found the seats comfortable over longer journeys.

The infotainment system is a bit 2005 but still better than some Japanese makers’. Switch to Apple CarPlay, though, and it becomes an incredibly good set-up, exceeding what I’d expect of the Jimny.

Last but not least, its practicality in terms of carrying lots of luggage – in this case, many, many Christmas presents – is brilliant. The rear soon filled up but the boxy design let me use every nook and cranny, and the rear door made loading and unloading quick and easy, too.

Love it:

Driving slowly No-effort low-speed motoring – perfect for both muddy rural roads and busy towns.

Loathe it:

Driving quickly Going above 65mph on the motorway as you pass a lorry…

Mileage: 10,936

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Built for all weathers - 2nd January 2020

Winter weather wins: a small but practical advantage of the Jimny is how easily I can reach across to clear the frozen windscreen. In other cars, I often can’t get to the middle; it’s a different story in the upright, dinky Jimny. The heated seats, standard in our range-topping SZ5, continue to be my most used feature as we hit regular freezing temperatures.

Mileage: 9104

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Life with a Suzuki Jimny: Month 2

Charm will get you a long way – although it’s probably better not to go a long way - 27th November 2019

Some cars are objectively terrible yet you can’t help loving them: think the previous-generation Land Rover Defender or Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. For the past couple of months, I’ve been living with another boxy off-roader – albeit far smaller – that, I’m convinced, falls into the same category.

Where to start? Not on the motorway, that’s for sure. If you’re happy to amble along the nation’s motorways in the slow lane, presuming there is no rain or high winds, then you’ll be fine in the Jimny. But find yourself doing 70mph in the fast lane as a gust of wind passes across the M25 and you’ll be gripping the steering wheel for dear life.

By being hugely capable off road, the Jimny is compromised on it, and nowhere is that more true than on the motorway.

Having done quite a few motorway journeys in the Jimny, I borrowed editor Tisshaw’s Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography for a weekend, amused at how two SUVs couldn’t be more different. Of course, the Velar was infinitely more comfortable, yet it didn’t have the charm of our little Jimny. Plus, the Suzuki has never returned as little as 9.9mpg in town… But, let’s remember, Jimny owners are typically rural dwellers who do low on-road mileage. Chances are a fair number of Jimnys have never even made it to a motorway. If all you’re doing is commuting up and down the M1, you wouldn’t buy a Jimny. It’s that simple.

Other downsides? It’s incredibly noisy in every way, be it on the motorway or elsewhere. It’s all relative, of course, because we lucky hacks have experienced lots of cars. The more time I spend in the Jimny, and the higher up the radio volume goes, the less I get irritated by the noise. Plus, speaking hands free over Bluetooth in the car is surprisingly good. You’d expect it to sound as if you were in a swimming pool, yet it doesn’t.

Inside, the plastics and fittings are cheap and not awfully comfortable. The lack of a proper boot has been troublesome on occasion, mostly because there’s nowhere to hide valuables in the car. But when you get used to these details, there’s something charmingly robust about the Jimny’s basicness.

So what about the upsides? Well, really, it’s just a brilliant, fun car. I’ll admit I was sceptical when I was first behind the wheel, given the absence of refinement or any driving dynamics, but it has quickly grown on me. I pride myself on carefully judging my wheel inputs to ensure the car ends up where I want it, it’s entertaining at low speeds and changing through the gears (which you’ll do a lot – again, it’s geared for off-road, low-speed driving) makes you feel like a rally driver, or an overzealous extra from The Fast & Furious.

The thrill of parking or even getting past idiot drivers badly positioned on the road has not yet waned. So petite is this car that there has not been a single space I’ve hesitated to park in.

Then there’s its appearance. I can’t say whether it’s universally liked, but it certainly stands out. The joy is that it does so for being the opposite of pretentious – and, after a few months of running a Bentley Continental GT this year, it’s refreshing for a car to get attention for a different reason.

And for all the criticisms of its cheap interior and inferior driving capabilities, every time I get in the Jimny I’m happy to be there (unless a motorway’s involved!). As we go into the colder months, the next test is how much more appealing it becomes on icy roads with its four-wheel drive capabilities.

Love it:

Fun-seeking spirit There’s a sense of go-anywhere adventure in this quirky, tough and tiny off-roader, even if I’ve been mostly bumbling around town…

Loathe it:

Lack of hidden storage There’s no out-of-sight cubbyhole. The glovebox is small so would only hold things like a phone or purse rather than a bag.


Mileage: 8425

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Life with a Suzuki Jimny: Month 1

A splash of colour - 20th November 2019

You’ll probably be most familiar with the ‘Kinetic Yellow’ Jimny, as seen in most of the official photography. I was glad, for variety’s sake, that our test car was another bright colour: Brisk Blue. White is the most popular in the UK but the coolest on sale, I reckon, is Chiffon Ivory, a utilitarian beige. Best of all, though, is one not offered in the UK: Army Green. What better shade for a mini tank?

Mileage: 7999

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Don’t expect much stowage - 6th November 2019

My partner, carrying wellies and walking boots, opened the boot door of the Jimny while I watched, amused. “Where’s the boot?” he asked, exasperated. He has a point. The Jimny has 85 litres of luggage space, less than half of a Renault Twingo’s. Still, the rear seats can be made more upright for a bit more space or reclined completely.

Mileage: 7992

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It’s got the look - 30th October 2019

Every time I look at our Jimny, I love just how small it is, while not being a city car. Nowhere is it more satisfying than when parking in town. In tight car-park spaces – where my previous long-termer, a Mini Cooper S, would be touching the white line on one side – I step out of the Jimny and find more than half a metre of breathing space. It’s a similar story when parallel parking on my road.

Mileage: 7583

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Welcoming the Jimny to the fleet - 23rd October 2019

We’d been waiting a long time for the fourth-generation Jimny. Such was the anticipation for this 4x4 underdog that, for a couple of years, as each major (and relevant) motor show approached, we asked Suzuki: “Will we see the new Jimny there?” Finally, in the summer of 2018, a mere 20 years after the release of its predecessor, the new model was revealed. And it was as endearingly boxy, funky and compact as we’d hoped.

That’s the charm of the Jimny, isn’t it? It has never tried to be anything it’s not. It doesn’t claim to be – nor is it – a car for every scenario. And when you consider the flurry of compact SUVs available today, that’s a good thing. Few are as small as the Jimny, yet almost all are better rounded for an average day of driving.

But that would be to miss the Jimny’s unique selling point. This is an ultra-, ultra-compact SUV – it is almost identical in length and width to the Volkswagen Up – and one that prides itself on its off-road prowess. On pricing, the Dacia Duster or Fiat Panda 4x4 are the most likely rivals, but for off-roading, it’s an alternative to the far pricier Land Rover Discovery Sport or Jeep Wrangler.

My first experience of a Suzuki Jimny was a memorable one – for all the wrong reasons. I had a fairly well-used example as a hire car in Barbados; well over 50,000 miles on the clock and, as I would find out, all of those miles likely covered on the same set of tyres. The first sense that something was up was when I began turning in to a roundabout at roughly 20mph and experienced the slowest understeer of my life, heading very slowly straight into the central island. Later, I applied the brakes going downhill, only for all the wheels to lock up, sending me sliding perilously towards the bottom.

It won’t be hard, then, for our new Jimny long-term test car to surpass its Bajan equivalent. During its six months with us, it will tackle London’s urban jungle, winter weather and, of course, some off-roading, and we will have plenty of time to contemplate whether or not the quirky Jimny is worth considering as a left-field alternative to more obvious rivals.

Ours is one of few Jimnys on UK roads: only 1200 cars will be sold in a year, just one-tenth the sales of Suzuki’s biggest seller, the Vitara. That number is largely down to supply limitations and it’s the same reason why the most common paint colour is white: not because that’s what buyers have chosen, but because that’s what arrived in the UK. Such is the Jimny’s loyal following that, Suzuki says, many will take it in whatever colour they can get. That’s not a claim many car firms could make.

We have the £650 dual-tone paint, bright blue with a black roof, which is one of the few options available. The most popular options are side body mouldings, a front skid plate and mud flaps, which tells you all you need to know about Jimny buyers.

Indeed, Suzuki reckons many of its new-Jimny customers had the old model, and there are some conquest sales, too. It is invariably purchased by people in rural areas who use the Jimny for leisure plus some winter driving. Given its off-road focus, it’s no surprise that the Jimny is typically a second household car and has low annual mileage.

It’s a simple line-up: one 100bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine and two trim levels, SZ4 and SZ5. We’re running the higher-trim SZ5, which has such a long specification list that it’d be hard to find much more to ask for. It seems especially abundant, I reckon, because the Jimny’s interior is so humble and sturdy that one expects it to be sparsely equipped. Instead, you’ll find heated seats, high-beam assist, DAB, nav, cruise control, Bluetooth, lane departure warning and much more. One missing feature I’m used to is parking sensors, but I quickly realised how absurd sensors would be given how close you are to the back of the car and its boxy nature.

All those comforts are in demand: 80% of buyers are opting for the SZ5 over the lesser SZ4, despite being £2500 more. Our car costs £18,499 plus that £650 dual-tone paint. The 1.5-litre petrol unit is paired to a five-speed manual ’box, although an auto option makes up a fifth of SZ5 sales. Top speed is – deep breath – 90mph, and although there’s no official 0-60mph time, Autocar road testers recorded 11.9sec.

Early thoughts? There’s no denying it’s rough and ready, but the more I drive it, the more I’m charmed. So far, it’s mostly been used for short, suburban trips, although a brief stint on the M3 proved what I already know: stay in the inside lane at 60mph. I’ve also had one, fleeting chance of employing 4WD on a field, which gave me a thrilling glimpse of its off-road potential – something you’ll be hearing plenty more about over the next few months.

Second Opinion

I loved the Suzuki Jimny on its European launch last year, with one caveat: that it’s a true niche off-roader and anyone using it as a city runabout will find an unrefined engine, floaty handling, annoying gearchange and unrefined interior. Given Rachel’s daily commute, I wish her good luck. That said, I’ve already hassled her to give me the keys for a spell so I can be charmed all over again.

James Attwood

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Suzuki Jimny specification

Specs: Price New £18,499 Price as tested £19,149 Options Dual-tone paint £650

Test Data: Engine 4 cyls, 1462cc, petrol Power 100bhp at 4000rpm Torque 95lb ft at 4000rpm Kerb weight 1090kg Top speed 90mph 0-62mph 11.9 Fuel economy no WLTP data CO2 no WLTP data Faults None Expenses None

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Comments
8

18 December 2019

What's the point of droning on about how bad they are on the Motorway (4 paragraphs no less), people in the market for one aren't stupid and would know that already, what next a paragraph on a lack of tow bar availability on a LaFerrari.

It's a car hated by Journalists loved by owners, just try buying a previous gen one on the secondhand market!

18 December 2019

Not sure that journalists hate it from the reviews I've seen...

Given that FCA has announced a competitor aimed at the Jimny, if I was Suzuki I would be going flat out to build Jimny as a spinoff offroad sub-brand with LWB, 5 door, van and soft top versions, possibly using capacity at its plants in Hungary or India, and later a larger Vitara sized platform to tackle traditional Defender/G wagon/Jeep models including possibly even military variants.

18 December 2019

Parkers gave the previous one 2 stars and Whatcar gave the current one 2 stars, hardly glowing for such a sort after secondhand buy. In fact I don't think I've ever seen a 2 star review.

Regarding a larger Vitara, Suzuki do have the S-Cross (bit more on-road than off-road) and maybe don't wish to steal sales from that, but I know what you mean

19 December 2019

These cool little cars have caught peoples attention so widely that they are appreciating in value substantially; you'll be lucky to find one at list anywhere, and they are being held back from the new market  on emissions caps. 2 star reviews or not, they are in huge demand 

21 December 2019
If you think the Jimny is objectivity terrible, you are looking at the wrong object.

17 January 2020

This is how a boxy off-roader should look, I love its purity and honesty, not the over-designed over-detailed G class.

17 January 2020
...a mini Defender!

18 January 2020

Although Suzuki appear to be able to sell every Jimny it makes, I still think they are missing a trick by not producing a "city" version.  The small size, shape and high driving position are ideal, but 4wd is not necessary.  Ditch it, fit decent engines and the option of the excellent 6-speed auto from the Swift (if they can be installed longitudinally) and tweak the suspension and steering so that it is stable at 70 on a motorway.  Its style would allow Suzuki to sell it at a premuim so that it does not suffer the adverse economics of production that threaten the continued existence of other city cars.  If Suzuki expanded its production capacity to include this version, I reckon it would more than double already healthy sales!

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