Car reviews - Suzuki - Jimny - GLX
Retro looks, great visibility, slick manual transmission, real-world fuel efficiency, relatively comfortable ride, honest handling, nearly all of the negatives below are forgivable
Room for improvement
Compromised driving position, limited storage options, uncomfortable second row, high NVH levels, slow acceleration, needs a sixth gear, highway instability, tyre squeal
Suzuki successfully goes retro with rewarding, brilliantly flawed Jimny off-roader
22 Apr 2019
AUTOMOTIVE cult heroes are few and far between. The Volkswagen Beetle and Porsche 911 are often the first two that come to mind, but what about the Suzuki Jimny?
While it traces its history back to 1970, the Jimny has spawned only three generations in its near 50-year run – until now. At last, the GJ series is here.
It’s one of the new models that broke the internet upon its reveal in 2018, and demand for it is so high that the waiting list is seriously long.
So, what is all the fuss about? Given that most owners won’t take the Jimny off-road – its natural environment – we’ve put it through its paces in suburbia to find out.
Price and equipment
Priced from $23,990 plus on-road costs, the Jimny is sharply priced when you consider its off-road chops that are unrivalled in the small-SUV segment, although it may appear short on kit.
Standard equipment includes 15-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 195/80 Bridgestone all-terrain tyres (with a full-size spare), dusk-sensing LED headlights, halogen front foglights and black side-mirror caps. It might sound basic from the outside, but there’s no denying that the Jimny’s retro looks are unbelievably cool.
Inside, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with voice control, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, Bluetooth connectivity, one USB port, two 12V power outlets, a two-speaker sound system (!!), single-zone climate control and fabric upholstery feature.
Our test car is finished in Jungle Green metallic paintwork, which is a $500 option. As such, the price as tested is $24,490. Buyers who opt for four-speed torque-converter automatic transmission not tested here are charged a further $2000.
Oh, boy. This is very utilitarian, and we suppose it should be because it’s a Jimny. Not to mention, it’s also a budget small SUV. Extra emphasis on the word ‘budget’.
While we appreciate the rough-and-ready nature of the off-road-focused Jimny’s cabin, its abundance of shiny hard plastics paints a very bland – and black – picture.
That being said, compared to its predecessor, it is thoroughly modern affair with a 7.0-inch touchscreen now prominent, even if its infotainment system is rather basic. Don’t get your hopes up for a digital speedo, either.
While there are numerous storage areas sprinkled throughout the Jimny, most of them are so tiny that they’re unusable. Even the glovebox is dimensionally compromised!
With 85 litres of cargo capacity available behind the 50/50 split-fold rear bench, you’ll be trying to find innovative ways to stash your loot. We’ve started to run out of ideas.
And with just 377L offered with the second row stowed, it goes without saying that the Jimny is not the first word in practicality. When it comes to transporting larger items, you have to leave occupants three and four behind.
However, it is the driving position that draws the most ire. With the front seats and steering wheel both lacking height adjustment, you feel like you’re hovering over the main controls, while the latter’s rim crucially conceals the top of the instrument cluster.
Not to mention the lack of a central armrest means it’s hard to get comfortable on a longer journey, especially with the high amount of road and wind noise that penetrates the cabin at highway speeds.
Nonetheless, pedal placement is actually quite good, but the narrow footwell means there is no room for a left footrest. Instead, the driver must tuck their unused foot below the clutch when cruising. Naturally, this is quite awkward when a gear change is required.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that adults are in for a tough time in the second row, with legroom behind our 184cm driving position almost non-existent as six-footers find their knees rubbing against the seat backrests. It’s okay for children, though.
You can also understand why the Jimny is strictly a four-seater. It’s narrow as it is, but the rear wheelarches intrude into the cabin to make it that little bit more claustrophobic. Time to get friendly with your fellow passenger, then.
Ingress and egress are unsurprisingly less than graceful, too, but at least headroom is very generous thanks to high, square roofline. And there’s also plenty of toe room on offer.
So, what is good about this cabin? Visibility, and lots of it. The large square windows sit upright and ensure that no matter what way you turn your head, you have a clear look at the surrounding environment. We sorely miss traditional SUVs like this.
Engine and transmission
The Jimny is motivated by a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine that produces a very modest 75kW of power at 6000rpm and 130Nm of torque at 4000rpm.
Straight-line beast? Not quite. The Jimny is slow off the line and even slower during in-gear acceleration. More low-end torque and top-end power would be nice. Actually, more of everything everywhere would be good. It’s crying out for a turbocharger.
To make matters even more interesting, our test car is fitted with the standard five-speed manual transmission – no need to check your watches, it is 2019.
If you think the Jimny has been short-changed a gear, you’re absolutely right. When cruising on the highway at 100km/h, the engine ticks over at 3200rpm! Now you can understand why the cabin is so noisy…
That being said, this is actually a sweet-shifting unit thanks to its clutch’s light pedal operation and low release point, although the gear selector’s throw is a touch too long and the first two ratios, in particular, are very short.
The latter means you whip through the initial gears like no-one’s business. And given that the engine needs plenty of revs for any semblance of meaningful progression, you really need to work the transmission. It definitely pays to downshift when going up a hill.
As bad as some of the above might sound, the Jimny is rather fun to punt about town. You really need to pay attention to where the engine and transmission are at, otherwise momentum can be stunted at a moment’s notice.
It’s definitely one of those vehicles that needs to be thrashed constantly, and because it is no speed demon, you’re never really at risk of finding yourself on the wrong side of the law.
Claimed fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions for the Jimny are 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres and 146 grams per kilometre respectively.
During our week with the Jimny, we are averaging 7.0L/100km over 360km of mixed driving, which is a pretty exceptional real-world result given how hard it has to be driven.
Ride and handling
The Jimny’s suspension set-up consists of a pair of three-link rigid axles with coil springs. Despite this and its ladder-frame chassis, ride comfort is relatively good on sealed roads.
Yes, the Jimny does crash over bumps and unsealed surfaces are noticeably, but it is so softly sprung that none of it hurts. So softly sprung, in fact, that it rocks from side to side during ingress and egress. It’s comical, really.
However, the electric power steering isn’t as warmly received. This new system is bordering on being too light, even at low speeds when such a lack of weight is normally appreciated.
To make matters worse, steering feel is almost non-existent, with feedback from the front wheels via the column muted at best. Thankfully, the chassis is very communicative, so at least the Jimny’s got that going for it.
Handling-wise, the Jimny is all over the place – literally. Highway driving is entertaining to say the least, as it inexplicably wanders about its lane, meaning the driver needs to pay more attention than they usually do.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that the Jimny measures in at 3645mm long, 1645mm wide and 1725mm tall with a 2250mm wheelbase and has a 1095kg kerb weight. Read: It’s so small and so light that crosswinds are much more impactful than normal.
Nonetheless, the Jimny’s honest handling has grown on us. There’s plenty of roll around corners of any speed and its seriously pitches under hard braking, but all of this means you know exactly where you are at any given time.
Understeer is also prevalent from moderate speed, and speaking of which, the Bridgestone all-terrain tyres squeal when navigating roundabouts. Yes, roundabouts at a normal pace. And before anyone asks, the tyre pressures are correct on our test car.
The Jimny’s diminutive dimensions mean that manoeuvrability is tight, which makes it perfect in the urban jungle. The miniscule is so turning circle delightful that you really feel you can take it anywhere.
Speaking of which, the Jimny comes with Suzuki’s part-time AllGrip Pro four-wheel-drive system comes with a low-range transfer case, but we didn’t have the opportunity to head off-road on this occasion, so we’ll save exploring this set-up for another day.
Safety and servicing
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Jimny a lacklustre three-star safety rating in January 2019.
While the Jimny performed well in Child Occupant Protection (84%) and adequately in Adult Occupant Protection (73%), it performed less favourably in Vulnerable Road User Protection (52%) and Safety Assist (50%).
Advanced driver-assist systems in the Jimny extend to autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, high-beam assist, cruise control, a manual speed limiter, a reversing camera, hill-start assist and hill-descent control.
Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), brake assist system (BAS), electronic stability control (ESC) and traction control system (TCS).
As with all Suzuki models, the Jimny comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty and three years of roadside assistance, while service intervals are quite short, at every six months or 10,000km, whichever comes first.
However, if owners get their vehicle serviced under Suzuki’s capped-price servicing program at an authorised dealership, the terms are extended to five years/140,000km and five years respectively.
The Jimny’s undeniable charm is a gravitational pull that we cannot resist. It is fundamentally flawed in so many regards and yet we find ourselves singing its praises.
Few models are able to be so brilliant because of their flaws, but rarefied air isn’t a stranger to the Jimny. If it was perfect, it would be boring… and it’s certainly not boring.
If you can afford to sacrifice practicality and performance, then the Jimny will reward you time and time again, and like us, you won’t live to regret a single moment of driving it.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport S (from $53,450 plus on-road costs)
While we’re yet to drive the new-generation Wrangler at the time of writing, it is the closest competitor for the otherwise unrivalled Jimny – even if it is more than twice the price. Yikes.
Mercedes-AMG G63 (from $247,330 plus on-road costs)
What about 10 times the price? Enter the G63. Like the Wrangler and Jimny, it has a ladder-frame chassis and is steeped in tradition. And you get a 430kW/850Nm V8. So, there’s that.
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Model release date: 1 January 2019
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