Suzuki Jimny: better off than on for this icon


What is it?

Small. Boxy. Reeking of history. The reborn legend that is Jimny, with go-anywhere ability and a reputation for being unbreakable, has a new look with plenty of ties to the past.

Sole engine choice is a 1.5-litre four potter that is hooked up to a 5-speed manual or archaic-sounding 4-speed auto with — wait for it — electric overdrive.

Both get a proper mechanical 4WD transfer case for when getting dirty doesn’t mean doing the gardening.

Peak power and peak torque are far from fabulous, at 75kW and 130Nm, with a breathless 6000rpm needed for the power, and 4000rpm for torque.

Fuel consumption, as you may expect, is also listed in small numbers, and the first one is the tank size.

Did I say tank? I meant fuel thimble.

At just 40 litres, it uses a claimed 6.4L/100km for the manual or 6.9kL/100km for the self stirrer.


What’s it cost?

Your bank balance will take a $23,990 hit for the manual and it’s another $2000 for the slushbox — plus on-roads.

It’s a good price and there is a substantial amount of standard equipment that comes with the outlay.

Jimny is a dedicated 2+2, with no room for more bodies. The rear seats fold to provide extra cargo space and are coated in a resin to make scraping or washing off dirt easier.

Standard luggage space is just 85 litres, or 377 litres with rear pews folded.

Rear seat leg room is not great, even for young children, so if you’re looking for a family car, then the family is best seen as one or two people — maybe a pooch?

The slightly hard cushioned seats are okay, but the driver’s pew isn’t adjustable in anything but a fore and aft direction.

It’s not height adjustable which leaves some drivers cramped for headroom, or feeling as though they’re sitting too high inside. To compound this, the steering column is only tilt adjustable.

Front, side, and curtain airbags are standard. The mandated driver aids such as traction control, ABS, etc, are here, as is Hill Hold Control and Hill Descent Control — and that’s for both transmissions.

There is Autonomous Emergency Braking that uses both a camera and a laser sensor to read the road ahead for traffic and/or pedestrians.

You also get Lane Departure Warning, Weaving Assist to fight fatigue, plus traffic sensing high beam.

The infotainment setup is standard Suzuki with a four-quadrant touchscreen. Apple and Android compatibility is here, but digital audio isn’t.

Interior colour schemes are black/grey and body colour. Yup; aesthetics and weight saving combine to bring the outside in, with exposed painted metal surfaces for the doors and cargo sections.

There are just six colours to choose from, including the Chiffon Ivory Metallic of the test car. That, and the Kinetic Yellow and Brisk Blue Metallic have a bluish-black roof colour as standard.

Suzuki quotes $500 for the metallic paint, and $1250 for a two-tone colour choice.

That aforementioned black/grey combo has plastics that look a touch blah, but that’s deliberate, says Suzuki.

The actual texture is rough enough, and there are spaces enough, for hands clad in gloves to still be able to operate or hang on to the handles.

Then there’s “Brake LSD Traction Control”.

No, it’s got nothing to do with The Beatles or drugs. It’s a drive system that reapportions torque to a spinning wheel from its diagonally opposite companion.

Each corner, for that matter, has an 195/80/15 alloy that wraps a solid disc up front, and a drum brake rear.

History repeats outside with some rejigged design cues.

Circular headlights (which are LED filled) and separate indicators start the history lesson. Integrated rear indicator and light clusters continue.

Then there’s the five-slot grille and twin horizontal strakes at the base of the front pillar.

Short and stubby with bugger-all overhangs, Jimny is just 3645mm in length, with an approach and  departure angles of 37 and 49 degrees respectively.

Height is just 1725mm and packs in 210mm of ground clearance. Width is 1645mm.

Front and rear suspension hang off a ladder chassis and are feature three-link rigid axles bouncing off coil springs.


What’s it go like?

I was fortunate enough to briefly sample the manual at a dedicated 4WD driver education centre.

The car we are reviewing here however is the auto.

The 1.5-litre engine is not a turbo which begs the question: why didn’t they use the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine from the Vitara, or the brilliant 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbo?

For the auto, the 1.5-litre and 4-speed auto is simply not a good combination.

Acceleration is measured in snail time, rolling acceleration is average at best, and it’s noisy on road.

Either of the other two engines would have been a better choice and would have helped economy figures.

The 1.6-litre gets a 6-speed auto in Vitara.

The high 80 profile rubber and coil sprung ride make for a very soft on-road presence.

With the driver alone on board there is a significant lean towards the right front. Stand outside, grab the roof, and rock the Jimny, and that soft, squishy suspension is all too apparent.

Steering is tarmac vague, too, with a lack of communication. There is plenty of wandering and attention needed from the driver.

BUT, and it’s a big BUT, this all changes when the Jimny is taken to the places it remembers in its heritage.

Get it onto the dirt, the sand, the rocks and gravel, and suddenly the Jimny comes alive, reminding you why it has this legendary aura.  

That soft suspension eats rugged surfaces as easily as a whale swallows krill.

The steering play becomes an excuse for the Jimny to say: “okay, which way, which direction” — more comfortably, more confidently.

That ride height and those angles suddenly shake hands, murmuring to each other about their travels.

Suzuki market their all wheel drive system as “AllGrip” and that’s achingly apparent on our favoured dirt test track.

The transfer selector is a notch forward and back lever. Default is 2WD, with a pull backwards at speeds up to 100km/h to go into 4WD high range.

To do it properly, however, requires a stop, select Neutral, then a push down and back for low range shenanigans.

Find a deep muddy puddle and hear the “pffffft, is that all?” from the Jimny.

Get it into a sandy pit, and listen to the sigh of exasperation as it rolls in, out, and waits, shrugging its shoulders.

Although there are just 130 torques, as a certain TV host calls them, it seems to be enough for the kind of off-roading most people dare to try.

Hill Descent Control works but could use a quicker response in its programing.


What we like?

  • Sense of history
  • Undoubted off-road nous
  • Retro style metal sections of the interior


What we don’t like?

  • On road manners
  • On road lack of urge
  • Compromised rear seats


The bottom line?

A lot has been made — and by one self-proclaimed expert at that — of the Jimny’s three-star safety rating, frothing at the mouth in utter indignation.

A “good” proportion of that is in regards to the bluff, upright front, lowering the overall because of its lack of pedestrian safety.

The other quibble Australia’s main road safety body has is  in respect to the Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), saying it lacked a quick response to items sensed.

In reality, the likelihood of the Jimny contributing anything significant to the pedestrian death toll is non-existent, and AEB can be easily recalibrated.

CHECKOUT: By Jimny, time running out for Cape York?

CHECKOUT: Jimny: the return of a 4×4 icon


Suzuki Jimny, priced from $23,990
  • Looks - 7/10
  • Performance - 5/10
  • Safety - 7/10
  • Thirst - 7.5/10
  • Practicality - 7/10
  • Comfort - 7/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 7/10

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