What is it?

So. You like the look of Suzuki’s Jimny and you think it would be kinda fun to own one.

After all, you can go anywhere with one of these. Off road like one of those heavy duty Toyotas — right?

And, the latest model, like the three generations that have come before, is designed to go off road, with proper low range gearing.

Apart from the colour, there’s only one real choice to make — whether to get the manual or the automatic?

Suzuki hasn’t done itself any favours, however, because the auto is an old school 4-speed, with an overdrive lockout button — the latter acts as a sort of a power button.


What’s it cost?

Prices for Jimny start from $23,990.

The automatic adds $2000 to the price, metallic paint $500 and two-tone paintwork with a contrasting colour for the roof $1250.

There’s six colours to choose from, three of them two-tone combinations: Kinetic Yellow/Bluish Black Pearl, Brisk Blue Metallic/Bluish Black Pearl, Chiffon Ivory Metallic/Bluish Black Pearl, Jungle Green, Medium Gray and Superior White.

Standard kit includes cloth trim, single zone climate control air, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, LED headlights, front fog lights, Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), privacy glass and 15-inch alloys.

There’s also Suzuki’s stock 7.0-inch multimedia system, with a rear view camera and satellite navigation, which is divided into four quadrants designed to make it easy to use — plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (but no digital radio).

Safety includes six airbags and Autonomous Emergency Braking  which uses a camera and a laser sensor to scan the road ahead for traffic and/or pedestrians.

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

Despite all this, Jimny scores only three stars for safety. Interestingly, its conceptual cousins the Jeep Wrangler and Land Rover Defender have also had trouble getting a decent safety rating.


What’s it go like?

It’s a cutie, but looks aren’t everything.

At the business end, a 1.5-litre, four cylinder, naturally-aspirated petrol engine delivers 75kW of power and 130Nm of torque — the latter at 4000 revs.

The 1.5 is available with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic as mentioned, with lockout overdrive that prevents the auto from changing into top gear — sort of sport mode.

A part-time four-wheel drive system, featuring high and low range gearing, is selected via a second stubby gear shift located to the rear of the main one.

This can be done on the move for high range, which is permissible on wet roads, but the change to low range for the rough stuff requires a stop and shift to Park before it can be engaged.

The rest of the time the car remains rear-wheel drive.

As well as hill hold and hill descent control, the 4×4 system also boasts what’s nown as Brake LSD Traction Control.

Basically, it means that if two diagonally opposed wheels lose grip in slippery conditions, it will automatically brake the slipping wheels and redistribute torque to the other two.

With a tiny 40-litre tank, fuel consumption is not surprisingly low — rated at 6.4L/100km for the manual and 6.9L/100km for the auto.

It’s a shorty, at 3.64 metres in length, with a 2250mm wheelbase.

But Jimny still accommodates four people, although the two rear seats are child-sized with little room remaining for luggage.

The body is bolted to a separate ladder chassis, as favoured by the 4×4 crowd, with a spare wheel that sits on the tailgate.

It opens left to right in keeping with our right hand drive needs.

Suspension is 3-link rigid axles front and back with shocks and coil springs, and it rides on 15 inch wheels with 195/80 Bridgestone Dueler H/T tyres.

With 210mm of ground clearance and short front and rear overhangs, it has an approach angle of 37 degrees, ramp over angle of 28 degrees and departure angle of 49 degrees.

But no figure is provided for its water crossing capability, although we understand it is 300mm.

Getting into the car requires a step up and in, with a door-lip the same as a Jeep to prevent the entry of water.

The driver’s seat adjusts backwards and forwards, but there’s no height adjustment and the steering wheel moves only up and down.

Our test vehicle this time around was the 4-speed auto and and like the manual, you have to start it with a twist of the key.

Having a small four cylinder engine it needs some revs on the dial to get going, with maximum torque not available until 4000 rpm either.

The electric steering is interesting, as it is possible to move the wheel from side to side without actually generating any kind of response.

The change in the manual is relatively easy to operate, but prefers not to be hustled.

The auto, on the other hand, with only four gears, could do with an update, but of course there’s only so much room underneath to fit a larger transmission.

Despite this, it is likely the choice around town and doesn’t use much more fuel.

Embarrassingly, after being led to believe the Jimny was a real off roader, we almost got bogged in the manual.

So, this time around, in the auto, we decided to take it a little easier, to proceed more cautiously — and it was an approach that paid dividends.

The task before us was a day exploring the backlots of the Hawkesbury region to the west of Sydney, with its myriad backroads, dirt roads and fire trails.

The car was more than up to the job and its small size allows it to squeeze easily in and out of tight situations.

As the day progressed, our confidence grew, tempting us to tackle some of the more challenging tracks that we encountered.

Changing in and out of high range four-wheel drive was a simple matter and the suspension and ground clearance were adequate.

The takeaway? Don’t expect too much from the car and you won’t wind up disappointed.

Get to know it, get to know what it can and can’t do, and it won’t let you down.

For full-on four-wheel driving, however, we’d recommend some chunkier rubber and a lift kit, because the skinny Duelers do the car an injustice.

By the way we were getting 7.0L/100km after 500km (the manual returned 7.1)


What we like?

  • Cheeky looks
  • Affordable offroading
  • Lowish fuel consumption
  • All the mod cons – most of them anyway


What we don’t like?

  • Tight fit
  • Back seat small
  • Little luggage space
  • Rear drum brakes
  • No blind spot alert
  • Copes better with freeway speeds
  • Just two speakers for audio
  • Touchscreen sometimes unresponsive


The bottom line?

You’d think the decision between manual and auto would be clear cut.

But manuals are on the way out and the auto after all is nothing fancy, just a 4-speed — let me repeat that, 4 speed.

In operation the manual feels a bit clunky to start with, but once you get your foot off the throttle and get the timing right, it’s surprisingly easy to use.

The auto on the other hand works well, despite its physical limitations and probably has the edge around town. It handles off the line acceleration more easily and feels more composed at higher speeds.

Both by the way sit around the 3250 rev mark at 110km/h on the motorway and both return around the same fuel consumption.

Sorry, too close to call.


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Suzuki Jimny, priced from $23,990
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 7.5/10
  • Thirst - 7/10
  • Practicality - 7/10
  • Comfort - 7/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 8/10
Suzuki Jimny: The automatic choice


Chris Riley has been a journalist for 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.