Car review: Suzuki Jimny

Carlton Boyce / 06 September 2016

A small interior and a choppy ride won’t prevent the classic Suzuki Jimny from capturing your affections.



Score 

7/10

A small interior

First impressions were mixed: front seat legroom is very tight and when you try to push the driver’s seat further back you’ll probably find that it is already hard against the stops. 

Neither the seat or steering wheel be adjusted for height either. As a result, I can squeeze myself into a Jimny but only just and while I accept that I am taller and wider than most even Mr or Mrs Average will probably find it uncomfortably tight. 

(My wife says I looked exactly like a gorilla driving a Cozy Coupe but then she’s got a cruel sense of humour when the mood takes her.)

Cynics laugh and explain this is because the Jimny is a product of a different era, a time when we were smaller than we are now. 

This might be a defence of the Austin Seven but I’m not sure it is accurate in the case of the Jimny; being born in 1998 probably makes it considerably older than anything else on sale in the UK today but I’m not convinced that the human race was significantly smaller back in the dying days of the twentieth century.

Four ways to save money buying a new car

A short wheelbase

And even if you can squeeze yourself into it, the short wheelbase almost guarantees that the ride will be choppy unless the road surface is billiard table smooth. 

Rear-seat legroom is almost non-existent (which is probably why the driver’s seat won’t go back very far) and even a pair of super-skinny supermodels will be rubbing hipbones ‘cos it isn’t very wide in there either. 

Oh, and the boot is tiny and it costs £15,000, which is enough to buy a proper, modern car.

Your new rights when buying a car from a dealer

A slow acceleration

Nor is the Jimny very fast. 

A top speed of 87mph and a 0-62mph time of 14.1 seconds possibly make it the slowest accelerating car you can buy new today, with propulsion courtesy of a 1.3-litre engine that develops less power than my leaf blower. 

It isn’t even especially economical by way of compensation; a real-world fuel consumption figure of 35.4mpg isn’t terribly good these days and a CO2 figure of 162g/km is positively prehistoric, in every sense of the word…

But I ruddy love it.

Nippy and light

Its diminutive size might stop fat motoring journalists in their tracks but it enables the Jimny to squeeze through the tightest of gaps, whether that is an overgrown green lane or a crowded city street. 

It’s light too; at just over a tonne the Jimny isn’t much heavier than a side-by-side quad bike, which means it skips across the sort of deep mud that would swallow a Land Rover whole.

A great off-roader

Add a proper, selectable four-wheel-drive transmission and pukka low-range gearbox and the Jimny is one of the most competent off-roaders in the world, something that isn’t lost on various branches of the emergency services worldwide, many of whom appreciate its ability to cross terrain you’d struggle to walk over, delivering personnel and (a small amount of) equipment to even the most remote area. 

(Anyone who needs to deliver more people and heavier equipment probably skips straight to a Mercedes Unimog; hardly anyone bothers with a Land Rover anymore.)

Even the tiny little engine, which is no bigger than my thumb, sounds impossibly loud and unfeasibly distant; the Jimny sounds exactly like an old Bedford RL 7-tonne truck. 

(That’s a compliment, in case you’re wondering.)

Tougher than it looks

The Suzuki is the mule of the automotive world, tolerating abusive and neglectful owners with benign indifference, which makes it tougher than it looks. 

Of course, it’s a bit rough around the edges in places and yes, there is a distinct lack of civility and no, you wouldn’t want to travel very far or very fast in one but there is a toughness to it that is hugely endearing. 

It feels like a proper off-road tool rather than a supermarket-run SUV. It’s Ranulph rather than Ralph Fiennes, a dependable old friend that will always get the job done, no matter what the odds.

I treated mine as a two-seater, folding the rear seats down to give the Jimny an enormous boot. Despite the awkwardly stepped boot floor (not a problem that afflicted earlier models, demonstrating, if nothing else, that not all changes are progress), I’d advise you to think of yours in the same way because doing so turns it into a brilliant all-weather dog wagon, especially if you also throw on a pair of seat covers and a boot liner, which will cost you less than £200 from your local Suzuki dealer. 

Thus equipped it’ll be perfect for runs to the tip, hauling logs and building materials and generally functioning as a covered pickup.

Four reasons why you should buy a second-hand car

A legend and genuine classic

Should you buy one? Yes, of course. 

The Jimny is a bona fide legend and one of the ever-shrinking number of genuine classics you can still buy new. If the little Suzuki were a dog it would be a smelly old Jack Russell, farting and snoring and snapping its way into its dotage and, just like your faithful family pet, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Its days are numbered and it’ll fall victim soon to ever-stringent legislation and a world that will no longer tolerate imperfection on any level. 

No one could seriously mount an even half-decent argument in defence of the Jimny’s continuing existence, which might be all the reason you need to indulge yourself before it’s too late.

Stats

Power – 84bhp

Torque – 81 lb ft

0-62mph – 14.1 seconds

Top speed – 87mph

Kerb weight – 1,090kgs

Official average fuel consumption – 39.8mpg

Honest John real world fuel consumption – 35.4mpg

CO2 emissions – 162g/km

VED class – Band G

Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles

Price – £14,949

Price as tested - £14,949

Best-in-class 

The Lada Niva is even older than the Jimny and only available in left-hand-drive. Yet, if any crumbling, decaying remnant of a bygone age could tempt me, this would be it.

The best of the rest 

The Jimny forms the other half of this niche market. I’ve owned one, so novelty value is the only reason I’d plump for the Lada.

Left-field alternative 

Your fifteen grand would buy a very nice secondhand Land Rover Defender. Choose wisely and you’ll be able to enjoy bulletproof depreciation alongside the same uncompromising toughness.

 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.