Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
Figuratively speaking, for a small car, the new Suzuki Jimny has created a considerable amount of noise. From the first online whispers to the full reveal, the Jimny has caught the eye of many enthusiasts.
There is a demand for all things retro. Hollywood executives, sneaker makers and car manufacturers have managed to successfully engage the appetite to resuscitate icons from yesteryear.
When it comes to cars, reviving a model doesn’t always make economic sense, hence the reason partnerships have become fashionable as a means of making the numbers stack up.
Remarkably, Suzuki has developed the new Jimny without an offsider, a brave move in anyone's language. The end result is a retro warrior for contemporary society that remains true to the nameplate's ancestry.
Like other off-road legends such as the 70 Series LandCruiser, Wrangler and G-Class, the boxy design ensures the car is unmistakably a Jimny. It’s one of those love it or hate it situations, though the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Priced from $23,990 plus on-road costs, the Jimny finds itself competing across multiple segments and comes reasonably well equipped. Daytime running lights, front fog lamps, 15-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, climate control air conditioning, cruise control, and a 7.0-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all included as standard.
Safety is a mixed bag, despite packing autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, hill descent control, six airbags, high beam assist, electronic stability control and a rear-view camera as standard, ANCAP has only awarded the Jimny a below-average three-star safety rating.
According to ANCAP’s report, the Jimny’s safety rating was hindered by a number of structural and design weaknesses, along with a lack of safety aids and limited protection for pedestrians and cyclists. While many fans will passionately attempt to justify the result, it’s a substandard score.
Turning to the things the fans will appreciate, underneath, the Jimny retains a separate ladder chassis concealed by a steel body. Suzuki says engineers have utilised additional cross-members and more high-tensile steel to stiffen things up for the rough stuff.
Providing the thrust is a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol that produces 75kW and 130Nm. It’s an interesting choice given Suzuki has mastered small turbocharged engines. While the digits appear minuscule by today’s standards, it's not required to move anything heavy, the kerb weight is only 1095kg.
The good folks at Suzuki offered us the choice of either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission, we opted for the latter. Both seem out of place in 2019, however, the stick shifter seemed a better fit in keeping with the retro vibe.
Before swapping any cogs, trying to secure the optimal seating position is challenging, there’s no reach adjustment for the steering wheel and no height adjustment for the driver’s seat.
Unfortunately, the peculiarities of the Jimny’s interior didn’t end there. The driver doesn’t get a proper footrest, the cupholders are poorly positioned, the door cards are rock hard as if made from materials the ancient Romans would've used to torture prisoners, and for some unknown reason, Suzuki seems to be ideologically opposed to a centre armrest for the driver and front passenger.
While we are on a roll, the cabin is not what we’d call roomy. The boxy shape has an advantage when it comes to visibility, but the packaging as a whole is a letdown. The rear seats offer minimal legroom, and when in place, the boot capacity is severely compromised. It’s best to think of the Jimny as a two-seater, or at best a 2+2.
Despite the ergonomic issues, the Jimny is pleasant to steer around town and feels completely adept navigating the urban jungle. What it lacks in straight-line performance it makes up for in manoeuvrability. The steering does require the driver to put in more effort than is generally required in a modern car, yet that extra effort adds a touch of uniqueness to the drive that only adds to the car’s character. Same goes for the manual gearbox, it feels great to use during daily commutes.
Away from the grind, a long highway run proves the Jimny isn't the last word in refinement. There’s plenty of noise at higher speeds and with the engine revving at just under 3000rpm at 110 clicks, the instinct is to always look for a higher gear. A sixth gear would be helpful, to say the least. If highway cruising is a regular part of your life the Jimny is not gonna be the one for you.
Over poor quality country roads, the ride is busy and unsettled by the smallest of undulations. Same goes for body control, the amount of lean in the corners at moderate speeds is well off the pace in 2019.
There are plenty of criticisms to direct at the Jimny until it hits dirt. This is a great car for the off-road hobbyist. The Jimny is equipped with low-range gearing that’s switchable between 2WD-high, 4WD-high and 4WD-low. It misses out on locking differentials, instead, the traction control system distributes the torque as required to navigate challenging terrain.
Off-road the Jimny is lots of fun to drive. Without a weight penalty, it gets around easily. The small footprint and manoeuvrability that makes city driving a breeze also add considerably to the car’s off-road prowess. Those tighter dimensions allow the Jimny to access places larger models can’t.
The addition of a proper set of off-road rubber will cover the scope of exploration most owners will subject it to. In fact, the money saved on the automatic will cover the cost of some off-road accessories to maximise the car’s potential.
This is where the Jimny makes the strongest case for consideration, at this price, no other car is as off-road-ready direct from the showroom floor. It’s also cheap to run with petrol consumption rarely creeping over 7.5L/100km.
Ownership credentials are strong with Suzuki Australia announcing it will now offer a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty on all its cars. On top of the warranty coverage, the Jimny is covered by a five-year capped-price service program. The Jimny requires fresh oil every 12 month/15,000km with costs averaging $331 for each service under the capped-price structure.
In the era where beancounters often have the final say, it’s surprising the new Jimny made it past the initial drawings. The risk has been taken and buyers are presented with an opportunity to enjoy something different.
Obviously, there are more sensible choices for city commuters, but none of them will offer the versatility or uniqueness of the Jimny.
Resuscitating an icon is a difficult task on the best of days, yet Suzuki has managed to reinvent the Jimny without disregarding its heritage.
There are some compromises, most notably with the packaging. Along with refinement, the Jimny is never going to be the last word in practicality, it certainly has plenty to say when it comes to personality. At its heart, the Jimny is a flawed genius, but it’s a highly likeable one.
2019 Suzuki Jimny Specifications
Price from $23,990 plus on-road costs Engine 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol Power 75kW @ 6000rpm Torque 130Nm @ 4000rpm Transmission five-speed manual Combined Fuel Consumption 6.4L/100km Tank Capacity 40L Length 3645mm Width 1645mm Height 1725mm Wheelbase 2250mm Kerb Weight 1095kg Ground Clearance 210mm Turning Circle 4.9m Wading Depth 300mm Service Intervals 12 months/10,000km Warranty five-year/unlimited kilometre