Suzuki’s tiny SUVs have amassed sales close to eight million sold into 188 global markets.
Today’s Jimny is priced from just £12,195 for the SZ3 version and £13,645 for the higher specification SZ4 or £14,545 for the SZ4 automatic. All versions use a free-revving 1.3-litre, four cylinder petrol engine with variable valve timing. Each model is a genuine 4×4 with push-button selectable high and low ratio gears.
The Jimny three door range ploughs a loan path in today’s UK compact SUV or Crossover market. Long gone are the competitor Mitsubishi compact Mini Pajero/Shogun, the European built Mitsubishi Pinin three/five door models and the Daihatsu Terios is no longer available in the UK.
This fast growing sector of the new car has been taken over by mostly two wheel drive, SUV styled, higher ground clearance compact models which are basically ‘supermini’ hatchbacks with more ground clearance. The Jimny’s closest rival is probably now the five door Fiat Panda 4×4 1.3-litre turbodiesel priced at £15,295.
Also a competitor in terms of price is the Dacia Duster five door which is much larger and more modern in terms of road handling. The Dacia Duster 4×4 versions are priced at just £11,495 for the 1.6 petrol or £13,995 for the 1.5 diesel.
Where the Jimny still has an advantage is with its rugged 4×4 off-roading capabilities which are not so high on the agenda of current compact SUV customers who rarely drive off-road and are more interested in ride comfort and SUV styling.
Around 1,000 Jimnys are sold in the UK in a full year making it a very niche model but with a loyal customer following.
Customers I see with them are generally country folk taking part in rural pursuits, hunting, shooting and fishing and of course some farmers have them to hand as second or third workhorse options.
SZ3 includes front fog lights, roof rails, heated electrically operated door mirrors and front electric windows and the SZ4 level tested has the addition of synthetic leather and cloth upholstery seats, air conditioning, 15-inch alloy wheels, leather trim steering wheel, rear privacy glass and full size spare wheel.
The Jimny has a wheel in each corner design for maximum off-road ground clearance and it uses a box-frame chassis for maximum durability and strength. Its tall boxy shape has large windows so visibility is good and there are ample body side protective mouldings and underbody guards. Its length is only 3,675mm and with its narrow width of just 1,600mm and height of 1,705mm makes it look very ‘tall’ and that incurs lots of body-roll during cornering. The short wheelbase of 2,250mm also induces a choppy ride not helped by the rugged but durable suspension. In truth its road manners are archaic compared to today’s soft Crossover models.
The Jimny does score much better when used as an off-road vehicle. With its five speed manual gearbox, or auto option, there is a proper 4×4 high and low ratio transfer box and the driver just has to use push buttons to engage 2WD, 4WD or 4WD Low ratio traction.
It has a willing heart with a 1.3-litre, all aluminium, 16-valve free revving petrol engine producing 85hp and 110Nm of torque at 4,100rpm. Full use is needed to keep the engine in its power band during on-road travel.
Off-road the unit copes well enough but still requires revs to be used to give it enough grunt to get up steep hills strongly.
This is a far cry from today’s soft off-roaders and for my test drive with the vehicle I enjoyed my step-back in time. It was really fun to drive on-road in an uncomfortable sort of way, keeping the engine buzzing to get past other traffic and not being too adventurous during cornering. It has limitations but if you are off-roading or dealing with winter road conditions it will see you home safely.
There are not too many characterfull new vehicles around these days; fortunately the Jimny is an alternative to bland and samey lightweight elevated suspension ‘supermini’ SUVs.
Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 3-door £13,645.
Engine/transmission: 1.3-litre, 4-cylinder, petrol, 85hp, 110Nm of torque at 4,100rpm, 5-speed manual, 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low ratio transfer box.
Performance: 87mph, 0-62mph 14.1-seconds, 39.8mpg Combined Cycle (35mpg on test), CO2 162g/km, VED road tax £180.
Insurance group: 15D.
Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities:
L 3,675mm, W 1,600mm, H 1,705mm, boot/load space 113 to 324-litres.
For: I could say small in size and small in appeal, but it is very capable off-road with a proper 4WD system, it still serves a niche type of 4×4 customer, well equipped, it was a fun step-back in motoring time.
Against: Poor on-road handling and ride comfort, not very spacious, small load carrying space, narrow front and rear tracks makes off-roading difficult where vehicles with a wider track have passed before.