What stands out?
The third-generation Suzuki Jimny is a low-cost, fun 4WD wagon that will go just about anywhere. It is built tough (on a truck-style chassis) and comes with dual-range gearing, which means it will thrive in off-road conditions that would stop or damage other small SUVs. As well, the Jimny’s compact dimensions make it easy to manoeuvre and to park in tight spots.
This model was replaced in January 2019 by the fourth-generation Jimny, which will soon be the subject of a separate range review.
What might bug me?
That you can’t take the kids camping in your Jimny, without towing a trailer. The Jimny is tiny inside, seats only four at best, and has minimal luggage space – about enough for a couple of overnight bags. To carry much more you need to fold down the rear seatbacks, which leaves seating for just two.
That rear passengers can’t get out unless you do. There are only two side-doors.
How noisy it is on the highway. The engine is quite small and has to work hard at open-road speeds.
That you can’t play music from your phone or iPod through the sound system, nor use your phone hands-free: Bluetooth connectivity is not supported.
Depending on your shape, possibly that the steering wheel isn’t quite where you want it. You cannot adjust the wheel position at all – not even for height.
Because the Jimny is so effective on rough roads and tracks, it might also bug you that you can travel only about 400km between fills of its small petrol tank. You won’t be going anywhere very remote without carrying extra fuel.
What body styles are there?
The Jimny comes only as a three-door, four-seat, SUV-style wagon. It has part-time four-wheel drive, which means you can drive all four wheels but only on soft or otherwise slippery surfaces. On normal sealed roads, the Jimny can only be used in two-wheel drive (via the rear wheels).
You use buttons on the dashboard to select 2WD or 4WD, and you can switch between them while driving. To select low-range 4WD, which makes it easier to drive very slowly off road, you use another button but you need to stop the car first so that the low gears can engage.
After introducing the car to Australia as the Jimny, Suzuki later added Sierra to the model name in its promotional literature, thus linking the car to its predecessor, the Suzuki Sierra. For the rest of this review, we’ll just call it the Jimny.
The Jimny is classified as a small SUV, lower priced.
What features do all versions have?
Air-conditioning, and central locking (you can lock the doors by pressing a key-fob button). An audio system with an AM/FM radio and a CD player.
Power-adjusted door windows and exterior mirrors.
A 12-volt power socket, for charging devices such as mobile phones.
Roof rails, which make it easier to mount luggage systems.
Shiny wheels made from aluminium alloy, which are lighter than wheels made of steel. A full-sized spare wheel and tyre.
Part-time four-wheel drive, with dual-range gearing (which allows you to drive comfortably at very low speeds off-road).
Electronic traction control, which helps prevent wheelspin on slippery roads and off-road.
Two airbags, and electronic stability control. (For the placement of airbags, and more on the Jimny’s safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?
There’s only one engine available in a Jimny, a 1.3-litre four cylinder. It gives its best performance and economy on premium (95 octane) unleaded petrol, but it will run satisfactorily on regular petrol or E10.
It is a smooth engine that propels the lightweight Jimny in a lively manner around town and supplies enough urge for secure highway cruising. You need to put your foot down on open-road hills.
When the engine is mated to the five-speed manual gearbox it uses 7.1 litres/100km in the official government test, and around 9 litres/100km in the real world. With the optional four-speed automatic it’s about five per cent thirstier.
What key features do I get if I spend more?
The least costly Jimny comes with a five-speed manual gearbox and the equipment common to both Jimnys.
The only feature you can spend more for is an automatic gearbox, in this case a four-speed unit.
Automatic Jimnys perform better off-road. In addition, top gear on auto Jimnys is taller than it is on the manuals, which means the engine does not need to spin quite so hard in expressway or open-road driving. That reduces noise and helps the little car feel more relaxed.
Does any upgrade have a down side?
The down side of the auto gearbox is greater fuel consumption. Auto Jimnys use about five percent more fuel than the manuals.
Only white paint is available without paying more money. The other colours are metallic, and cost extra.
How comfortable is it?
The overriding first impression when you climb into a Jimny is that this is a very small car. The tiny cabin is also sparsely equipped, although nicely finished with the typical Japanese attention to detail.
The cabin is relatively tall however, and the upright seating position gives good vision over the bonnet and out to the sides of the car.
The driver’s seat is comfortable but there is no adjustment for the steering wheel in any direction. The AM/FM radio and CD player is modest in its sound quality, and it can’t be hooked up to external music devices.
The Jimny is light and easy to drive, especially as an automatic. Its compact size and great vision make it particularly easy to manoeuvre in tight carparks and the like, something that drivers who are inexperienced or not very confident will appreciate.
The Jimny doesn’t have a lot of power but because it is very light it gets off the mark quite well. You can keep up with traffic in town without working it hard. Out on the open road it also gets along with the traffic, but it doesn’t have much overtaking power and on some hills you will need to work it hard. This means using a lot of accelerator, and changing down a gear or two to let the engine rev freely.
What about safety?
Safety is not a Jimny strong point by comparison with most other cars, although Suzuki has given it anti-lock braking and also electronic stability control. The latter can help you bring a skidding car back under control and is mandatory on all new cars.
The Jimny has just two airbags, placed directly in front of the driver and front passenger to protect the torso and head in frontal impacts.
Unlike the overwhelming majority of new cars, the Jimny does not have front side airbags – which protect the driver and front passenger from side impacts. Nor does it have curtain airbags, which do the same at head level and usually extend to the rear passengers also.
There is no reversing camera, let alone any sophisticated active safety feature such as autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, or lane-departure warning.
Despite it being around since 2005, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) never tested the third-generation Jimny. It’s worth noting the fourth-generation Jimny, introduced at the beginning of 2019 only achieved a three-star rating despite the inclusion of autonomous emergency braking.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?
The Jimny is a surprisingly fun car to drive in the city and suburbs, and even on a winding road – mainly because it’s so light and manoeuvrable.
However, it rides high and sometimes feels a little unsteady on its truck-style chassis, which at each end suspends the wheels on a solid axle running across the full width of the car. All other small SUVs mount their wheels on shorter, lighter, hinged arms that allow them to move independently, and as a result bring you a smoother ride and more control on bumpy roads.
The good thing about the solid-axle chassis is that it’s ideally suited to off-road driving, as it allows the wheels to move up and down a long way to maintain contact with rough ground.
The Jimny also has plenty of clearance under the chassis, while the front and rear bodywork does not stick out far beyond the front and rear wheels – meaning you can nudge up to and over steep obstacles without grounding the bumpers.
With all that going for it, and its low weight, the Jimny will just about go anywhere off road – sometimes to the embarrassment of a more expensive and sophisticated 4WD vehicle.
For off-road driving, an automatic Jimny has an advantage over the manual on steep climbs (due to different effective gearing). It is also better on soft sand, where a manual will lose momentum when you engage the clutch to change gears.
If you puncture a tyre, you can swap it for the Jimny’s rear-mounted full-size spare without unloading the car. Owners can also feel secure in the Jimny’s toughness and durability, and it has an excellent reputation for reliability.
How is life in the rear seats?
Access to the Jimny’s two rear seats is via the front doors – after the backrest of a front seat has been folded forward, and the seat-base slid forward. Getting in and out is easy enough for children and small, agile adults, but difficult for anyone else.
Provided the front seats aren’t occupied by big adults, the leg room at the back is okay. But once either front seat is slid back to accommodate a tall person, there’s little leg room left at the rear.
The tall cabin does however make for decent headroom in the back, and there’s also sufficient room for two adults width-wise.
Getting small children in and out of car seats in the rear is hampered by the two-door arrangement.
How is it for carrying stuff?
There’s not much space in the back of the Jimny, and if you want to carry anything more than two or three backpack-sized bags you’ll need to fold down the rear seats.
The two rear seats fold separately, so you have the option of folding down one seat to carry a long item while still seating someone in the other.
Access to the luggage area is helped by the single rear door opening to the side and out of the way. There are however no cargo tie-down points in the rear. The rear door carries the spare wheel, which makes the door heavy to open on steep side-slopes.
The Jimny is rated to tow 1300kg, which means it can haul a decent sized trailer. That offers some compensation for the paucity of luggage space inside.
Where is it made?
The third-generation Suzuki Jimny was made in Japan.
What might I miss that similar cars have?
That depends on what you think of as a similar car. The Jimny is the cheapest 4WD vehicle of its age by a good margin, and it is also the most capable small 4WD off-road. Nothing else will get you off the beaten track in such a cost-effective way. (The only small SUV that approaches the Jimny’s off-road capability is the much more expensive Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.)
You will find many additional features in other small SUVs that are not good off-road. Most notably, nearly every other small SUV has cruise control, at least height adjustment for the steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and support for connecting portable music devices.
Most also have more space inside, for rear passengers and for some luggage. And most will carry you down the highway in a much more relaxed manner.
On the safety front, you might want front-side airbags, to cushion front occupants from side impacts, and side-curtain airbags, to cushion the heads of front and rear occupants from side impacts. Most other small SUVs have these too.
Some small SUVs – for example, the Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V – also offer autonomous emergency braking, which can help you avoid rear-end crashes.
I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?
The Jimny automatic is the pick of the two models. The automatic gearbox makes the Jimny easier to drive and more effective off-road, which is a big part of why you would buy a Jimny. The automatic gearbox also lowers the engine speed when you’re out on the open road, so that the car feels more relaxed.
When was this model Jimny last updated?
Aside from gaining electronic stability control in late 2014, which was required by law for the Jimny to remain on sale, today’s Jimny dates back to 2005 and was originally called the Jimny Sierra.
No further changes were made until this model was replaced by the fourth-generation Jimny at beginning of 2019.