What’s in the garage?
Wheels subscribers and regular readers might recognise this boxy, bright green Suzuki Jimny that’s been a staple of our long-term review updates. Having been around the block a few times at the office even the janitor has a good read on what the Japanese brand’s fourth-gen four-by-four is like.
What we reckon
Specs and compared to rivals
|Suzuki Jimny||Toyota LandCruiser 70 Workmate||Jeep Wrangler Sport S|
|Engine||1.5L 4cyl||4.5L V8 turbo||3.6L V6|
|Transmission||5spd MT||5spd MT||8spd AT|
|ANCAP rating||3 STAR||NA||4 STAR|
|Warranty||3 years/100,000km||5 years/unlimited||5 years/100,000km|
|Service Interval||6 months/10,000km||6 months/10,000km||12 months/12,000km|
|Wheel size||195/80 R15||225/95 R16||245/75 R17|
|Towing capacity braked||1300kg||3500kg||1497kg|
|Front suspension||live axle||live axle||live axle|
|Rear suspension||live axle||live axle||live axle|
|Country of origin||Japan||Japan||United States|
Power and performance
A small 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with lowly 75kW and 130Nm output figures is nothing to write home about, but with a featherweight 1095kg performance on the scales the Jimny doesn’t need much oomph to get moving. Still, it feels leisurely accelerating above 60 km/h and needs to rev to make the most of its power. It’s not a car to be in a rush with, but it does have an energy about it that’s pleasing when schlepping along, and the long-throw five-speed manual transmission is nevertheless positive in its action and engaging to use. Below that is an old fashion shift lever for selecting part-time two-wheel-drive (rear), locked 4x4 high and locked 4x4 low range.
Off bitumen and with four-wheel-drive engaged, the power delivery feels well-judged and it’s enough to scrabble on just about anything suitable to the car’s 210mm ground clearance and skinny 195mm wide road-biased rubber. And it’s probably more than apt to push on harder with some suitable mods to get really serious.
Ride and handling
Built on a ladder-frame chassis with front and rear live axles, the Jimny’s solid off-road credentials compromise some of its on-road compliance. But given there is a lightweight body on top it feels relatively light on its feet. It’s not a loud, clunky four-wheel-drive by any means. Small dimensions and light but direct steering provides an almost comically tiny turning circle that’s better than many city hatchbacks, placing the Jimny as the perfect urban dweller cum weekend warrior. Tip it into a corner at speed, though, and the softly sprung body begins to feel uneasy. It’s also very susceptible to a bit of rock and roll in crosswinds on the highway.
Low gearing in the manual transmission helps when climbing off-road and crawling along rocks but it does need some momentum to get over bigger obstacles and bumps, which in turn gets pretty bouncy on the soft suspension. In this situation a larger off-roader with longer wheelbase and wider tyres cruises along, but as long as you’re fine with being bumped around a bit, the Jimny’s a very capable 4WD with excellent vision out of the cabin.
Interior and comfort
Mirroring the boxy retro styling outside, the interior feels plucked from the 1970s - in a good way. There’s a dash of modernism, such as the 7.0-inch infotainment system with sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (but only two front speakers), and automatic electric windows and climate control bring convenience to what is a sparse but rugged cabin.
The front seats are simple and supportive, whereas the rear two pews are thin fold-flat supports that will likely serve most time out of the way so that the diminutive 85L ‘boot’ can claim some extra space. At least the seats are ISOFIX compatible and there’s decent legroom for small kids.
As a logical choice in the new car market, it's doubtful the Jimny's numbers stack up well against most vehicles; it's simple, nuts and bolts transport that feels behind the times. But heart over head, you'd be hard pressed to find a better choice for something that has the same vibe and panache at such a price point, and one that goes where not many new cars can.