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Suzuki Jimny 2019 off-road review: Auto

Automotive journalists are normal people, just like you. (But maybe not like that weird bloke sitting across from you on the train, right now. Don't look at him!) We car journos laugh, we cry and we're also prone to becoming caught up in nostalgia-fuelled fever dreams when the likes of something like the Suzuki Jimny pops up on our reportage radar.

Yep, most of us were fair dinkum guilty of jumping on the bandwagon when the Jimny first lobbed, largely due to the fact that it brought back happy memories of rough-and-tumble camping trips of the past (whether they actually happened or not) and the little Zook also happily flew in the face of current SUV trends that err on the side of sleek, modern and safe rather than boxy, bouncy and, er, safe-ish.

We were willing to initially overlook the Jimny's flaws, mostly because we hadn't spent a lot of time in it at that stage and we were also viewing everything through a glaze of that aforementioned nostalgia.

But now that I've spent more time in it, I'm ready to face the cold hard facts: while it's a charming little off-roader, and more than capable in an off-road setting, it's far from perfect as a daily driver or, indeed, even as a 4WD.

Have I got your hackles up? Great. Read on.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The 2019 Jimny is available in one spec only but with the option of a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic transmission. I drove the auto, which costs $25,990 (plus on-road costs).

The auto Jimny we drove costs $25,990 (plus on-road costs). The auto Jimny we drove costs $25,990 (plus on-road costs).

It has two doors (three, technically), four seats and a bunch of nice touches for such a cheap little off-roader, such as auto emergency braking, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, climate control air-conditioning, GPS sat nav, a reversing camera, ISOFIX child seat attachment points and more. 

As well as there being a stack of adventure-ready genuine accessories available, Jimny buyers have access to an aftermarket already bulging with off-road gear for this Zook.

Features include a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Features include a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

For even more extra detail on features and the interior read our reviews on the manual Jimny and our on-road-focussed review of the auto Jimny.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Yep, it’s a cool-looking rig; hard-edged and straight up and down, but it manages to manage the boxy look well.

The Jimny has plenty of flat open glass but, while that's great for visibility, its near-vertical windscreen can also be prone to copping a stone chip on a fairly innocuous stretch of bitumen road, as we found out.

  •  The Jimny is a cool-looking rig. The Jimny is a cool-looking rig.
  • It manages to manage the boxy look well. It manages to manage the boxy look well.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

It has a 1.5-litre petrol engine – producing 75kW at 6000rpm and 130Nm at 4000rpm – and that's plenty enough for this 1090kg off-roader (kerb weight, auto).

It has a part-time 4WD system and its AllGrip Pro suite of driver-assist tech includes hill descent control, hill hold assist and more.

It has a 1.5-litre petrol engine. It has a 1.5-litre petrol engine.

How practical is the space inside?

As we've highlighted in previous reviews, it's a very practical durable space but there's not much of it. It's set up for the real world – with hard plastics and rubber mats ready for all of life's muck, mud, dirt and crumbs – but it has few storage spaces, as dictated by its diminutive dimensions; there's a small glovebox, a narrow recess above it, a small bin for keys etc in front of the shifter, two cup-holders, a narrow hard plastic door-pocket on both of the two front doors and not much else.

With the second-row seats up, there's 85 litres VDA in the very back for storage. With those 50:50 seats down, cargo space increases to 830 litres VDA, if you load up the entire space; it's 377 litres if you load to the window sill.

  • It's a very practical durable space. It's a very practical durable space.
  • With hard plastics and rubber mats it's ready for all of life's muck. With hard plastics and rubber mats it's ready for all of life's muck.
  • There's 85 litres VDA in the very back for storage. There's 85 litres VDA in the very back for storage.
  • With the seats down, cargo space increases to 830 litres VDA. With the seats down, cargo space increases to 830 litres VDA.

Kerb weight is 1090kg and GVM is 1435kg, so you won't be able to throw too much inside anyway.

There’s a 12V socket in the cargo area.

What's it like as a daily driver?

This review is meant to throw a spotlight on the Jimny's performance off road so I won't harp on here about how it goes on the bitumen, for that read my mate Matt Campbell's yarn, but what I will say is that the Jimny is much better on road than you'd expect it to be, especially if your expectations aren't too high.

There's generally a fair bit of in-cabin noise coming off the road or track surface, as well as quite pronounced transmission whine – more about that later.

Obviously, the Jimny is much better suited to off-roading, so that's how it spent the lion's share of its time with us.

There's generally a fair bit of in-cabin noise coming off the road. There's generally a fair bit of in-cabin noise coming off the road.

What's it like for touring?

The Jimny is 3645mm long, with a 2250mm-long wheelbase, and it's 1645mm wide and 1725mm high. It weighs 1090kg (auto). 

I mapped out a 4WD loop which included gravel tracks, light to medium corrugations, decent sections of low-speed 4WDing (including a rocky hill-climb), and a few other bits and pieces to see if they’re able to do everything safely and comfortably. The loop included high- and low-range 4WDing.

I mapped out a 4WD loop including gravel tracks, light to medium corrugations, and a few other pieces. I mapped out a 4WD loop including gravel tracks, light to medium corrugations, and a few other pieces.

I wasn't expecting any strife because the Jimny is a genuine old-school 4WD, with a dual-range transfer case, a ladder chassis, solid axles and proven 4WD heritage.

It has a part-time 4WD system, and its driver-assist tech includes hill descent control, hill hold assist and more. The stubby stick in front of the shifter allows the driver to work through two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive high range and four-wheel drive low range.

On gravel, the first thing that's noticeable in the Jimny is the volume of noise – there's quite a lot of in-cabin noise from the track surface as well as quite a piercing transmission whine, which can reach a shrill crescendo at times. Then you have to cope with the way it skips around on even minor corrugations, and thumps through every pothole though its coil springs all-round go some of the way to soaking up those bumps. 

On gravel, the first thing that's noticeable in the Jimny is the volume of noise. On gravel, the first thing that's noticeable in the Jimny is the volume of noise.

Its ride and handling are much better on this stuff than the previous-generation Jimny, but that’s not too difficult. 

We did an emergency braking set-piece on a loose-gravel track and the Jimny’s brakes – discs at the front, drums at the rear – forced it to a swift stop.

The weakest part of the Jimny's off-road weaponry is its showroom-standard road-suited rubber, Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts (195/80R15); a cluey Jimny buyer would invest in all-terrains. It has a full-sized spare wheel mounted on the rear door.

Despite its highway-biased tyres, the Jimny swiftly becomes more at home during low-speed 4WDing.

In four-wheel drive High or Low, this nimble little 4WD just keeps trucking through undulating terrain, deep wheel ruts and mud holes, with no worries. It’s a real driver-direct experience – an aspect sorely lacking in many contemporary SUVs – and in the Jimny you always feel dialled into the terrain you're on. Problem is, that aforementioned transmission whine ramps up a lot and may become intrusive if you're not willing to live with it.

This nimble little 4WD just keeps trucking through undulating terrain, deep wheel ruts and mud holes. This nimble little 4WD just keeps trucking through undulating terrain, deep wheel ruts and mud holes.

Pulling power, though slight when compared to most other 4WDs, is more than sufficient to get this small off-roader up and over most obstacles. The Jimny's power-to-weight ratio is well in its favor.

Forward and side visibility is great so you can see where you're going and, on difficult 4WDing sections, you can see where you should be aiming to go, making it easy to achieve pinpoint-precision wheel-placement.

Wheel travel is not ideal – the Jimny at times too easily lifts a corner and loses precious traction – but this Suzuki can be driven, with slow, controlled momentum to adequately overcome that tendency.

Steering the Jimny up and down steep rock steps takes considered driving and ample concentration. Steering the Jimny up and down steep rock steps takes considered driving and ample concentration.

Steering the Jimny up and down steep rock steps takes considered driving and ample concentration and, being so light, the little Zook is rather unforgiving if you wander or are forced onto the wrong line up or down big rocks as it will bounce and tip and jolt driver and passengers around and that can be unsettling, but also a lot of fun. Geez, just driving the Jimny anywhere off-road is a hell of a lot of fun.

It could, however, do with a touch more smooth and sustained engine braking and also more consistent application of hill descent control, which tends to 'bite' aggressively but then release just as abruptly.

We tested decent sections of low-speed 4WDing, including a rocky hill-climb. We tested decent sections of low-speed 4WDing, including a rocky hill-climb.

The Jimny's ground clearance is listed as a minimum 210mm – so not the best, nor the worst – but its approach (37 degrees), ramp-over (28 degrees) and departure (49 degrees) are well-suited to off-roading. The Jimny's underbody did scrape dirt on the tall centre sections of some deep wheel ruts – not on approach or departure but when simply driving through.

The Jimny’s wading depth is listed as 300mm.

Driving narrow bush tracks is a given on any off-road trip. Driving narrow bush tracks is a given on any off-road trip.

Driving narrow bush tracks is a given on any off-road trip and the Jimny – again, so small and light and with a turning circle of 9.8m – is supremely manoeuvrable as a result of its abbreviated dimensions.

Towing capacity is 350kg (unbraked) and 1300kg (braked). As mentioned, it has a GVM of 1435kg.

How much fuel does it consume?

The auto Jimny has a 40-litre fuel tank with a claimed fuel consumption figure of 6.9L/100km.

We recorded 11.03L/100km and that included a lot of low-range 4WDing.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Jimny has a five-year/140,000km warranty.

Service intervals are scheduled for every six months/10,000km. Cost is $2452 over the inital 10 services/100,000km.

The Jimny is a fun little off-roader, and it's more than a cutesy tipping of the hat to nostalgia. But, let's be honest, it's not a practical daily driver, nor is it the ideal off-road tourer, not by a long shot, because it's too small, too light and too light-on in terms of safety gear.

However, if you love the idea of a purpose-built two-door four-seater 4WD that is great fun, very engaging to drive and more capable than a lot of so-called off-roaders, then this could be your money well spent.

$25,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.2/5

Adventure score

3.6/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'