As someone who loves a bushland adventure but is confined to the city most of the time, I feel like the 2019 Suzuki Jimny is my kindred spirit in many ways - and not just because of its rugged, handsome, masculine appearance.
And now it’s time to cage the beast to see what it’s like to live with as a day-to-day conveyance. It seems fair, given the Jimny has been nominated for 2019 World Car of the Year, and specifically has made its presence felt in the ‘Urban Car’ section. Here’s what it like to live with in that environment.
It’s gorgeous, and it turned more heads than the Lamborghini Urus I also drove during the same week. The good part is you could have 20 Jimnys for the price of one Urus. Sadly, most of the looks were down to the fact there aren’t many of either car yet, but the Jimny will become quite a bit more common soon.
Even so, Suzuki has done a stellar job of making a design statement with this car: its bluff front end, boxy backside and beautiful detailed elements such as old-school round lights up front and a tailgate-mounted spare all add to the look. It’s wider and more purposeful than its predecessor, too, which helps it handle better.
With its boxy backside Suzuki has done a stellar job of making a design statement with this car.
Old-school round lights up front add to the bluff front end and overall look of the Jimny.
It really could fool the uninitiated for being a pint-sized version of a Jeep Wrangler or Mercedes G-Wagen. Sure, you can’t push down the windscreen or pull the doors off like a Jeep, and it doesn’t have a stupidly large engine like a G63. But for the small amount of money being asked, there’s no bigger styling statement out there.
And just how small are we talking? The exterior dimensions are 3645mm long, 1645mm wide and 1725mm high. That makes it more city-friendly than a Volkswagen Polo or Mazda 2, for goodness sake.
But is it really that city-friendly? You’ll have to read the driving section below for my take on it.
For all of its exterior ‘wow’, there’s a bit ‘ow’ when it comes to the cabin. Literally, if you’re not careful, because it’s so narrow that you may bash heads with your copilot when you dive in.
There’s a lot missing in terms of conveniences: you only get two cup/bottleholders for the entire cabin, and they’re positioned where everyone can (just) get to them, down between the front seats but set way back. There are door pockets which are good for credit cards and that’s about it, and the glovebox is small, too. This is a tiny car, though.
For all of its exterior ‘wow’, there’s a bit ‘ow’ when it comes to the cabin.
Provided the clamber in isn’t too hard, adults and kids alike can fit reasonably comfortably.
And it has a beautiful retro-look design to its cabin, with the instrument binnacle and hard plastic dashboard adding to the appeal of it. There’s no digital speedo despite a decent driver info screen, and it could be more modern and stylish - but it has a rugged lovableness to it, and the seats are comfortable, too.
You get a 7.0-inch touchscreen media system that is one of the worst in the business - the graphics are pixelated and the fonts are small on the native menus, but if you can get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to work for you (I had some issues with the former) then you don’t really need to worry about the system’s shortcomings.
How many seats in the Suzuki Jimny? Four. But seriously, the two in the second row are just about all you’ll find back there. Provided the clamber in isn’t too hard, adults and kids alike can fit reasonably comfortably - even someone my size (182cm) will be able to sit in there for a short period behind a similar sized driver. But the knee room is tight, and - again - you’ll want to be friends with anyone sitting next to you, as there’s not a whole lot of space.
With the seats in place there is just 85L (VDA) of cargo capacity.
When you lower the back seats there’s a decent boot capacity of 377 litres (VDA).
Drop down the rear seats to store things behind you.
The rear seats are backed by a hard-wearing plastic finisher.
This is no packaging marvel, then - but it’s hard to fit anything into a parcel this compact. Even so, when you lower the back seats there’s a decent boot capacity of 377 litres (VDA), while with the seats in place there is just 85L (VDA) of cargo capacity. And you’ll need to the rear seatbacks set in an uncomfortably upright position if you want to use the boot and have people in the back, too.
If you’re the target buyer of this car, there’s little chance you’ll actually use the rear seats that often - instead, you’ll likely have them dropped down to store things behind you. The fact the rear seats are backed by a hard-wearing plastic finisher is good, then.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The pricing and equipment levels on offer in the Jimny took a lot of the motoring media by surprise. Sure, it’s a touch more expensive than the model it replaces - the manual is $23,990 (RRP - before on-road costs) and the auto is $25,990 (plus on-roads) - but the list of inclusions is extensive.
Standard is a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, sat nav GPS, a reversing camera, USB connectivity, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and a two-speaker sound system. Yes, just two speakers, but they aren’t too bad. There are two 12-volt outlets (one up front, one in the cargo zone).
A standard inclusion is the 7.0-inch touchscreen.
Other features include climate control air conditioning (single zone).
Other items that’ll make you happy include climate control air conditioning (single zone), a leather steering wheel, cruise control, power windows, power mirrors, keyless entry (wait a sec - it’s not really: you get a key with remote unlocking that you need to put in the barrel; in other words, there’s no push-button start or smart entry!).
Further, the exterior has nice goodies like LED headlights with auto high beams, tinted windows, 15-inch alloy wheels with a full-size tailgate-mounted spare with a cover, and you can have it an array of colours - if you’re willing to pay a bit more. White is a no-cost option, but Brisk Blue Metallic, Chiffon Ivory Metallic (beige), Jungle Green, Medium Grey and Kinetic Yellow will cost you $500 more. If you want a black roof like the one on the car you see in the pictures, you’ll have to fork out $1250, you will be able to get it on the yellow, blue or beige cars only.
The Jimny features 15-inch alloy wheels.
There's even a full-size tailgate-mounted spare with a cover!
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
Under the bonnet is a 1.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine producing a modest 75kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 130Nm (at 4000rpm). Those are low outputs, but the Jimny auto only weighs 1110kg, so the power to weight ratio isn’t that bad.
Under the bonnet is a 1.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine.
It uses a four-speed automatic transmission, but there’s a low-range transfer case with 2H, 4H and 4L gearing to choose from.
The gross vehicle weight is 1435kg, so you might need to reconsider how many friends or how much gear you can bring along.
I don’t know why you’d bother, but the towing capacity is 350kg for a non-braked trailer, and 1300kg for a braked trailer.
The official claimed fuel consumption for the automatic version of the Jimny is 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres. That’s half a litre worse than the manual version claims (6.4L/100km).
On test, though, I saw 9.5L/100km (or 10.5km/L, if that’s how you prefer it - that’s how the info on the screen defaults). That’s not terrific, but nor is it terrible. My time was mostly spent around town and for reference I recently drove the manual and saw 8.2L/100km in a mix of driving, so it’s fair to say the claimed fuel economy figures are typically optimistic.
The fuel tank capacity is just 40 litres. It can run on 91RON regular unleaded.
This is important, so I’m going to say it first - there was no off road review component to this particular Jimny test.
Sure, I used its 210mm ground clearance to my advantage when jumping gutters, and I have been assisted by its excellent 37 degree approach angle and 49 degree departure angle when parking where other small SUVs would never have dared to attempt.
And look, I was surprised just how civilised it was, given it has live axles front and rear with coil spring suspension. It isn’t too bouncy, though it can be a bit wobbly side-to-side if you hit a pothole. The ride comfort was fine with just one person on board, but certainly felt a bit more stable with three or four bodies inside the box.
The engine coped okay with that work load, too - I mean, more grunt would be good, but for the intended purpose, it was fine. The transmission was good, too - only four gears might be a quarrelsome point for tech-focused consumers, but it’s well suited to the application.
Indeed, the take-off acceleration was decent with just myself on board, and while the engine is noise and it seemed our auto example already had some whine to the drivetrain (with just a few thousand kays on the clock), I was happy with it as a city runaround for the week.
The Jimny has a tiny turning circle making it difficult to use this car in low-speed situations.
Honestly, the bit that annoyed me most about the Jimny was its inconsistent steering.
I live in the inner-west of Sydney, and that means I have to do a higher proportion of reverse-parallel parks than most people. And it was during these manoeuvres that I found the chink in this car’s city-clad armour: the steering will weight up to a point where it’s like you’re trying to stir semi-set concrete. The exact opposite of what you want when you’re dealing with tight parking spots, then.
If Suzuki can tune this low-speed unpleasantness out of the Jimny, it would be a much better urban car for it. It has a tiny turning circle (9.8m), so it’s a real shame that it’s such a wrestle to use this car in low-speed situations.
(For what it’s worth, I noted a similar gluggyness to the electronic power steering in sand driving, with the motor assist system lacking finesse, particularly when you’re changing directions in sand).
At higher speeds the steering quibbles aren’t as evident. It’s easy enough to keep in a straight line, provided you don’t have trucks buffeting you to and fro, as it can be blown around a bit. Crosswinds aren’t its friend, either, with the slab-sided design meaning it can be pushed around at pace.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
ANCAP safety rating
The bad news is that the Suzuki Jimny 2019 model has been slapped with a three-star ANCAP crash test safety score. That’s not terrific, and it didn’t get it because of a lack of safety technology - it has forward collision warning, auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, weaving alert - rather, it was judged to offer a lack of occupant protection in a collision. Ouch.
All Jimny models come with ISOFIX child-seat anchor points.
The forward collision warning works well, though it triggered a few times on back streets where there were parked cars that posed no risk whatsoever.
There are dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
3 years / 100,000 km warranty
The Jimny follows Suzuki’s ownership strategy with a five-year/140,000km warranty. That’s about what you’ll get from the mainstream makers, too - hardly anyone will actually do 140,000km in five years, so it’s as good as unlimited cover, really.
But unlike the majority of makers, Suzuki stipulates that in order for the five-year term to be valid, you must service your vehicle on time with its dealer network - otherwise you’ll get a three-year/100,000km warranty. Either way, you get five years’ roadside assist.
The Jimny comes with a five-year/140,000km warranty.
Service intervals are annoyingly short - six months/10,000km - but there’s an affordable capped-price plan to cover the first 10 services (or 100,000km). The average cost is $245 per visit.
You need to be a specific buyer to put the Suzuki Jimny on your shopping list, and that’s even more the case for the automatic version.
Sure, it’s a fun little runaround, but there are considerably more pleasant compact SUV options out there - ones that prioritise comfort and convenience over kerb appeal and capability. None of them have as much charm and charisma as the Jimny, but is that enough to forgive it some of its many shortcomings? If you fall for it like I did, then your heart may well overrule your head.
Is there a more charming small SUV than the Jimny?