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Suzuki Jimny 2020 review: Auto

The Jimny is dripping with nostalgia and rugged charm, but does that compromise it around town?

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.4/5

One thing is clear: The Suzuki Jimny does not need this media coverage.

No. The quaint little off-roader is somehow so entrenched in the Australian mindset that for the first year of this fourth-gen model's existence, there has been a waiting list to get one consistently between six and 12 months long.

Few cars can claim the same. Recent new car examples with similar waiting lists include hybrid versions of the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester, but the mass-market appeal of those is self-evident.

In fact, reading this review will probably be of little use to you, given every new Jimny from now until some time in 2021 is spoken for despite a 30 per cent increase in production and prices inching up by roughly $2000.

We already know this quirky alternative SUV is as good as it looks off-road, so the question we’re out to answer in this review is: Is the Jimny nostalgic to a fault? That is, is it even remotely practical as a daily driver in an urban centre? Read on to see if we found an answer…

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

Given the Jimny's unique character, it’s hard to argue with its budget price-point. At an MSRP of $27,990 for the priciest automatic version (as tested here), it’s not even really expensive for its size-bracket. To get something which looks and feels like this, your next port of call is the Jeep Wrangler at a whopping $59,450.

Makes sense the Jimny is flying off the shelves, then.

Standard fitment isn’t too bad. Almost everything from the Swift hatchback is not only included but looks about the same, with familiar gear appearing in the form of a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, as well as built-in navigation.

The 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

On the outside there are retro-inspired 15-inch alloy wheels in 'gunmetal', retro-inspired round headlights, and a straight-up retro full-size spare bolted to the rear door.

  • The Jimny wears retro-inspired 15-inch alloy wheels. The Jimny wears retro-inspired 15-inch alloy wheels.
  • Suzuki has fitted a full-size spare to the rear door. Suzuki has fitted a full-size spare to the rear door.

Other notable features include single-zone climate control, privacy glass, a small function screen nestled in the instrument cluster, a reversing camera, and of course, a low-range transfer case with H4 and L4 modes.

Options are limited to premium paints at $500 which can also be two-tone with a contrast roof for $1250.

There are some active safety features, although the Jimny misses out on a high score. More on that later.

The Jimny measures in at 3645mm long and 1645mm wide. The Jimny measures in at 3645mm long and 1645mm wide.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

This whole car is pretty much built around the way it looks. Is it form over function? That depends.

For off-road capability it would seem form and function are in sync. But around town there’s a bit of give and take. We’ll explore that more in the practicality section of this review.

In terms of its retro look though it’s clear the Jimny is almost universally loved. It’s cute but tough, approachable but utilitarian.

The Jimny's styling draws inspiration from previous generations of the car. The Jimny's styling draws inspiration from previous generations of the car.

The styling elements of the Jimny are intentionally made up of elements from each preceding generation. The rounded-out LED lights with separate indicators and its flat face are in reference to the original LJ10 which hit the market in 1960, the bonnet design harks back to the second-generation (SJ410) in 1981, while the slotted grille and pumped guards are in reference to the third-generation (aka the Sierra) from 1998.

There’s more than a little Toyota LandCruiser, Land Rover Defender, and Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen about its guttered roofline, square profile, rear bumper, and window line, though.

Inside the rugged aesthetic continues, with grab handles and hose-out plastics adorning the dash. You probably shouldn’t actually take a hose to it though, because the modern screen, climate cluster, and multifunction wheel are lifted straight from the Swift, leaving no question this is a Suzuki product.

The rugged interior is not very practical. The rugged interior is not very practical.

The seats are literal blocks of foam, the plastics are hard, and everything is manually adjustable – there isn’t even keyless entry or push-start ignition. Some will hate its lack of luxuries, but more than a few will be willing to forgive its commitment to rugged simplicity.

If I could make one change? Give the Jimny it’s own rugged-looking steering wheel! The modern Swift one looks almost out of place.

How practical is the space inside?

Put simply: It’s not practical at all on the inside.

Let’s start with the driver’s area. Immediately annoying is no telescopic adjust for the steering, and minimal manual adjustment for the basic seats. Storage is limited to some very small binnacles in the doors, a tiny slot for your phone, as well as two non-adjustable cupholders and another tiny slot (which I put my wallet in for an idea of how big it is) near the transmission.

The steering wheel misses out on telescopic adjust. The steering wheel misses out on telescopic adjust.

In terms of connectivity there is a single USB port, auxiliary input, and a 12V power outlet.

The rear seat is even more basic, consisting of a foam bench and some rudimentary seat backers which can fit two occupants. I was genuinely surprised to find dual ISOFIX child-seat mounting points back there, as well as top-tether anchors. Clambering in is easier than it might look thanks to the huge door aperture and I fit with limited room and comfort behind my own driving position.

The back seat space is adequate. The back seat space is adequate.

Was it adequate? Yes. Would I want to spend much time there? Probably not.

Boot space is non-existent with the rear two seats in their upright position, but they do fold flat for a large, open and useful area when operating as a two-seater. Suzuki says this space is 377 litres, but it seems larger. Check out our pics to get an idea of what it looks like with a large luggage case and some extra equipment bags.

  • Boot space is non-existent with the rear two seats in their upright position. Boot space is non-existent with the rear two seats in their upright position.
  • With the rear seats folded flat, boot space is rated at 377 litres. With the rear seats folded flat, boot space is rated at 377 litres.
  • With the seats down, the boot can easily fit the largest CarsGuide suitcase. With the seats down, the boot can easily fit the largest CarsGuide suitcase.

One drawback I found is the hard-wearing plastic surface made it impossible to keep loose objects from being thrown around in the corners. Consider investing in a luggage net, perhaps.

One practicality wonder for urban users will be this car’s tiny dimensions. At 3645mm long (including the spare wheel) and 1645mm wide, the Jimny occupies a footprint much smaller than even Hyundai’s new Venue small SUV.

This means you can park pretty much anywhere, although the 1720mm height makes for some sketchy moments in some multi-story carparks.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Jimny has a 1.5-litre non-turbo four-cylinder petrol engine producing 75kW/130Nm. There’s no getting around the fact this SUV is low on power and you’ll need to really kick it to the firewall at times to extract close to peak power (which arrives at a distant 6000rpm).

For this test, we had the automatic Jimny which comes with a four-speed torque converter automatic.

The 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine makes 75kW/130Nm. The 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine makes 75kW/130Nm.

You read that right, four speeds. It even has an overdrive button. Very ‘90s.

The Jimny also has a real transfer case with low-gearing however, so it makes up for its low-tech drivetrain by having some real ability behind its tough looks.

How much fuel does it consume?

The Jimny’s official combined fuel usage figure when fitted with the automatic transmission is 6.9L/100km. Sounds fine, although our weekly test which mainly kept to urban streets produced a dash-reported 8.5L/100km.

Fine for a capable off-roader, I suppose, but less impressive in the context of the Jimny’s size and relatively lean 1090kg kerb weight.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Jimny’s less-than-impressive three-star ANCAP rating was widely publicized near its release, and one look at the photos from the offset crash tests are enough to make you a little uncomfortable behind the wheel.

Suzuki's AEB works from 15-100km/h, and detects pedestrians but not cyclists. Suzuki's AEB works from 15-100km/h, and detects pedestrians but not cyclists.

Still Suzuki has put effort in to include active safety refinements, like auto emergency braking (works from 15-100km/h, detects pedestrians but not cyclists, limited function at night), and lane departure warning. There is no lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, or more advanced items like traffic sign recognition.

Six airbags are standard along with electronic brake, traction, and stability controls.

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

Suzuki offers all of its vehicles with an updated five-year unlimited kilometre warranty (on par with other mainstream automakers) and requires servicing once every 12 months or 15,000km whichever comes first.

Service pricing is fixed for the first six visits and costs between $239 and $519 per appointment and comes out to a yearly average of $362.33. Not bad.

What's it like to drive around town?

The Jimny drives how it looks, for better or worse. The good includes visibility thanks to its big upright windows and generous rear vision mirrors, the ride which is so beyond capable for urban use it’ll have you driving over roundabouts and mounting kerbs for fun, and your distance from the ground makes the cabin surprisingly quiet despite thin sheet metal.

You’ll probably never tire of its fun interior fittings and touch-points which blend the modern feel of the Swift’s steering wheel and multimedia screen with the distinctly military-look dial cluster, manual handbrake and transfer case shifter.

There are some quirks of the Jimny though, which you will tire of over time. The steering is fine at most urban speeds, but gets vague above 80km/h and annoyingly heavy at or near a standstill, making parking more of a chore than it should be.

The little box’s centre of gravity is notably high, too, and you feel disconnected from corners and the road generally thanks to its ladder frame and capable suspension. You’ll find yourself slowing down for bends, which at best are tipsy and at worst uncomfortable.

The 1.5-litre engine and old-school four-speed auto combine to make a less-than-enthusiastic package. You’ll really need to kick the Jimny in the guts to get it up to speed, leaving you very little power in reserve for overtaking.

What’s more, the transmission is noisy and incredibly transparent about what it’s doing, lurching between gears in an acceleration experience which is a little too reflective of cars from 20 years ago.

At this point, I know what you’re thinking: “So, you didn’t like it very much?” Actually, quite the opposite. The Jimny possesses an honest old-world charm few vehicles on the market today come anywhere close to. There is something genuinely appealing about how it wears its flaws on its sleeve, so I subjectively enjoyed the drive experience quite a lot, bouncing around in the driver’s seat with a smile on my face every trip. Potential owners deserve to know it is nostalgic to a fault, however.

If you love the Jimny and are in the already excessively long line to buy one, you don’t need me to tell you it’s not the smartest, most advanced, and user-friendly choice to drive around town.

If you’re on the fence about it, just know this little box is retro to a fault, and if you’re not planning on going out of bounds once in a while, it really won’t be living its best life.

And while that might sound a bit negative, it has to be said I loved every moment of driving and looking at this car despite its SUV shortcomings.

$24,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.4/5
Suzuki Jimny 2019 review

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Price Guide

$24,990

Based on new car retail price