“When I first saw this course, I thought to myself ‘Suzuki have been very brave here. Maybe too brave.'”
These were the words of our pro-instructor as we peered up a steep, muddy and rocky hill, littered with axle-twisters.
My colleague Vince and I had already been thinking much the same as we surveyed the litany of obstacles that stretched out before the CinemaScope windscreen of the new Suzuki Jimny. Between us we have over 40 years’ off-roading experience, mainly in a succession of highly-modified Jeeps. We’ve driven across the Rubicon and tackled nearly every trail in Moab, the spiritual home of rock-crawling. All of which means we know a challenge when we see one.
And yet, as our minder’s words faded from our ears, the little Jimny cast them aside and just crawled up it.
Now, that’s amazing for three reasons: firstly, it did it on standard road tyres, puny little 195/80/15s that equate to about a 27-inch diameter.
Secondly, it did it quite happily with three adults on board.
And thirdly, it tackled the entire course on tick-over.
For something with a big torquey diesel that might not sound that impressive, but for a 1.5-litre petrol engine which – Suzuki’s engineers insist – doesn’t feature an anti-stall mechanism, it’s well beyond the realms of ‘remarkable’ and into the territory of ‘witchcraft.’
More impressive is the Jimny’s brake-based traction control. I’m not normally a fan of these systems – they apply the brakes to a spinning wheel to redistribute torque to one with greater traction, but they often require huge amounts of ground-polishing wheelspin before they react.
Not so in the Jimny, which even at idle was able to maintain forward travel up a steep climb by braking an individual wheel just as it began to lose traction. In a situation where I’d naturally want to dial in a few hundred extra rpm and cycle the steering lock-to-lock, left to its own devices the Jimny will do the job for you with precisely zero drama.
We did, however, find one area where it could be improved – letting off the gas pedal before reaching a summit can cause the revs to drop far enough to induce a stall, even on obstacles the Jimny could have achieved with no throttle at all. A small tweak to the drive-by-wire throttle would no doubt sort that.
And while we’re making suggestions, the Hill Descent Control works fabulously, the ABS pump clattering away to itself to reign in the chances of an errant run-away Jimny, but I’d love to see a Hill Ascent Control that uses, say, the cruise control buttons to dial-in a set engine speed to alleviate some of the bouncy throttle syndrome.
That said, if ever a vehicle deserved to be called ‘plucky’ this is it. With the better part of six decades’ of off-roading experience in the vehicle, we tried hard to find situations that would trip it up. And failed.
Off-road, the Jimny simply refuses to be defeated.
Off-road, the Jimny simply refuses to be defeated
Ok, I get it, it’s great off-road. That must mean it’s appalling on-road?
Actually, not so much.
A hundred horsepower might not be a lot in today’s money, but what little the Jimny has it gives up readily. Getting up to speed on a dual carriageway can feel a little fraught, but at urban speeds the little Suzuki feels almost spritely.
At least part of that is because someone who knew what they were doing picked out the ratios for the five-speed manual gearbox, and then someone equally clever gave it all a reassuringly positive shift-action. By comparison the four-speed auto – which we tried only briefly – feels every inch the old-school slushbox that it is.
Granted, at motorway speeds the Jimny will be pulling over 3,500 rpm but to us it never felt raucous, and still had enough puff left for an overtake or two. Not bad for a car as aerodynamic as the box it was delivered in.
At the moment there are no plans to include the SHVS mild-hybrid system from the Ignis – the extra shot in the arm would do wonders for the Jimny’s confidence in fast-moving traffic, and would have helped with the emissions which are best described as ‘a bit of a worry.’
What impressed us most, though, was the ride. Solid axles aren’t normally associated with magic carpets, but the advantage of long-travel suspension hanging from a stronger-than-ever ladder-frame chassis is that whatever’s going on underneath is almost completely isolated from the cabin. Deliberately aiming at the deepest of pot-holes with wilful abandon failed to elicit even the merest hint of a rattle from the interior trim.
Speaking of which, it’s tiny inside, right?
Actually, no. I’m 6ft4 and I’d have happily spent all day there if Suzuki had let me. A couple of six-footers could have squeezed in behind me, as long as they were good friends. I’d have preferred reach- as well as height-adjustable steering, though.
The window sill is at perfect elbow resting height and visibility is excellent, but I’d have preferred white illumination for the instruments to match the central info display which, curiously, lacks a digital speed read-out.
Everything can be jabbed at by a gloved finger, too, even the satnav which, while something of a laggard, does at least include both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There’s even a little tray to hold your phone while it’s charging, and the glovebox is large enough to hold a bottle of water.
And the boot?
Ah, the boot. Suzuki seems proud of the fact this new Jimny is actually 30mm shorter than the old one; the fact the boot is bigger than before just goes to show how good Suzuki are at maximising space.
Small it might be, but it’s still practical as hell. The rear seats fold forward to create a completely flat load area (as long as you remove the head-rests) covered in a hard-wearing checker-plate finish, and when loaded to the gunwales there’s a creditable 830 litres of space on offer. The front passenger seat folds flat, too, creating a 1.7-metre load bed. Or a bed, for that matter.
There’s a small underfloor storage area, plus a series of mounting points below the side windows from which a variety of accessories can be secured – load hooks, tonneau covers, that kind of thing.
It’s perhaps easiest to think of the Jimny as a two-seater with a massive and incredibly practical load area, from which sprout a pair of occasional seats.
I imagine it has hardly any kit on it?
You’d be wrong.
Even the entry-level SZ4 has automatic headlights with high beam assist, air conditioning, cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, hill holder, hill descent control, tyre pressure monitoring, electric windows, electric door mirrors, and so on.
The top-of-the-range SZ5, expected to make up 80% of UK sales, adds alloy wheels, LED headlights with washers, rear privacy glass, climate control, leather steering wheel, satnav, heated seats, and heated door mirrors.
Great. I’m a townie and I want to buy one because I think it looks cute.
Join the queue, although we humbly suggest you might want to look at the Vitara instead.
We say that for two reasons. Firstly, the Vitara is far more refined and comfortable, and will keep you just as mobile in winter as the Jimny (perhaps more so, given its easier-to-use all-wheel-drive system).
But crucially, with only 600 Jimnys available in the first half of 2019 and over 11,000 people clamouring to buy one, you’re likely to be in for a bit of a wait.
Indeed. It’s a little baffling that Suzuki didn’t anticipate at least some degree of uplift over the old model, but the sheer level of global interest has taken everyone by surprise.
But then what possible yardstick is there for the Jimny? The Mercedes G-Wagon, with which the Jimny shares more than a passing resemblance, will set you back £143,000.
Even the Jeep Wrangler has moved out of this market, its £44,495 price tag now high enough to make you think twice before taking one into the wilderness.
By comparison, the Jimny was born off-road.
Brave isn’t the word. It’s damn near heroic.
We tried to anticipate a few of your most likely questions. Here are the answers Suzuki GB kindly gave us:
Given the sheer level of interest in the new Jimny, how will vehicles be allocated to customers?
We are currently working on the best way to balance the limited supply available, and this information will be communicated to dealers shortly.
Some dealers have been insisting on non-refundable deposits. Is that Suzuki GB policy?
It it not Suzuki GB policy.
Are there plans for any new engines for Jimny, perhaps a hybrid?
At the moment, there are no plans for changes to the engine line-up. The SHVS system will be developed for other models in the range, although there are no plans to introduce it on Jimny. However, it is not out of the question in the longer term.
Given the mention of professionals in Suzuki’s language about the Jimny, is a commercial version being considered?
There are no plans for this in the immediate term, particularly while supply remains constrained. However, the technical and commercial requirements for this are under consideration.
In Japan, a wide range of accessories is available for Jimny. Will this be available in the UK?
Yes, details of the accessory range will be announced before the end of the year.
In other markets, Jungle Green and Medium Grey are also offered as colour options. Is there a reason why these are not available in the UK?
We have limited the UK line-up to six exterior colours in order to maximise stock availability.
If there’s something you’d like to know that we haven’t covered here, feel free to ask.
Update January 2020: In a statement, Suzuki said that the Jimny would be available in 2020 only in very limited numbers. The Jimny’s relatively high emissions have a detrimental effect on Suzuki’s brand-wide average CO2 figures, potentially leaving it exposed to a hefty fine for every unit above the EU-mandated 95 g/km target. Although not confirmed, it seems likely the Jimny will be withdrawn from sale in 2021, but may return as an N1 commercial variant that eschews the rear seats and windows for a more cargo-oriented layout.
|Entry-level Price||£15,499||Price as tested||£18,649|
|Engine||1462cc 4-cyl petrol||Transmission||5-speed manual|
|Power||101ps @ 6,000rpm||Torque||130Nm @ 4,000rpm|
|0-62||–||Top speed||90 mph|
|Economy||35.8 mpg||CO2||178 g/km (WLTP)|
|Dimensions||3480 x 1645 x 1725 (LxWxH)||Kerb Weight||1135 kg|