"Cheap, cheerful and tough, the Suzuki Jimny is one of the UK's smallest 4x4s.”
The Suzuki Jimny may be more than a decade old and something of a rarity on UK roads, but it is still a cheap and cheerful 4x4 that is extremely capable off-road. Its compact dimensions, durability and four-wheel drive combine with a low-ratio gearbox that is specifically designed for off-roading to make it surprisingly effective in the mud. There's only one engine to choose from, though, an 84bhp 1.3-litre petrol that needs to be worked pretty hard to get any real performance out of it. The Jimny has been in production since 1998 and that does show, as on-road comfort, engine performance and interior space lag far behind more modern rivals such as the Fiat Panda 4x4, Nissan Juke and Vauxhall Mokka. The Suzuki Jimny comes in two main specifications – the entry-level SZ3 and top-of-the-range SZ4.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Buying a car that's more than a decade old means that you’ll get decade-old efficiency figures. When paired with the manual gearbox the Jimny returns economy of 39.8mpg and emits 162g/km of CO2 emissions, which puts it in tax band G so will cost £175 a year in annual road tax. The automatic version is more expensive to run, returning 38.7mpg in economy and emitting 167g/km, so the tax disc costs another £25. And, because the service intervals are only 9,000 miles, you’ll also end up spending a lot of money on maintenance.
Interior & comfort
The suspension isn’t much better than the drive, with the Jimny bouncing about all over the road and giving passengers a very uncomfortable ride. There's also a lot of engine, wind and road noise inside the car that becomes very intrusive when driving at motorway speeds. And, because the 1.3-litre engine needs to be worked hard to get anywhere, it gets very loud. Legroom is also extremely tight for anyone unfortunate enough to be squeezed into the cramped rear, so journeys of any length become particularly tedious for all inside.
Practicality & boot space
With just 113 litres of boot space the Jimny has a limited luggage-carrying ability. Even when you fold down the standard-fit split-fold rear seats, the boot space only expands to 286 litres – which is still barely enough for a week's shopping, and there's a big ridge in the floor that makes loading heavy objects difficult. In the front there's a reasonable amount of room, but legroom is tight and the back is very cramped indeed, with only just enough room for children. Basically, the Jimny works best as a two-seater with the rear seats folded down. There's also a lack of storage inside, with only a lockable glove compartment and two cup holders.
Reliability & safety
Suzuki ranked 29th out of 32 manufacturers in our 2013 Driver Power survey, having dropped three places from its 2012 position. It performed badly across pretty much all categories, including reliability. The Jimny itself didn’t feature in the survey's top 150 cars, and it hasn’t been put through the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, either, so in many ways it's hard to gauge official reliability and safety. However, safety equipment includes driver and passenger airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and side impact protection. The lack of electronic stability control (ESP) – even as an optional extra – is a major issue in today's market. There's no denying that the Jimny 4x4 feels tough, although rivals such as the Nissan Juke and Fiat Panda 4x4 have a lot more accessories and safety equipment.
Engines, drive & performance
The 84bhp 1.3-litre engine is decidedly sluggish and really needs to be worked hard to generate any real performance, which of course makes it very noisy. It takes 14.1 seconds to accelerate form 0-62mph, and that's with the manual – the automatic gearbox version takes 17.2 seconds. The Jimny is Suzuki's slowest car, which is enough reason to move past it to the Nissan Juke if you are going to use it primarily for on-road driving. There's also loads of body roll when driving through the corners and the Jimny's grip is limited, which doesn’t inspire confidence. The Jimny's saving grace is that it rules off-road, where its four-wheel drive and low-ratio gearbox mean it can leave SUVs costing twice as much languishing in its wake.
Price, value for money & options
Although the Jimny looks and feels old, very few 4x4s are available at this price, particularly ones that are any good off-road. The lack of equipment is still an issue though, with both the Nissan Juke and the Fiat Panda 4x4 offering a lot more kit. Resale values on the used car market are pretty poor, too, but then you’ll pay so little for it in the first place that it might not be that much of an issue. If you can ignore the low equipment levels and bumpy ride, the Jimny defines cheap and cheerful.