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First drive: Suzuki Jimny

Date: 07 July 2020   |   Author: Richard Bush

A few organisations might find use for the Suzuki Jimny - whether cheap off-road ability is needed, or a distinctive model to make their business stand out.
Standard equipment:
Selectable four-wheel drive with low-ratio transfer, air conditioning, cruise control, CD player with DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and front foglamps
Petrol: 101hp 1.5
Equipment grades:
SZ4, SZ5
Five-speed manual, four-speed auto

As cars capable of serious off-road duty go, the Suzuki Jimny has long been the king of 4x4 ability for small car costs. But, the previous model, on sale for 20 years, arguably became just as well known for its cartoon-like appearance.

Nevertheless, it had a loyal following, so changing it a couple of years ago wasn't without its risks. 

The latest model launched at the end of 2018, but we hadn't visited it until now because with very limited UK supply it has been selling like hot cakes.

The latest Jimny maintains its boxy shape - and tailgate-mounted spare tyre - but there's also a greatest hits list of styling cues borrowed from previous Suzuki 4x4s. A host of new, vibrant paint jobs help give the Jimny a more modern edge, too.

Like many other Suzukis - and previous Jimnys - the interior feels built to a price, but not ill-fitting of its utilitarian character. Yes, the dashboard is littered with hard, scratchy plastics, and the overall design is as rudimentary as it comes, but for those who are likely to muddy it after journeys yonder, it's ideal.

In fact, despite its unpolished interior, standard equipment on all models is surprisingly impressive, with Bluetooth, DAB radio, lane departure warning, hill hold control and hill descent assist all included. The slightly pricier flagship SZ5 model that we tested surprises further, with a touchscreen system with satnav as well as heated front seats. The touchscreen system is a little cumbersome, but it's easy enough to use and an excellent addition for the price.

Due to the cost-cutting in the cabin however, there are a few comfort complaints, like the lack of reach adjustment in the steering column and the complete omission of any type of armrest between the driver and passenger. 

The classical cuboidal shape of the Jimny is a big part of its charm. But sadly, due to its diminutive size, or at least length, it doesn't offer much in the way of practicality. Its three-door, four-seater set-up means your two rear passengers will have to climb, somewhat awkwardly, into their seats. And when they sit down, they will struggle for leg and shoulder room - but, thankfully, not headroom. Still, the rear seats are best reserved for small children.

The boot is of a similar ilk, with just 85 litres on offer with the rear seats in place. There is a handy storage compartment near the boot lip though, ideal for a folded pair of wellies or a gilet. Fold the rear seats down and storage space is a little better at 377 litres up to window height, and 830 litres up to the roof. The back of the rear seats are coated in hard-wearing plastic too, for added versatility. 

Realistically, most people who need a compact utility vehicle will leave the rear seats folded down and stick to two in the front.

There's no messing around with the Jimny and its Allgrip system. Its ladder frame chassis and long-travel coil spring suspension are designed for one thing and one thing only: to get you where other vehicles can't. There's also a function that transfers power to the gripping wheels for extra traction, in case some of them are slipping in mud or hovering between rocks. 

There are three separate driving modes: two-wheel rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive low ratio, each offering increased levels of off-road prowess. The low-ratio setting is where the Jimny is most capable, offering more traction at lower speeds as it helps the driver to control the torque more precisely. And you can feel each of the wheels clawing their way over bumps beneath you. Off-road, you'll be hard-pressed to find something the Jimny can't do.

Power comes from a 101hp 1.5-litre petrol engine, which is lethargic on the open road, but perfectly adequate off it. The same goes for the five-speed manual gearbox we tested. Its clunky gear changes suit the rural setting but things can get a bit tiresome when nipping to the shops. And when you're cruising on the motorway, you will constantly feel yourself reaching for a sixth gear that isn't there.

To be honest, on-road, the Jimny does feel very much out of place. Body lean is significant in the corners, the cabin is very noisy and due to its light but high-sided design, you'll have to have your wits about you when it's windy or when you're passing high-sided vehicles.

Suzuki Jimny 1.5 SZ5  

P11D: £18,339

Residual value: 45.7%

Depreciation: £9,964

Fuel: £7,848

Service, maintenance and repair: £1,848

Cost per mile: 32.8p

Fuel consumption: 35.8mpg

CO2 (BIK band): 178g/km (37%) 

BIK 20/40% a month: £113/£226

Boot space: 85 litres

Engine size/power: 1,462cc/101hp


  • Excellent off-road capability
  • Fun design
  • Decent equipment for the price
  • Impractical
  • Cheap interior
  • Lacks on-road appeal