Goodwood Test: 2020 Suzuki Jimny Review
Here’s a bold move. I’m going to start this review with a conclusion: the Suzuki Jimny is the coolest car on sale today. Now I didn’t say it was the best, but I did quite happily say it is the coolest. This is an opinion, of course, and one easily open to discourse and disagreement, but one that I am more than happy to back up with facts.
The Jimny is one of the most sought-after cars around. From the moment that this latest iteration was revealed to the world in June 2018 it has been a success the scale of which even Suzuki must not have anticipated in their wildest dreams. Indeed, so popular is it that Suzuki cannot physically build enough for import, which of course just heightens the need for one. The waiting list is longer than a year. For a Suzuki! But why is it so popular?
- The coolest car on sale
- A trooper off-road
- Quirky, old-school interior
We don't like
- The boot is useless if you use the rear seats
- The steering is as precise as a tiller
- Off-road ability compromises on-road manners (but what do you expect for £16k?)
Well the first thing is the looks. There’s no point beating around the bush, this is a mini G-Wagen. Which is no bad thing of course. There’s a reason why the G-Class is still so enduringly popular today, even after such a long time in production with so few changes. Like the Porsche 911, people love the original design, and still do, so why would you fiddle with it? The Jimny distils those rugged, back-to-basics looks into a tiny little SUV and then makes it actually back-to-basics.
There are styling cues from old Jimnys, the upright slats in the grille, a couple of face vents in the bonnet, and some more small notes, but more importantly the boxy shape contrasts so dramatically with everything else on sale that it just stands out fantastically from a crowd.
Performance and Handling
The Jimny, as funky looking as it is, isn’t all good news. On the road it isn’t the most pleasant of drives. It’s a bit unsettling at any kind of speed and the traction control is rudimentary to say the best. But that’s sort of the fun of the Jimny, it takes a bit of work to drive. We wouldn’t recommend going on any particularly long journeys in one, but as long as you keep it sensible then it’ll do you no wrong.
Off road is where the Jimny really feels at home, truly unphased by anything you can throw at it. In fact I would go as far as saying that the Jimny feels smoother on horrible rugged tracks than on road. That’s where its rigid axle and ladder chassis are useful. On road they are more of a hindrance, giving the Jimny a lurchy, wobbling feel, which could put the less confident driver off. But off road they pair to become an awesome couple. The Jimny’s strong angles of attack and descent mean it’ll go all Sound of Music on you and climb any mountain with no problem.
The only real thing that puts us off the Jimny is the engine, as Suzuki hasn’t developed a new motor for their fourth generation trail conqueror, and it really shows. The 1.5-litre, naturally-aspirated, petrol engine produces just 101PS (74kW) and 130Nm (95lb ft), and in practice it feels slower than that. There is no quoted 0-62mph time, but we reckon it is reasonably north of 10 seconds. The manual box it comes with has an oddly short throw, a good thing, but could definitely do with a sixth cog – the Jimny feels especially breathless at the top end.
The interior, despite the cost, is actually quite nice to look at. Admittedly it is definitely on the rugged side, with plenty of hard-wearing but scratchy plastics around, but otherwise the infotainment system is easy to use, like all modern Suzuki fair, and it doesn’t feel quite as cheap as the car actually is.
Sadly, as the Jimny is so diddy, this three-quarter scale car has three-quarter scale car space. The seats fold flat making a 337-litre boot, but with them up it’s more of a small shelf than a boot. Rear leg room is decent, but the two rear seats feel a bit more like the temporary ones you find on the third row of a bigger SUV than proper rear benches.
Technology and Features
Another reason why the Jimny is the runaway success it has become is it’s cheap. You can get a Jimny from just £15,999 in SZ4 trim. That’s less than 16k for an impossible-to-get-hold-of, ultra-cool, mini-SUV. In that spec you get four-wheel-drive as standard (obviously), Hill Descent Control, Lane Departure Warning, six airbags, air conditioning, cruise control, a CD player with DAB Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, LED Headlights, High Beam Assist and front foglamps.
Even our test car, which came in fancy SZ5 spec will cost you just £18,499, and that comes with a full sized spare wheel (mounted oh-so-cool-ly on the rear door), Sat-Nav, privacy glass, 15-inch alloy wheels and heated front seats. And it looks so effortlessly cool.
Which brings us back to that conclusion. The Jimny isn’t the best car in the world, it certainly requires some concentration to drive, and it’s not the most spacious. But its good sides, the image, the off road ability, the sheer joy of the thing, absolutely outweigh the bad. It’s so cool it sort of has no competitors, so jolly you can’t help but smile when you drive it. You’ll have a hard time getting your hands on one, but it is worth a try.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
101PS (74kW) @ 6,000rpm
130Nm (95lb ft) @ 4,000rpm
Five-speed manual, four-wheel-drive
£15,999 (£18,499 as tested)
Reviewed by Ben Miles