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? 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 little change. Similar to the Porsche 911, people love the original design, and still do, so why would you change it? The Jimny distils those rugged, back-to-basics looks into a tiny little SUV and then makes it actually back-to-basics. That’s reason two why the Jimny is the runaway success it has become – it’s is cheap. You can get a Jimny from just £15,999. That’s less than 16k for an impossible-to-get-hold-of, ultra-cool, mini-SUV.
Even our test car, which came in fancy SZ5 spec will cost you just £18,499, and that comes with lane departure warning, a full sized spare wheel (mounted oh-so-cool-ly on the rear door), Sat-Nav, digital radio, Bluetooth, privacy glass and heated front seats. And it looks so effortlessly cool. 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.
Of course, it isn’t all good news. On the road the Jimny 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 a Jimny, 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, Suzuki haven’t developed a new motor for their fourth generation, and it really shows. The 1.5-litre, naturally-aspirated, petrol engine produces just 101PS (100bhp) 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 other downside is the 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.
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.
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.