What's the used Suzuki Jimny 4x4 like?
For modern car buyers, it is not enough that your utilitarian 4x4, whether it be a Land Rover Defender, Mercedes G Wagen or this diminutive Suzuki Jimny, should be great off-road and tough enough to stand up to the sort of abuses it’s likely to encounter on a farm or a rutted track, it also has to be something approaching a fashion icon. In short, it has to look good on the school run and be a useful thing on-road, too.
This is the fourth generation of Jimny, launched in 2018, and it follows, mostly, the formula of the first three in being uber-competent off-road, relatively inexpensive to buy and to run and, most important of all given its pocket-size kei-car origins in Japan, where cars are taxed on size, small. Crucially, it looks great. Sweet. In a market where looks really matter.
The previous generation had been on sale for 20 years, so this one has to retain that air of simplicity and be spot on in every other area if it is to last as long a time as that one. To that end, there is only one engine option with the Jimny: a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit that makes 100bhp. Drive goes to all four wheels through a five-speed gearbox, and a four-speed automatic was available from new as an option. It comes with selectable low-range gearing, which can mechanically switch between 2WD-high, 4WD-low and 4WD-high modes.
Trim-wise, there are only two. Entry-level SZ4 versions get air conditioning, cruise control, electric front windows, automatic lights and, of course, four-wheel drive. Upgrade to SZ5 trim and you can add alloy wheels, LED headlights, climate control, heated front seats, a leather steering wheel and a touchscreen infotainment system.
On the road, the first thing to remember is the Jimny is essentially an off-road tool. On Tarmac, it’s not so good. The 1.5 engine needs working hard and is incredibly vocal and unrefined. The gearchange is rather stiff and old-fashioned, too, and the overall gearing is short, meaning lots of gearchanges and not a lot of progress. There’s plenty of road and wind noise, too.
The steering is low-geared, too, meaning plenty of wheel-twirling, and it doesn’t have an awful lot of grip in corners, either - it leans quite dramatically in any bend taken quickly. Meanwhile, its ride struggles with potholes and other road imperfections, and there’s a lot of body movement over bumps.
Off-road, however, the Jimny is an able and willing performer, climbing at great angles over broken and erratic ground with all four wheels on the ground and the body remarkably level.
The Jimny’s shortness means it has impressive approach and departure angles to take on steep hills and ridges. There may be no true locking differentials, but the electronic traction control system is able to brake spinning wheels to keep you moving. Put simply, the more off-road you go, the more the Jimny makes sense.
Inside it’s fairly Spartan, with the steering wheel only adjusting for height, not reach. The driving position is tall and upright, and the seat won’t go back far enough for tall drivers. Visibility is good, however. Everything in the interior feels fairly lightweight and a little basic, if durable, with plenty of hard plastics on display. Space isn’t great, either. There’s more than enough head room, but the two rear passengers will be cramped. There is also little in the way of a boot with those two rear passengers in place, although the seats can be folded down to make some sort of carrying area for a few shopping bags.
Alas emissions regulations put paid to the Jimny, and the car was withdrawn from sale in 2020.
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