Small and tough, Suzuki’s now smarter-looking Jimny is an ultra-compact 4x4 with genuine character.
It’s feeling its age in terms of ride, handling and refinement but it’s hard to grumble at the prices being asked. Although running costs are quite high, the Jimny is still just about the cheapest viable off-roader on the market.
In town, that high seating position and excellent all-round visibility make it great for nipping in and out of traffic. The 1.3-litre all-aluminium 16v engine is in its element here too. On the open road, however, it can sound a little stretched due to the fact that most of its 85 braked horses are not available until you get the engine singing right up at 6,000rpm. Handling around twisty tarmac is not as accomplished as the sharpest superminis, but it’s quite good enough to satisfy most. Besides, there’s always the bonus, denied to conventional road users, that when the fancy takes you, the muddy stuff beckons. Four-wheel drive is selectable via Suzuki’s ‘Drive Select’ system, a surprisingly painless operation that can be accomplished whilst on the move.
Over reasonably rough terrain, the little Suzuki inspires confidence, thanks to its tough ladder frame chassis, a standard design feature that many small off-roaders lack and which renders many virtually useless for real off-road work. You’ll have to accept, however, that the Jimny won’t ultimately have the wherewithal to reach the places that larger off roaders can. At least not in normal circumstances. Over in Iceland, they prefer light, simple little 4x4s like this because they don’t sink into the snow: in soft boggy conditions here, it might well be the same. One drawback of all this off roading prowess is that it necessitates a harder, more jiggly ride. Again, it’s not something that will bother you too much on short journeys, where the light steering, progressive brakes and smooth gearchange make the little Suzuki easy to live with.
At first glance, the Jimny looks to be designed more for the mud than the metropolis. Flared wheelarches, bulky side panels, roof rails and that spare wheel on the tailgate give it a purposeful look intended to reflect a ‘rugged personality’. Design revisions to this current version include a smarter front bumper and grille design, a sleeker design bonnet shape incorporating a central air intake, plus repositioned front fog lamps. Suzuki’s Jimny could be viewed as one of the most interesting budget small car choices on the market or as a bargain basement off-road tool. It will appeal to buyers of both persuasions because despite being more than a little rough around the edges, it has character and real ability.