Adorable design, off-road prowess, plenty of equipment
It's now a van only. Not the comfiest for taller folk. Iffy crash-test rating
What is it?
It’s the Suzuki Jimny, or ‘Jimmy’ as every smartphone and laptop auto-correct feature insists on calling it. Good luck Googling one of these if you decide you want one. Come 2021 it was reclassified as a commercial vehicle (or van) due to emissions regs, with the rear seats lobbed in the skip, but supply was limited – so you’ll likely struggle to get your hands on a brand new one, while you’ll have to pay a fair whack for those in the classifieds. More on that below.
Still, ‘want one’ tends to happen about three seconds after clapping eyes on the Jimny. Cuter than a Jeep Renegade and as sturdy looking as a Mercedes G-Class (but at six-tenths the scale), it’s one of those instantly desirable pieces of design, like a Fiat 500 or whatever Apple’s attached a lower-case ‘i’ to this week.
Jimnys have extremely loyal buyers, but for every one potentially warded off by the latest model going ‘fashion’, we'd wager it’s won five new fans via social media who’d never have had it on their radar before.
The old Jimny lasted an astonishing 20 years on sale. In those two decades, three things boomed in popularity: SUVs, downsizing, and retro. So the new Jimny, complete with its 1.5-litre petrol engine and functionally honest design, looks like a masterstroke.
Is it still ‘proper’ underneath?
Yup. The Jimny is still based around a traditional steel, ladder frame chassis, but it gained a new, stiffer foundation for the car’s 2018 rebirth, supporting rigid front and rear axles with separate differentials, and a four-cylinder petrol engine with 100bhp and 95lb ft – not to mention 200cc more capacity than its predecessor. There is no turbo, no hybrid assistance, and no diesel. Suzuki never got round to confirming how quickly the 1.5-litre motor can haul all 1,135kg (1,090kg sans rear seats) of Jimny from 0-62mph, but if it’s under 12 seconds we’d be impressed. And buy the brave-shifting test driver a pint.
That boxy phizzog will eventually stop bullying the air at 90mph, but of far more relevance are claims of 36.7mpg and 173g/km on the WLTP eco cycle. Efficiency perhaps isn’t the Jimny’s strong suit, and with that comes the elephant in the room – the fact that Suzuki suspended Jimny sales in Europe in 2020. As previously mentioned, it’s made a glorious return for 2021, but reclassified as a Light Commercial Vehicle – aka van – to sneak around regulations for just a little longer. But they're few and far between – the UK got 480 Jimnys in its first year on sale, or around three per dealer – and unless Suzuki can squeeze some electrification in there somewhere, its days seem numbered.
You can still buy one though, it’ll just cost you. Lightly used Jimnys continue to pack the classifieds out with a healthy mark-up on their RRP owing to their rarity – you can easily spend £25,000 or more on one. The LCV version, meanwhile, is a whisker under £17,000 before VAT, or an aesthetically satisfying £19,999 if you’re popping the tax back on to use it as a personal (rather than business) vehicle.
As standard you get a manual gearbox with five speeds, and a low-range transfer box for 4x4 scrambling. You can spec a four-speed auto, but it’s even more sluggish than the manual and fewer than 10 per cent of Jimny-folk bother.
See, the Jimny is supposed to be for the professional outdoors-type. The ones who spend their days in Gore-Tex, zips and double-laced boots, and only ever sip tea out of flasks. This isn’t some sort of pound-shop G-Wagen to pose on campus or outside pilates class. It’s a tool.
This new Jimny is 30mm shorter, 45mm wider and 20mm taller than before, to best balance off-road articulation and cabin space. It’s got a bigger boot, a wipe-down interior and hill-descent control. As standard you get delightfully utilitarian steel wheels, and there’s no option to paint those anti-scratch plastic bumpers and wheel arch spats body-colour. If that offends you, there are a hundred faceless crossover clones that will complement your life far less intrusively than the Suzuki. You know where to find them. Even Suzuki makes a couple.
But if you’re the sort of person who appreciates a flat-roofed vehicle because it’s easier to clear snow off and mount cargo racks to, or you favour cars with a roofing gutter so you’re not dripped on as you load the tailgate, then you might like the Jimny. You might like it a lot. You’ll be in good company, because despite its on-road haphazardness and packaging compromises, Top Gear likes it a lot too.
What's it like living with a Suzuki Jimny for the long haul? Click these blue words to find out more.
What's the verdict?
The Suzuki Jimny is not a sophisticated crossover dressed up in waders, but its authenticity as an off-roader hasn’t unduly compromised it on the road. Certainly, it’s got more rarefied manners than any Jimny before now, and its hard-fought momentum and deliberate controls make it rollicking good fun to tack along in.
It’s got a litany of flaws – lacklustre performance and a shonky crash-test score among them – but in the end you just can’t separate the sheer joy of the way this rascal looks from the way it drives, and that irrepressible cute-meets-tough joy is what will make it ultimately a little cracker to live with. If it’s not your only mode of transport and you’ve managed to get hold of one at a vaguely reasonable price, that is…