You are here
The Top Gear car review:Suzuki Jimny
What is it like on the road?
Some cars belie their size, mass or stance and drive nothing like how you’d expect them to upon first glance. The Suzuki Jimny, I promise you, is not one of those cars. What it is, is a 1.7-metre tall telephone box with only two-and-a-quarter metres between its wheels.
Wheels shod in chunky Firestone all-season tyres, connected to recirculating ball steering geared to not relieve their driver of their thumbs on an undulating track, rather than the sort of racecar-like precision and delicate accuracy you’d get in, ooh, I dunno, a Dacia Duster.
Yep, you need to acclimatise to the Jimny’s (mis)behaviour. The steering is arm-twirlingly slow and vague in the extreme, but this is fine. The car is small and doesn’t weigh much over 1.1 tonnes even in fully optioned form, so steering loads are never unduly lofty and it’s unlikely you’ll be leaning hard on the front end, testing its reserves of grip.
You’ve no need to, because Top Gear has boldly gone to discover what happens when you do, and the result is comical body roll, but not the premature surrender into safety understeer you might fear. There’s actually a load more front-end grip to cling on for than you’d expect, but you’ll be pushing through piercing tyre squeal and a paralytic sway to find it. Best take it easier.
The engine should help with that approach. This is a slow car. It doesn’t get off the line quickly, it doesn’t punch through the gears swiftly, and above 70mph, acceleration is by appointment only.
But, again, there are some pleasant surprises to be had once you’ve accepted this is not, say, a Skoda Karoq. First off, Suzuki’s done a good job of subtly curving the flat-looking windscreen so wind noise isn’t a disaster. The boxy mirrors create more bluster. And the gearshift is light and mechanically pleasant.
Oh, the change is lengthy – you’ll be handing over to a passenger halfway between third and second to let them take over the task – but the action itself is neat and satisfying. Just as well, as the gearing is short: 70mph equals 3,600rpm in fifth gear, and there are only five forward speeds. The 1.5-litre engine revs gruffly and gets into a shouting match with the transmission whine as the revs build. On the road, the Jimny’s happiest in two-wheel-drive mode, but you can drop the lever and engage all four tyres at up to 62mph.
The low-range gearbox will haul you over rutted tracks and up 38-degree slopes effortlessly if you go puddle-hopping. Our off-road test time was limited to a course so tame a Swift Sport could’ve completed it with its handbrake on, but the Jimny’s unflustered ‘give me a real challenge’ enthusiasm showed big potential.
The traction control disengages with a single button prod, not a complex hold-then-count-to-forty-seven riddle, the hill-hold and descent modes did the trick, and it’s easy to spot on the trail too, because it’s boxier than an 8-bit Rubik’s cube and the visibility is excellent. Just watch out for that overhanging spare wheel out back – there’s no parking sensors or reversing camera to stop you scuffing your wheel before it’s ever been mounted to an axle…
It’d tricky to be definitive on the car’s ride yet, because it’s only been sampled in Germany, where the roads are paved with silk. Where there were rough patches, the Jimny isolated the bumps skilfully without using its structure as a giant tuning fork. Body control is sloppy though; with the aftershock of a roundabout exit still wibbling about the suspension a second or two after you’ve made good your escape. Happily, it stops neatly enough when commanded.