Review: Suzuki Jimny (1998 – 2018)

Rating:

Outstanding ability off-road and cute looks, especially as a soft-top. Cheap to buy.

Noisy, unsophisticated and cramped on the road. Poor ride and handling.

Recently Added To This Review

1 March 2018

All UK stocks of the 1998-2018 Jimny sold out. Read more

3 November 2017

Report of 2016 Suzuki Jimny 1.3 VVT SZ4 Auto reluctant to change up from second to third-fourth gear in cold weather and sticks at 3000 revs. No probem in Summer. Suspect moisture contaminated transmission... Read more

1 December 2014

Suzuki Jimny 1998-2016 shown to be the 2nd most reliable SUV in Warranty Direct's claims records. Read more

Suzuki Jimny (1998 – 2018): At A Glance

When the Suzuki Jimny went on sale Tony Blair was Prime Minister, Ford still made the Escort and the Euro hadn’t yet been introduced into circulation. The only one of those things that hasn’t changed since is the Jimny. That means it’s very dated, yet it’s still a charming little machine and it’s surprisingly capable off road.

The Jimny hasn’t gone completely unchanged, of course. Over more than a decade it has been lightly tweaked, with different trim levels, equipment and engine options - but on the whole it is the same as it always was. These days it is only offered with a 1.3-litre petrol engine with a modest 85PS, but it does the job in a loud, unsophisticated way.

Road noise, wind noise and tyre noise are intrusive at anything above 50mph, the cabin is cramped, the ride isn’t great, the steering is ponderous and slow and the gearchange is stiff. Yet, despite its flaws, the Jimny is tremendously capable in poor weather, on rough roads and on broken, potholed tracks - and it even works in town thanks to its small size, even if it requires a little more effort than a modern hatchback. 

Where the Jimy really shines, though, is off the road. Its light weight, low range transmission and lockable differential mean it will happily tackle the same kind of tough, muddy terrain as a pricier Land Rover Defender - another relic of a bygone age. For those who live in rural areas the Jimny is ideal - and it has a real cult following among green-laners. 

Of course its off-road prowess is tempered by the almost endless list of flaws. Some will relish the experience, but most - particularly those used to more modern vehicles - will find the Jimny a tiresome vehicle, particularly when it comes to everyday commuting or shopping trips. However, for a select buyer there is nothing quite like it - and nothing else will do.

What does a Suzuki Jimny (1998 – 2018) cost?

Contract hire from £199.38 per month
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Suzuki Jimny (1998 – 2018): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 3645–3675 mm
Width 1600 mm
Height 1705 mm
Wheelbase 2250 mm

Full specifications

The Jimny's interior is as basic as you'd expect for a that first went on sale in 1998. Cars from 2005 benefit from a facelift that brought a much improved interior, though it still feels dated, That said, if you're looking for a working vehicle, then the Jimny's sturdy interior is just the job. The hard plastics stand up well to knocks and scrapes and can be easily cleaned. 

The driving position is very upright and despite Jimny's compact dimensions, tall drivers shouldn't have much of a problem with it as the steering wheel adjusts for height. Forward visibility is good and the view when pulling out of T-Junctions is unimpaired. The rear view isn't quite as clear, especially with four on board, but large wing mirrors partly compensate for this.

The Jimny's only really suitable as a second car or for couples as the boot is incredibly small and the two rear seats are only suitable for occasional use as there's very little legroom and as Jimny is quite narrow, shoulder room is restricted, too. But there's a reasonable load area with the seats folded and tumbled, but that only leaves seating for two - plus the side-opening door is a bit of a pain in small parking spaces.

All new Jimny models come with the essentials, but if you're expecting up-to-the-minute technology like navigation and smartphone compatibility you'll be sorely disappointed. There's a stereo and electric windows for ventilation, or you can get air conditioning on SZ4 models. 

Standard Equipment (July 2015)

SZ3 models come with steel wheels, electric windows, a 12V socket, CD player, cloth upholstery.

SZ4 trim adds synthetic leather upholstery, leather covered steering wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows and air conditioning. 

Child seats that fit a Suzuki Jimny (1998 – 2018)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Suzuki Jimny (1998 – 2018) like to drive?

From 1998-2005, the Jimny was powered by a 16-valve 1.3 litre petrol with 80bhp. It was a slow, plodding engine with a 0-60mph time of 16.3 seconds and a top speed of 87mph. This was replaced by a more modern 1.3-litre VVTi in 2005.

This 82bhp engine offers a bit more power, brings the 0-60mph time down to 14.1 seconds and is a shade more economical, returning 36mpg, rather than 34mpg. All cars are five-speed manuals, with the option of a four-speed automatic. Current Jimnies emit 162g/km, which is pretty high and gives away the very dated nature of the car.

There's also a 1.8-litre Jimny that was sold briefly between 2004 and 2005. It's more powerful, with 125bhp and gets to 60mph in little over 10 seconds. But such a large engine wasn't well suited to such a small car and it never sold well. It's rare on the used market.

On the road that the Jimny's age really starts to show. As well as being slow (and feeling it), it rolls a lot and has a ride that never really seems to settle - there's a lot of bouncing, which is quite severe on rougher roads. The steering is vague - as is the case on many old-school 4x4s - which can be off-putting at higher speeds and on the motorway.

But when it comes to off-roading, Jimny can rightly hold its head high. And rightly so - it follows a long line of Suzukis famed for their off-road prowess. Those who buy a Jimny tend to need it, rather than want it. And that's a subtle, but important difference. Those who need a Jimny appreciate the low ratio gearbox, seperate chassis and good ground clearance. Even with road tyres, it performs well and is only limited in its capabilities by the power of the engine.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.3 39–40 mpg 14.1–16.8 s 162–171 g/km
1.3 Automatic 39 mpg 16.8–17.2 s 167 g/km

Real MPG average for a Suzuki Jimny (1998 – 2018)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

87%

Real MPG

25–42 mpg

MPGs submitted

71

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Suzuki Jimny (1998 – 2018)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

I need a low budget 4WD for low mileages - what do you suggest?

I drive lower than average miles per year, 6000 perhaps. I prefer to be sitting up-right, as in a little 4WD. I would like as economical a car as possible, in terms of running and maintaining. I have a budget of £6000, with some wriggle room. What would you recommend?
I'd recommend a petrol for 6000 miles a year. A Suzuki Jimny might fit the bill, but it's not the most comfortable road car. I'd probably be looking for something like a Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V - although all will be a bit more expensive to run than a conventional hatchback. You could consider a Honda Jazz which is more versatile and has a slightly higher seating position than a standard hatch.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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