Review: Suzuki Jimny (2019)

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Adorable looks. Fun to drive (in a sense). Extremely capable off road.

Tiny boot. Not in its element on the motorway. Very high CO2 of 178g/km for the manual and 198g/km for the auto.

Suzuki Jimny (2019): At A Glance

The old Suzuki Jimny was dire to drive on the road, its interior was basic and, by the time its 20-year production lifespan came to an end in 2018, it was long past its best. You only need to visit rural areas to see how successful it was, though - buyers loved it for its reputation for reliability, low running costs and its ability to go anywhere.

The brand could easily have replaced it with yet another fashionable crossover to take on the likes of the Nissan Juke. But it's already got the crossover market pretty well catered for with its Ignis, SX4 S-Cross and Vitara - so it's stuck true to its principles and launched a very quirky off roader.

Quirky is arguably a polite synonym for flawed. The new Jimny feels prehistoric to drive on the road - the steering takes a lot of turns from lock to lock, and you'll constantly be correcting the wheel to keep it in a straight line. It's underpowered and desperately in need of a sixth gear, running out of steam at around 60mph.

But that's the difference between a hatchback-based crossover and a proper, old-school 4x4 vehicle based on a ladder frame chassis. Most people will hate how the Jimny drives but there's a charm to it. Just like some people choose to drive classic cars, some people appreciate an old-fashioned off roader. Some people need an old-fashioned off roader.

There are just two trim levels on offer in the UK: the SZ4 and SZ5. We'd recommend paying the extra £2500 for the top-spec model, if only for a wider colour range and the more attractive navigation display rather than the old-fashioned radio.

Whichever trim level you opt for, don't expect to be able to carry your family and enough luggage for a weekend away. The Jimny can barely carry anything with all four seats in use - it has an official load capacity of just 85 litres with the rear seats left up. It's much better treated as a two-seater, with the rear seats permanently left down, in which case you get a fairly boxy, useful boot. Suzuki even sells a load cover to fit over the rear seats if you wish to do this.

Suzuki is bringing just 1200 examples of its new Jimny a year to the UK - and demand is far outstripping supply. Most buyers would be better looking elsewhere in Suzuki's range, but the Jimny is a charming (have we mentioned flawed?) car that has clearly struck a chord with so many buyers.

Suzuki Jimny 2019 Road Test

Suzuki Jimny 2019 Video

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What does a Suzuki Jimny (2019) cost?

List Price from £16,249
Contract hire from £202.91 per month

Suzuki Jimny (2019): What's It Like Inside?

Length -
Width -
Height -
Wheelbase 2250 mm

Full specifications

There’s no clever packaging going on here - the Jimny is small on the outside, and seemingly even smaller on the inside. With all four seats in use, the boot is barely big enough for a single shopping bag. It’s basically non-existent. You’ll have to drop the rear seats flat (a simple enough task) if you want to carry anything more than a newspaper, and Suzuki even offers a protective boot liner to cover up the backs of the rear seats when they’re dropped.

The driving position is similar to that of the old Land Rover Defender. Elbow room is lacking unless you drop the driver’s window, and there’s not much in the way of useful storage. Even the door bins are so narrow they’re almost unusable - save for, perhaps, an Ordnance Survey map. Suzuki has a clear audience in mind...

A high roof means there’s plenty of room for even the tallest of drivers (and passengers), although the lack of driver’s seat adjustment and steering wheel reach means it’s worth at least sitting in one before handing over any money. The front seats (heated on the SZ4) aren't the most cossetting, but we've spent quite a lot of time in the Jimny without any real aches or pains.

Due to the lack of a boot space in the back - it’s actually surprisingly spacious for rear seat passengers. And when you do drop the rear seats, there's quite a boxy and useful luggage space.

The top-spec SZ5 model comes with a seven-inch touchscreen display, incorporating navigation as standard. This isn't the slickest system to operate, but it does feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing you access to your phone's features such as Google Maps when on the move. It looks much better than the slab of plastic with an old-fashioned radio in the centre used on the dashboard of the SZ4.

Specifications (from launch):

SZ4 features Allgrip 4WD with low ratio transfer gear, ABS with brake assist function, ESP, driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags, curtain airbags, lane departure warning, emergency stop signal, hill hold control, hill descent control, full size spare wheel, alarm, immobiliser, remote central door locking, cruise control with speed limiter, digital clock, fabric seats, electric front windows, 12V accessory socket on centre console, manual air conditioning, automatic headlights, high beam assist, front fog lights, electrically adjustable door mirrors, centre console cup holder, 50:50 folding rear seats, MP3 compatible CD player, DAB radio, Bluetooth, two speakers, steering wheel audio controls, 15-inch steel wheels, black exterior door handles, black exterior door mirrors.

SZ5 adds a three-spoke leather steering wheel, front sun visors with vanity mirrors, 12V accessory socket in the luggage area, automatic air conditioning, LED headlights, headlamp washers, heated door mirrors, heated front seats, navigation system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 15-inch alloy wheels, body colour exterior door handles, rear privacy glass.

Child seats that fit a Suzuki Jimny (2019)

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.

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What's the Suzuki Jimny (2019) like to drive?

While there’s a certain charm to how the Jimny drives, it’s not going to appeal to everyone. The engine is underpowered - Suzuki’s turbocharged BoosterJet engine would be a welcome upgrade - but the low gearing of the manual 'box means you’ll soon be in fifth gear at around 35mph. There aren’t any more gears, meaning the Jimny’s little 85PS 1.5-litre petrol engine is working very hard at higher speeds. There is an automatic gearbox; a four-speed torque-converter transmission which is equally strained on the motorway.

With the engine screaming away at 3000rpm at 60mph, you’ll have no real desire to drive the Jimny any faster. This makes for a noisy driving experience and doesn’t help fuel economy, either. The way the Jimny wanders around as you attempt to drive in a straight line, not helped by the vague and slow steering, also doesn’t encourage you to leave the inside lane - and you’ll know about it if you’re hit by a gust of wind.

We’ve established that the Jimny isn’t at home on the motorway, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun elsewhere. Around town, its compact dimensions along with a high driving position and good visibility means it’s easy (and amusing) to dart around, squeezing between gaps and hustling with other road users. Parking it is easy, although the lack of a reversing camera or parking sensors seems a strange omission.

Of course, it's off road where the Jimny is really in its element. Under normal everyday driving, the Jimny sends all its power to the rear wheels. Should you wish, you can pull a lever, which results in a satisfying clunk as four-wheel-drive is engaged. Pull it further and it selects low range, allowing you more control at low speeds - ideal for negotiating off road obstacles. There's also a button on the dash for hill descent mode, allowing the car to control the brakes while driving down a steep hill.

We've tried the Jimny on rocky tracks and it simply isn't fazed by steep ascents or axle-twisting obstacles. When it does lose traction, its traction control system will quickly brake the spinning wheel to redistribute torque to the opposing wheel with the most grip. It could do with a little more ground clearance and some serious tyres if you plan to follow a Land Rover Defender off road, but that's something the enthusiast market will cater for.

Whether you compare the Jimny to the Dacia Duster or more mainstream rivals like the SEAT Arona and Honda HR-V, it’s hard to deny that the Suzuki feels like it’s at least 20 years out of date in the way it drives on the road. 

You have to really like the Jimny to be able to overlook its flaws in the way it drives. In a world of cars that can park themselves and speed limiters that can switch themselves on, a car that’s as old-fashioned as the Jimny can, if you’re in the right mindset, be a huge amount of fun. Just don’t buy one expecting it to drive like a Suzuki Swift on stilts.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.5 - - 154 g/km
1.5 Automatic - - 170 g/km

What have we been asked about the Suzuki Jimny (2019)?

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

Should I hold out for the LWB Suzuki Jimny?

I'm struck by the cute, new Suzuki Jimny. I might be able to do some recreational off-roading, but I don't want a one-trick pony. So, with the possibility of a LWB model looking more a probability, filling a space left by everything else that's gone upmarket, that looks like a better bet. It certainly would up the practicality stakes for me: more space for camping gear, bigger roof tent, maybe a bike inside with a wheel off. Would a longer wheel base potentially make this a better cruiser?
While a five-door Jimny is rumoured to be in development, we'd be surprised to see it sold in the UK. The future of the Jimny is under threat as its high CO2 emissions hinders the brand's ability to hit new CO2 targets being introduced across Europe in 2021. To answer your question, yes, a longer wheelbase would probably make the Jimny a slightly better cruiser - but not as much as a more refined engine and six-speed gearbox would. It could be worth looking at the Suzuki Vitara - it might not be as capable as the Jimny off road, but it sounds like it'd suit your requirements better.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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