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Driven: Suzuki Jimny SZ5. Image by Suzuki UK.

Driven: Suzuki Jimny SZ5
Good grief, the Suzuki Jimny is even better once you’ve spent longer time in its glorious company.

 



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Suzuki Jimny SZ5

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: the looks, the character, the value, the looks, the character, the value, the looks, the character, the value etc etc

Not so good: not much, if you judge it with your heart instead of your head... oh, all right! Needs a sixth gear, costly to tax, not the most practical of things, that Euro NCAP rating

Key Facts

Model tested: Suzuki Jimny SZ5
Price: Jimny range from £15,499; SZ5 from £17,999, as tested £18,649
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, AllGrip all-wheel drive
Body style: three-door 4x4
CO2 emissions: 154g/km (VED Band 151-170: £530 in year one, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 35.8mpg*
Top speed: 90mph
0-62mph: N/A
Power: 101hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 130Nm at 4,000rpm
Boot space: 85-830 litres
* = WLTP figure.

Our view:

I wrote a paean to the Suzuki Jimny Mk4 the first time I drove it. Did that classic thing of falling head over heels in love at first sight. Ridiculously, the Jimny isn't even my 'sort', in the usual circumstances; it took me an age to understand the appeal of a Land Rover Defender, I've never been even remotely interested in 'green-laning' and I thought the previous Jimny Mk3 was a travesty, despite its smiley little face and its value-for-money ethos.

So I surprised myself by being so bizarrely infatuated with the Mk4, especially as - and this is something my fellow motoring critics were only keen to point out to me at the launch event - there's patently a lot of things wrong with it. But therein lies the rub. Cars are, or at the very least they used to be, an emotive purchase. Lots of people still get seduced by a vehicle on the strength of its mere appearance alone, and you'll find enough car-mad folk on the internet prepared to defend some of the practically indefensible machines of automotive history with a passion and fervour that's quite striking. And not a little bit misplaced, in some instances... but I digress.

Furthermore, while it isn't a B-segment crossover, financially speaking the Jimny really only can be considered as an alternative to a B-segment crossover - machines which are, by and large, the automotive equivalent of porridge. They are bland to drive, (in the main) bland to look at, they have bland interiors and they're designed to be driven in a bland fashion. No one relishes the thought of having to drive or own a B-segment crossover, so surely the Jimny's irreverent joie de vivre is the perfect antidote to this sort of stodgy stuff?

Yes, you can go around the Suzuki 4x4, tearing it to pieces if you appraise it coldly. There are welds on the insides of the C-pillars, for instance, which look like someone in the factory roughly slapped in some Polyfilla and then sanded it down in a half-arsed fashion before painting it. The absolutely comical plastic connection for the rear heated windscreen is like a relic from your GCSE Electronics class, when you used to do nothing constructive and instead spent the whole lesson trying (in vain) to solder your mate's hand to a wooden bench. The underspray beneath the bonnet appears - about halfway down the inner arches - as if the paint shop lost interest in finishing the job properly and went off for a cup of tea and a Digestive instead. And then there's boot space with all the seats in place, which would struggle to accommodate a sheet of A4 paper stood on its side.

Then there are the very valid queries raised by people who aren't as easily bedazzled by the Jimny's particular set of charms. Like, why didn't Suzuki put a turbocharged BoosterJet engine in it, either the 1.0-litre triple from the Vitara or the 1.4 employed in a Swift Sport? (It's to do with torque control and throttle response when off-roading, apparently.) Why didn't they give the Jimny an extra ratio in the gearbox, so it wasn't buzzing its heart out at 3,700rpm in fifth on the motorway? (No idea on this one; cost limitations, presumably.) Couldn't Suzuki have done more to, y'know, crossover-ify it and make it more bearable in day-to-day running? (I, for one, am rather glad they didn't, as that would have been wholly missing the point.)

And I'm here to tell you that none of this stuff matters. It really doesn't. The Suzuki Jimny is absolutely superb. Sure, there'll still be plenty of people who try it and hate it with a passion, but there will be plenty more - like me - who drive it and adore every little thing about it. It's just bursting with character: in the way its long-travel gearbox is strangely precise of throw; in the way its transmission whines as it builds speed, to let you know it's a serious off-roader; in the sheer jauntiness and pure cheek of its blocky appearance, made all the better by the Kinetic Yellow with the Blueish Black Pearl roof; in the utilitarian nature of its cubic dashboard.

Of course there are better machines for taking on the grind of a long motorway journey. Of course there are cars which are more practical and have a better ride than the Jimny, for the same amount of money. Of course the initial year's road tax is positively ridiculous for a vehicle with a mere 101hp. And of course there's that three-star Euro NCAP performance to think about, especially if (like me) you've got young children who might be sitting in the back seats and therefore exceptionally close to the rear of the Suzuki.

But it genuinely isn't as bad as some people try and make out - the ride is perfectly fine, no worse than you'd get on a one-tonne pick-up truck that's unladen. The steering is loose around the dead-ahead but once off centre it weights up nicely and is consistent, and it's leagues ahead of the old Defender and G-Wagen systems which were positively dangerous, yet enough people still bought, regularly drove and loved those old brutes. The engine is noisy, yes, once you've gone beyond 3,500rpm but it's perfectly acceptable otherwise and there's not much to report in the way of discomfiting vibrations, even if the gearlever bobbles around all over the place when the 4x4 is idling. The brakes are excellent. Visibility all round is superb. And it feels fairly stable at all times, putting in a better showing in wintry crosswinds on the M1 than a Vauxhall Crossland X managed just a few weeks later when in my care.

In short, I drove the Jimny for 415 miles during my week with it, spending almost nine-and-a-half hours behind its wheel. I did a two 150-mile motorway runs, one of them in the dead of night and sub-zero conditions. I nipped around lanes local to my home in it, running my son to school and carrying out general errands. I went into the local town in it and, essentially, used it just like a 'real' car. I got almost bang on its WLTP economy figure out of it during that week (seeing 35.4mpg compared to 35.8mpg claimed), at an average of 44mph, with a best of around 37mpg when ambling up the M1. Every single mile was a delight. Every journey put a smile on my face. Every single time I walked out to the Suzuki, I was thrilled to see it, and every single time I walked away from it, I cast a loving backwards glance at the Jimny over my shoulder.

And so, following my initial infatuation with the Suzuki after our first, brief meeting in Germany, having spent a longer amount of time with the Jimny I didn't find myself liking it less - rather, I only worshipped it more. It's by no means perfect and nor is it going to suit everyone's tastes, but give it a try and you too might fall hopelessly in love with this quirky, boxy little wonder. If it weren't for the existence of the Ford Fiesta ST and the Hyundai i30 N Performance, I'd be quite happy to go on record as saying the Suzuki Jimny SZ5 is my favourite vehicle of any shape, size or purpose, this side of 30 grand. It's bloody terrific and I want one of my own. Quite badly.

Alternatives:

Dacia Duster: a cheap off-roader and one we very much like in Mk2 guise, but the Duster is no match for the Jimny's charisma and bravura. And nor can it hope to go as far off-road as the Suzuki.

Jeep Renegade: the only other cubist machine down at (very roughly) this price level, the Renegade is one of the better B-seg crossovers. But we'd rather have a Jimny.

Mercedes-AMG G 63: if you want a squared-off machine that has as much character as the Jimny and is more enjoyable to drive, you need to spend 8.25 times as much cash as the Suzuki on a tooled-up G 63.


Matt Robinson - 31 Jan 2019









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2019 Suzuki Jimny UK. Image by Suzuki UK.2019 Suzuki Jimny UK. Image by Suzuki UK.2019 Suzuki Jimny UK. Image by Suzuki UK.2019 Suzuki Jimny UK. Image by Suzuki UK.2019 Suzuki Jimny UK. Image by Suzuki UK.

2019 Suzuki Jimny UK. Image by Suzuki UK.2019 Suzuki Jimny UK. Image by Suzuki UK.2019 Suzuki Jimny UK. Image by Suzuki UK.2019 Suzuki Jimny UK. Image by Suzuki UK.2019 Suzuki Jimny UK. Image by Suzuki UK.








 

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