In 2015 Suzuki are celebrated 45 years of their first compact SUV, and with global sales of over 2.7million vehicles sold across 188 markets there’s no sign of it slowing down. In its current guise, this legendary little off roader has hardly changed since 1998 when it was revamped and renamed.
As the saying goes - 'if it ain’t broke, don't fix it!'
On the road
You’d think my first outing in the venerable little Zook would be to find a green lane or off road site to mess round in wouldn’t you? Alas no, our first journey together was a 300 mile, 7 hour round trip to Powys to interview both Paul at Prolinx and Gwyn Lewis for the AWDC magazine.
I’ll be honest, I thought the 7 hour roadtrip to Powys would be a bitter and interminable experience, but I don’t think that I’ve ever been more surprised by a vehicles capabilities than this. It wasn’t as pitchy as I thought it would be and the steering was precise, not vague as someone else reported.
The little Zook zoomed along the twisty Welsh B roads with ease, and its 1.3ltr, 84bhp engine only let it down on long, steep inclines and some overtaking manoeuvres left me a little unnerved. I know it isn’t meant to be a fire breathing monster, but a little more poke would have been beneficial at times! What impressed me was its road holding, slick gearbox and comfort. Yes, I said comfort! Ok, I was a little cramped and I wish the steering wheel could be adjusted up slightly, and the small panel on the door card that houses the electric window switches dug into my knee, but oh’ my, what a fun little 4x4 the Jimny is!
Off the road
What can I say? Off road is what the Jimmy is made for and it remains incredibly competent. Its manoeuvrability reminded me of my old ’56 Series 1 Land Rover, it was like turning on a sixpence, and it goes without saying that both the driving position and visibility are excellent.
On rough tracks it’s very comfy, the suspension works very well and with taller, more aggressive tyres I’ve known Jinmy’s to be almost unstoppable.
I’ll begin with the negatives because every car has it’s annoying foibles. There’s no adjustment with the steering wheel, so I found getting in and out of the Jimmy a bit awkward, especially with my long legs. Although it’ll be very hard wearing, the whole dash is made from hard plastic so things slide around a lot, especially in the cubby holes where I’d be tempted to buy some non-slip covering. Then there's the rear washer, it squirts upwards from the bottom of the window and consequently doesn’t reach the full arc of the wiper, which can be a tad annoying.
The Jimmy is a narrow car, so you’ve got to know your passenger quite well, or you will do at the end of your journey. I'd better add some context here, I am 6ft 1” tall and weigh 18-1/2 stone and therefore not the smallest person in the world so you would think that I would feel cramped. You’d think so wouldn't you, but I didn’t, I’ve felt more claustrophobic in a single cab Land Rover Defender pick-up than I did in the Jimny.
On the plus side, the front seats are incredibly comfortable and supportive, they’re big enough for my wide arse are far superior to any of the Mitsubishi 4x4's that I've driven, as well as the CR-V, Kuga and BMW X1. The dash layout is simple and you have all the buttons and dials in easy reach, which isn’t difficult considering how close you are to it! The radio is basic with a CD slot but there’s no USB port, though you do get a 12v socket. For some reason I couldn't charge my phone or Sat Nav, but to be fair that could have been the cheap connector I was using.
One thing you wouldn’t buy a Jimny for is its load carrying ability as there isn’t a lot of space in the back, in fact my Aunty has one and she doesn’t bother with the rear seats, she keeps them folded down so she can always fit her shopping in!
Engines and Transmissions
To say that you’re limited here is an understatement, the only engine available is the all-alloy, 16 valve, 1.3 litre petrol engine that offers 85PS. However, the 81lbft of torque delivered at 4,100 rpm gives the Jimny a fair amount of flexible driving character as well as pulling power.
Transmission wise, you have the option of a manual or automatic gearbox and both have selectable four-wheel drive with high and low ratios with automatic freewheeling hubs.
Performance wise, the manual gearbox will get you to 60mph in 14.1 seconds and reach 87mph, which is 3 seconds quicker and 3mph faster than the auto. Fuel consumption are similar with a combined 39.8mpg for the manual and 38.7mpg for the auto.
Safety Stuff 'n' Equipment
The Jimny’s chassis offers extreme rigidity in the event of a collision and is designed to absorb energy from all directions in a controlled manner. Progressive, reassuring braking performance is provided by large front discs and rear drums, supported by ABS with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution).
Standard across the range are airbags for driver and front passenger, side impact protection beams and height adjustable front seat belt anchorages, and the powerful multi-reflector halogen headlamps are complemented by the front bumper-mounted fog lamps.
SZ4 model that I drove adds more specification as standard, including air conditioning; Dark Silver 15-inch alloy wheels, latest design seat trim with ‘Jimny’ badging to front seat facings, black and silver-finished roof rails, leather steering wheel trim, chrome plated interior door handles and rear privacy glass.
Recent refinement upgrades included a new design instrument cluster that includes a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and a Gear Shift Indicator (GSI) to help the driver keep fuel consumption to a minimum. The 2015 model is also equipped with ESC (Electronic Stability Control) as standard.
Buying / Owning
All Suzuki models are covered by a three-year/60,000-mile new vehicle warranty and a one year AA Suzuki Assistance that provides 24-hour UK and European roadside assistance, recovery and associated services.
With prices between £12,195 - £14,545, you’re not buying a Jimny for its luxury, with a proper 4x4 system, you’re buying it for its practicality and that’s exactly what it is, a fun, practical 4x4.
I always knew the Jimny was a fun and incredibly capable offroader, but what really surprised me was its on-road ability, Suzuki’s ESC (Electronic Stability Control) did a fine job of keeping the Jimmy upright whilst I was having fun on country lanes.
As I’ve already written, it does have some irritating foibles, but who cares, the Jimny remains one the best, most fun and proper 4x4’s still in existence, and therefore deserves respect.
So, for a smidge over £14k, the Jimny SZ4 is a genuine off-roader with selectable four-wheel drive with high and low ratios, which these days is exceptional value for money. Granted, there are other 4x4’s out there that offer a more car-like experience with better levels of refinement, but I doubt they’ll handle the rough like the Jimny can.