The Suzuki Jimny offers excellent off-road capability in a lightweight and compact package, with very few rivals currently on sale.
Why on earth is Green Car Guide reviewing a Suzuki Jimny? Its economy figure of 41.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 154 g/km (all based on the NEDC test) aren’t ultra-low. Well, the answer is, our expectation was that the Jimny was likely to be an extremely capable genuine off-roader, and there aren’t any direct rivals that are greener. So that meant that we had to test it to see just how capable it was on one of the UK’s toughest off-road routes.
The Suzuki Jimny has a 4-cylinder, longitudinally-mounted 1.5-litre petrol engine, with a 5-speed manual gearbox and ALLGRIP Pro 4WD, with the option to select low ratio for serious off-road work.
In a world where many cars are nudging 5 metres long, the Jimny measures just 3,480mm bumper to bumper. This makes it very compact, which is great on the outside, but not so good the inside; with the two split-folding rear seats up, the boot capacity is just 85 litres, which is virtually non-existent. With the rear seats flat, this increases to 830 litres.
The exterior styling is very, err… square. This gives the vehicle character, and if you drive one, lots of people will come and talk to you about how much they love the Jimny.
Okay, the Suzuki Jimny Driving Experience… well, there’s good news to come, so let’s deal with the other news first.
When you get into the Jimny, one of the first things that you become aware of is the incredibly upright windscreen (and when it starts raining, the incredibly small windscreen wipers).
When you try and adjust the steering column you’ll realise that the steering wheel has some height adjustment, but zero reach adjustment – leaving you with a less than ideal driving position.
You do get a touchscreen including satnav, along with heated seats, and hooray! – you can instantly turn the temperature up or down thanks to a dial on the dashboard, rather than having this controlled via the touchscreen like many modern cars, and there’s even a button to easily banish the lane departure warning system.
Once underway, it doesn’t take long to realise that the driving experience matches the first impressions, ie. it’s very old fashioned. Our first drive was from Manchester down the motorway to North Wales – when the jet stream above the UK was forecasted to be travelling at 188mph. You may have already deduced that the Jimny isn’t designed primarily as a motorway car, and this was confirmed as we drove to Wales, with the engine revving at 3,500rpm at 70mph thanks to the five-speed gearbox and the small petrol engine, at which point it sounds extremely strained, and its somewhat boxy aerodynamic qualities were certainly put to the test in cross winds that would have been more at home on Everest. Trying to keep the Jimny in one lane on the motorway was definitely a challenge. And again, perhaps not surprisingly, there’s plenty of wind noise in addition to the mechanical noise. So ‘test one’ verdict: don’t drive the Jimny on motorways if you can avoid it.
Test two was the off-road test, and the chosen route was one of the most hardcore off-road challenges in North Wales, the Wayfarers Way, where only tricked-up Land Rover Defenders usually make it through without getting broken/grounded/stuck for days in a huge muddy hole.
After having to initially drive across a river, the first section of the route is an uphill climb on mud, with any level sections featuring huge water-filled gulleys. Then increasing amounts of rocks appear as the trail gets steeper. Between the rocky sections are more sections of mud for good measure, with deeply rutted tyre tracks, requiring lots of ground clearance. After a few miles, if the vehicle is very capable, you may reach the summit of the track.
If you think you’ve got the hardest bit of out of the way when you reach the top, then think again. The route down the other side of the hill starts off with a very steep descent with huge rocks, and then the track tilts sideways at a very worrying angle. And then the party trick. Most of the track for about a mile is under water – and very deep water in many places. Many 4x4s over the years have been swallowed in this section.
If you survive this, then you have to negotiate a very worn out section of boardwalk that sits on top of a swamp, before squeezing through a narrow section with gorse bushes on either side that inflict a multitude of scratches on normal-sized 4x4s. Then it’s another mile or so down the valley on deeply rutted tracks. At last there’s some good news – when you finally reach tarmac, there’s a pub at the end.
So did the Jimny manage to complete this route? Yes. Did it have any problems at all? No. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons.
The Jimny allows you to drive in two-wheel drive high range, four-wheel drive high range, and four-wheel drive low range. Having low range for this sort of off-road driving means that you can crawl up rock-strewn inclines with no risk of burning out the clutch.
The Jimny has 210mm of ground clearance, which actually isn’t a huge amount compared to some 4x4s with air suspension. But the difference is that the wheelbase is short, the track is narrow, and there’s virtually no overhang front or rear. So, because it’s so compact, it literally can go anywhere.
Then there’s the kerb weight of just 1,135 kg. The test route featured many, many sections of water sitting on top of mud, with a few rocks thrown in for good measure. Many heavier 4x4s would just sink in such conditions. The Jimny, because it’s so light, just scampers across such obstacles.
Of course, if you have the low ratio box and the ground clearance, you also need decent off-road tyres, which the Jimny has. They’re also not low profile tyres, like you find on so many 4x4s these days, so the wheels escaped any damage from the treacherous rocks on the route.
And despite the narrow section of the route with gorse bushes either side that result in scratches down the side of large 4x4s, because the Jimny is so narrow, it made it through the entire section without being touched by any prickly vegetation.
So the Jimny completed the challenge with no dramas and with no damage to the vehicle – and with a much lighter footprint on the environment than virtually all other 4x4s. There are very few, if any, other 4x4s that are on sale at the moment that could have done that.
The route home took in A and B roads – the third test – and the Jimny is much happier here, at speeds of 50-60mph, than on motorways. You certainly can’t describe the steering or the handling as sports-car like, but it does have a comfortable ride – the very high profile tyres no doubt contributing to this. The fuel economy is also better than many other 4x4s during such driving, which we’ll come back to shortly.
The fourth and final test was driving in built-up areas. Now, we’re not going to be recommending a petrol 4×4 over an electric car for such environments, but whereas the Jimny didn’t perform well on the motorway test, it actually performed better than expected around town. Because it’s so small, it’s easy to park. The ride is comfortable over the pothole-filled roads of Greater Manchester (where many road surfaces actually resemble off-road routes), and compared to many modern cars that are devoid of any connection between the driver, the vehicle and the road in the quest for refinement, the Jimny is actually good fun.
The official NEDC combined fuel economy for the Suzuki Jimny is 41.5mpg, with CO2 emissions of 154g/km. Under the new, more realistic WLTP test, these figures become 35.8mpg and 178g/km CO2. So what did we experience in real-world driving? At 70mph the Jimny returned 37.1mpg. At 50-60mph on A and B-roads we achieved 43.0mpg. And around town we saw 35.3mpg. Overall after a week of mixed driving we averaged 37.8mpg. So taking it easy on A and B-roads in the countryside you should be able to expect 40mpg or more, and because this is a petrol engine, you won’t be associated with the air quality impacts from diesels.
The Suzuki Jimny 1.5 SZ5 Allgrip costs £17,999, with our test car having the dual tone option (£650), taking the price to £18,649. There’s just one engine choice, but you can opt for an automatic transmission. There are two model grades, SZ4 and SZ5.
We’re not saying that the Suzuki Jimny is one of the greenest cars that you can buy. But we are saying that it’s probably the greenest hardcore off-roader that you can buy at the moment. What other choice is there? The Land Rover Defender isn’t on sale at the moment, and when it went off sale, its CO2 emissions were 266g/km CO2 for the 90 and 295g/km for the 110, compared to 154g/km for the Jimny. And the Jimny is petrol rather than diesel, so it’s also cleaner from a local air quality point of view. The Jimny also has less environmental impact off-road because it’s so light. We’d love to say that there’s an electric hardcore 4×4, but there isn’t, and although you can buy a plug-in hybrid Range Rover, its electric range is limited, it’s very big and heavy, and its many times the price of the Jimny. You’d also be very concerned about destroying the expensive alloy wheels on a route such as the one we took the Jimny on.
However the Jimny is a niche choice. If you need a highly capable 4×4 that can scamper around the countryside, or a farm, and you’re very rarely going to use it on a motorway, then the Jimny needs your consideration. At £17,999 it’s also good value. And it’s likely to prove reliable, durable – and fun. The Suzuki Jimny 1.5 SZ5 Allgrip gets a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.