Used Suzuki Jimny (Mk4, 2019-date) review
It takes most cars a long time to gain a cult following, but the Suzuki Jimny managed to do this from the point that it went on sale. Thanks to a short on-sale period before CO2 emissions regulations killed it off, not many Jimnys were sold which has kept used values high thanks to very strong demand. However, while the Jimny is undoubtedly very stylish on the outside, this is a car that’s quite compromised, with its limited performance, cramped (and quite basic) cabin, poor refinement and an array of dynamic shortcomings. Buy a Jimny for shorter, more local trips and you’ll probably love it – and even more so if you’re going to go off-roading. That’s the thing about the Jimny: it’s great if you’re going to tackle some tricky terrain, but most of these cars go to those who want to make a fashion statement and they’ll stick to the roads pretty much exclusively.
Suzuki is a bit of an oddball car manufacturer. Its products are invariably small as well as relatively cheap to buy when new and basic, but the brand has an enthusiastic and loyal following. That’s partly down to the excellent reliability that comes as standard with every car, the impressive value and the small dealer network, often staffed by people who offer a very personal service to returning customers.
While Suzuki is probably best known for its Swift and Vitara, one model that has gained a cult following is the Jimny. The first iteration arrived in 1970, but it’s the third-generation model of 1998 that put the Jimny on the map. Incredibly, that car was in production for 20 years, and when its successor made its debut in 2018 it got buyers even more excited with its rugged styling and much-needed improvements.
However, just 2,321 passenger-carrying Jimny Mk3s were sold before the model was axed in the UK because of EU CO2 emissions regulations. Now they’re very sought after and have proved to be a canny investment for those who bought early.
The fourth-generation Suzuki Jimny went on sale in the UK in January 2019, offered with a 100bhp 1.5-litre non-turbo petrol engine; something which would quickly cause its maker problems. All Jimnys came with selectable four-wheel drive as standard, and there was a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions.
It took a little while for the first examples of the Jimny to reach their owners, but within just a year or so of this happening, EU regulations put the brakes on any further sales because the Jimny’s CO2 emissions were deemed too high. As a result there were limited deliveries of the Jimny until the standard passenger model was axed in summer 2020, to be replaced by a light commercial edition in September 2020. This was the same car but with the rear seats removed; there were still rear side windows so it wasn’t a van in the true sense.
The Jimny is still on sale in this form, although we haven’t found any on the used market because of very limited new supplies.
All Jimnys are the same mechanically, so it’s just a question of working out whether you want a manual gearbox or an auto, along with which colour and trim level to go for.
If you want an auto you’ll have to buy an SZ5, but if you want a manual you can buy the lower-spec SZ4, which comes with Bluetooth, air-con, cruise control, automatic headlights and a multi-function steering wheel. To this the SZ5 adds 15-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, LED headlights, climate control, heated front seats and navigation.
Suzuki didn’t offer any factory-fit extras at all, although some sellers claim their cars are fitted with ‘every option’. In reality an array of dealer-fit accessories was all that was available, including items such as decals, spare wheel covers, alloy wheels, mud flaps and mats. Also offered were skid plates for the vehicle’s underside, a trim kit for the dashboard, a tow bar and various roof racks.
Strictly speaking, there isn’t anything that’s directly comparable with the Jimny, in terms of blending its relative simplicity, low purchase price, small engine and four-wheel-drive go-anywhere capabilities. Well, that was the case when the Jimny was available new, but increased values on the used market mean that you can now buy a decent late Land Rover Defender for less money; it’ll have more towing capacity and stronger performance, but possibly not the reliability despite its simplicity.
Another option is the Fiat Panda 4×4, which is much cheaper to buy than the Jimny. While it doesn’t have the funky looks, it’s surprisingly adept in rough terrain, it’s more practical with its five-door bodyshell and there’s a choice of petrol or diesel engines.
The Dacia Duster is also within reach; in fact you’ll pay a lot less for one of these more spacious and luxurious 4x4s but it won’t be as impressive in the rough as the Suzuki.
Other than this, bearing in mind the high asking prices for Jimnys, there’s a raft of bigger, more luxurious 4x4s within reach, such as the SEAT Ateca, Skoda Karoq, Volvo XC40 and so forth. But all of these are road-biased so they generally won’t be very useful if doing any proper off-roading – but they’ll be a lot easier and more comfortable to live with on an everyday basis.
Reliability has proved to be pretty good, with no fault patterns thrown up so far on owners’ forums. The key thing to check for is damage to the underside, as a result of off-roading, which some owners do.
A lot of people buy 4x4s for their towing capability, but don’t expect too much from the Jimny. Whether you buy one with a manual gearbox or an auto, you’ll be able to pull no more than 1,300kg.
The Jimny is unusual in that it comes with a full-sized spare wheel, which is key if you’re planning to go off-road. It’s bolted to the side-hinged back door so it’s within reach when needed.
The Jimny is an old-school 4×4 when it comes to the transmission. You have to manually select between two- and four-wheel drive using a lever, and there are also high- and low-ratios for serious off-roading.
The only difference between the passenger-carrying Jimny and the light commercial vehicle (LCV) is the absence of a rear seat – which can be retrofitted. However, Jimny LCVs are few and far between.
This Jimny’s interior is a huge step forward compared with its predecessor, but that’s not saying much because the previous one was so dated. More modern and user-friendly, the dashboard is well laid out and the cabin quality is fine, if hardly plush.
What might put you off though, is the lack of legroom for those in the back, along with the very small boot. This can stow just 85 litres of luggage (as long as it’s tall and thin) with the rear seats in place, and even if you fold them there’s just 830 litres of carrying capacity at your disposal. Incidentally, while the steering wheel adjusts for height it doesn’t adjust for reach.
The Jimny needs to be serviced every 12 months or 9,000 miles, with the first two services priced at £199 and £258 respectively. From its third birthday the Jimny then settles into a routine of Minor, Interim then Major services which are pegged at £129, £199 and £279; those costs including replacing the brake fluid every two years, which if done on its own costs £59.
The coolant should be renewed every three years or 27,000 miles; budget £150 to have the work done. However, there is an option to switch to long-life coolant which needs to be renewed only every five years or 48,000 miles, and because the Jimny’s engine is chain-driven there’s no cambelt to replace. The Jimny came with a three-year or 60,000-mile warranty when new.
Suzuki has issued two recalls for the Jimny so far, both in July 2021. The first one affected 510 Jimnys made between May and November 2018, some of which left the factory with a fuel pump containing sub-standard components, which could result in a lack of fuel reaching the engine. The solution was to fit a new fuel pump.
The other recall was issued on the same day (12 July), this time because of sub-standard wiring looms fitted to 2,321 Jimnys made between May 2018 and December 2020 (so the whole run of passenger cars before the light commercial vehicle took over). The wiring controlled the airbag operation and because these harnesses were faulty, the airbags could fail to go off in the event of a collision. The solution was to fit a new wiring loom.
As a niche brand, Suzuki doesn’t often get into our Driver Power new or used surveys. The only exception to this generally is the Vitara, but the Jimny has never appeared because it sold in such small numbers. However, Suzuki does appear in our Brands survey and in the last one, in 2021, it came 17th out of 30. A first place for low running costs is impressive, while the other key highlight is excellent reliability. Everything is mid-table at best, but quite a few aspects score very poorly, such as the interior quality, the smoothness of the gearboxes, the ride quality and the infotainment.
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