THE 2019 version of Suzuki’s lovable Jimny has many features that would have been alien to even the outgoing version.

It’s been around since 1970, but only now is it on some sort of footing with other compact four-wheel drive vehicles that have more in common with urban hatchbacks than rugged off-roaders.

Yet it remains a unique proposition as a small and lightweight 4x4 that appeals to those looking for a cheap alternative for getting across rugged terrain.

Such was its endearing appeal that Suzuki left it untouched for 20 years before bringing out this, the fourth-generation incarnation, which remains straightforward, practical and down-to-earth.

Some clever design work ensured that despite the shorter overall length, the interior offers more space for the driver and passengers, while the square boxy body also contributes to a more comfortable interior.

But that is not to say it is no longer flawed. With the rear seats up, there’s virtually no space for luggage.

The Jimny is also only available as a three-door, which will rule it out as an everyday workhorse for many families. Clamber into the back seats and there is a good amount of head and legroom though.

It’s the interior that demands the focus of attention, and where the attention to detail is to be applauded. The instrument panel and surrounding parts have a scratch and stain-resistant grained finish, and the grip and switches are easy to operate so that it can be handled in off-road conditions even when wearing gloves. Visibility is excellent, and there is a surprising lack of wind noise.

What also comes as a surprise on the tested top-of-the-range SZ5 model is the appearance of a seven-inch touchscreen to operate the audio, navigation and phone connection systems.

For comfort, the front seat cushions are 70mm wider, and these can be heated via a couple of buttons at the back of the centre console. They also have an increased sliding range to provide more leg room for taller drivers.

At the rear, the luggage space can be expanded by folding the rear seats, creating a load area 53 litre larger than its predecessor at 377 litres. The rear seats also now fold fully flat and the quarter trims and seats have been designed to increase storage width. The rear door containing a spare wheel remains side-hinged.

Then there’s the higher level of equipment. Even if you choose the SZ4 specification you get selectable 4WD with low ratio transfer, dual sensor brake support, air conditioning, CD Tuner, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and front foglamps. Moving up to SZ5 adds 15-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, climate control, navigation with smartphone link, rear privacy glass, heated front seats and body coloured door handles.

But it is still very much a Jimny, built to handle harsh conditions. From its ladder frame structure to its 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine - no other unit is being offered -, the famed off-road ability is still there but the newly equipped steering damper on the front suspension minimises steering wheel vibration and kickback.

I reckon Suzuki should have opted for a more powerful engine, such as its 1.4-litre boosterjet. Out on the open road, the 100hp of that 1.5-litre engine struggles at higher speeds and becomes too vocal. The dial showing 3,500 revs at 70mph is a clear indicator of the lack of power and there must be a strong case for a sixth gear. The fuel economy figure averaging just over 40mpg is slightly disappointing, too.

If you are venturing off-road, then you can rest assured that the ladder frame, the three excellent clearance angles, three-link rigid axle suspension with coil spring and part-time 4WD with low range transfer gear will do the job.

Using Suzuki’s Allgrip Pro system, the Jimny can be switched from 2H (two-wheel drive - High) and 4H (four wheel drive - high) at speeds of up to 62mph and from 4H to 4L when at a complete stop.

Other functions included as standard include a lane departure warning and weaving alert function and high beam assist, which automatically switches the high and low beams at speeds of 25mph and above.

Traffic sign recognition monitors the road ahead for traffic signs. When it detects road signs such as speed limits or no passing zones, it displays the sign on the meter display to help the driver remember which road signs the car has passed. For additional traffic signs showing supplementary information, a blank box is displayed under the main traffic sign to inform the driver. The new Jimny is the first Suzuki model to adopt this system.

Other safety features include hill hold control, hill descent control, an impact-absorbing body, tyre pressure monitoring system, six airbags and a pedestrian injury mitigation body, yet its still scores only three Euro NCAP stars.

The original concept of the Jimny series was to develop a 4WD mini-car that could take on rough roads and go to places that cars couldn't go in the past. With this philosophy, the first of the series, the LJ10, was born in 1970. Being the one-and-only authentic off-roader in the Japanese mini-car segment, it created something of a sensation in the four-wheel drive market, which at the time consisted of only large and high-displacement vehicles.

Almost half a century since then Suzuki has refined its technology to meet various demands and now the passion and accumulated technologies have been passed down through evolution to this latest Jimny. It will continue to support outdoor professionals and captivate on and off-road adventurers, but the Jimny will not be for most people. It dares to be different, and its rugged charm will continue to attract a small army of fans.


Suzuki Jimny SZ5

Price: £17,999 (SZ4 from £15,499)

Engine: Four-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol producing 101PS

Transmission: Five-speed manual driving two or four wheels (auto available)

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 12.6 seconds; top speed 90mph

Economy: 41.5mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 154g/km


Performance: ***

Economy: ***

Ride/Handling: ***

Space/Practicality: ***

Equipment: ****

Security/Safety: ***

Value For Money: ****