2019 Suzuki Jimny Review
Robert Pepper’s 2019 Suzuki Jimny Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict and Score.
In a nutshell: It’s rare today to be able to call a car unique, but that’s true of the Jimny which not only offers real offroad capability and dependability, but is fun and rewarding to drive in a way no other offroader on the market can even approach.
2019 Suzuki Jimny JB74 Specifications
Price $23,990+ORC (manual), $25,490 (auto) Warranty 3-years, 100,000 kilometres Safety 3-star ANCAP rating Engines 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 75kW at 6000rpm Torque 130Nm at 4000rpm Transmission five-speed manual Drive part-time 4WD with low range Dimensions 3645mm (L) inc spare, 3480mm exc spare; 1645mm (H); 1720mm – mirrors in (W); Wheelbase 2250mm Turning Circle 9.8m Ground Clearance 190mm (measured) Angles approach angle 37, ramp 28, departure 49 degrees Wading depth not stated Max braked towing 1300kg Max towball mass 75kg Fuel Tank 40 litres Thirst 6.4L/100km (manual), 6.9L/100km (auto)
The 2019 Suzuki Jimny is very much a continuation of the classic line of small off-roaders which have built Suzuki its well-deserved reputation for dependable capability since 1970.
After enduring with the last model (here’s our off-road review) for what is an eternity in car terms, since 1998, the car has been comprehensively updated with a fourth generation for 2019, the JB74 Suzuki Jimny. The JB64 version is for Japan only and omits flares and has smaller bumpers so as to comply with the Japanese kei-car laws which specify maximum dimensions. That version also has a 650cc motor.
Regardless of model, the Jimny basics remain the same, and that’s a rarity these days. There’s the separate chassis, something really only seen in pick-ups, with live axles front and rear, plus an actual transfer case lever, a manual transmission option, and a part-time 4×4 system. Any one of these would be unusual in 2019, but the combination is almost unique except for the venerable Toyota LC70, which has a leaf-sprung rear end compared to the Suzuki’s coils. Even the Jeep Wrangler JL won’t offer a manual transmission, and most off-roaders have moved to full-time 4X4 with push-button range selection.
A separate chassis doesn’t improve off-road capability these days, and the main reason the design persists is in utes where you need to be able to swap different bodies onto the chassis. There’s no real need for it in wagons, but it will make body lifts easier, and separate-chassis vehicles do feel a bit more old-school when off-road, offering a bit more insulation from the terrain that modern monocoques. The transfer case lever rather than button takes up more space, but is more reliable as you’re physically moving the gears. We could debate the pros and cons of live vs independent suspension in the same way we once debated film vs digital cameras, but live axles do make suspension lifts easier, and ride very well over rough ground at slow speed.
The big feature of the Jimny is that it is tiny, and increasingly so in a world where every car is bigger than its predecessor. The tare weight of the Jimny is 1075kg, payload 360kg and maximum weight, the GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass), is a mere 1435kg. That GVM is considerably less than the rear axle load limit on a Ford Ranger. And while it is a four seater, the space behind the front row seats is less than that of the boot of a medium-sized 4X4 like the Prado.
Suzuki Australia have imported 1100 Jimnys, and 330 have been pre-ordered as of 21st January 2019.
Here’s a comparison table between the previous and new model Jimnys:
|2018 Jimny (Gen 3)||2019 Jimny (Gen 4)||Difference|
|Tare weight (kg, MT)||1060||1075||15|
|Width excl mirrors (mm)||1600||1645||45|
|Length (mm, inc spare)||3625||3645||20|
|Turning circle (m)||9.8||9.8||0|
What’s the price and what do you get?
There’s just one Jimny trim level, and the only choice is the transmission, five-speed manual or four-speed automatic for $23,990+ORC and $25,490+ORC respectively. For that you get a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine delivering 75kW and 130Nm, LED auto-dimming headlights, sat-nav, Apple Carplay/Android Auto in a 7-inch touchscreen, cruise control with speed limiter and some safety aids such as autonomous emergency braking and lane keep assist.
By the standards of budget small cars, it isn’t too badly specified, but you can pick up a Hyundai Accent for $16-18,000, quite a bit less. But then, nothing else has the Jimny’s off-road capability, 40-plus years of history and retro, cool factor to go with it.
As usual, the marketing people have got a little carried away with names. The back of the Jimny has an ALL-GRIP logo which means it has Suzuki’s ALL-GRIP system. For the Jimny, this is literally just part-time 4X4, which has been around for, oh, about four decades. This system means you run the vehicle in 2WD (rear-drive) on high-traction surfaces such as bitumen. When you need 4WD at higher speeds, such as dirt roads or sand, then you’ve got a 4H switch which puts the vehicle into 4WD and that can be selected at speeds up to 100km/h. Stability control is active in 4H, but can be disabled with a button press. There’s a 4WD engagement indicator as you see below, but not one to let you know you’re in low range. I guess you realise that as you drive off.
There’s no clever centre clutch, no torque-biased front and rear, just the simple and basic part-time 4WD system. And while manufacturers make all sorts of claims for their wondrous 4X4 systems, my personal experience over the years is that a part-time 4×4 system such as this performs off-road as well as, and sometimes better than one with a clever centre clutch which can unlock when you don’t want it to, and potentially overheat and stop working until it cools down. Rare for me to champion old tech, but there you have it.
You’ll need to be almost stationary to select 4 Low and in Neutral on the auto, and that automatically disables stability control.
The marketing staff have also created “Brake LSD”, but again that’s nothing more than good old brake traction control, which detects when a single wheel on an axle spins, then applies the brake on that axle which has the effect on increasing torque (turning force) on the other wheel which has more traction (otherwise it’d spin too), and so the vehicle can keep moving.
The two gearbox options are the five-speed manual and the four-speed automatic, not a sentence I ever thought I’d write for a car new in 2017 let alone 2019. The manual is an easy shift, with a pleasant feel in operation. It would definitely be my pick over the auto, as it’s far more involving to drive and the extra gear ratio makes a difference in fuel economy. However, the auto is easier to drive, particularly at very low speed uphill given off-idle torque isn’t the top strength of the Jimny, with the only disadvantage compared to the manual being descents…but you’ve then got the pretty good hill descent control provided you don’t mind going over a rather quick 5km/h in low range, or 10km/h in high range.
One thing you don’t get? Sound deadening under the bonnet. I guess Suzuki though the engine was quiet enough, and why bother add weight and cost, their two least-favourite things.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
You’d expect the interior to be small and it is, but it doesn’t feel as small as you may think. The reason is the fairly thin doors, and very vertical styling.
You do get a big “jesus bar”, aircon but no split system – not worth it in such a small car. All the controls are big, easy-to-use buttons except for the volume control on the touchscreen. But you can just use the steering wheel controls instead.
There are no designer curves to encroach on interior space in the Jimny. It also helps that the windscreen is small and upright, and headroom is actually very good. It’s certainly not uncomfortable not even for those over six-feet tall, and even in the rear there’s decent room as demonstrated by our handsome male model:
Nevertheless, it’s a small vehicle and there’s just no escaping that fact. It’s shorter and narrower than either the Toyota Yaris or Hyundai Accent, so you’re not going to get a whole lot of room. Even if you remove the rear seats there’s less room in the back than you’d find in something like a Prado. But that’s what the Jimny is, you can’t have small-car advantage without small-car disadvantage. At least it does well to maximise the room it has with no unnecessary mouldings or cosmetics. However, a cupholder or two wouldn’t go astray, even a sunnies holder, the door pockets are really just for maps which off-roaders still need to carry, there’s no console bin and the glovebox really is just for gloves. Such is small-car life.
What’s the performance like?
We didn’t get a chance to drive it on normal public road surfaces, so a full answer to the question will need to wait till we have our usual full review, although you can read our first-drive review from the international launch last year for an idea.
What we can say is that it’s typical Suzuki – light, agile, quick to respond but not fast. The Jimny is no corner-carver, and you need to work to make the most of the car at higher speeds with judicious use of gears and conservation of momentum, effort that is rewarded…for some that’ll be part of the appeal, for others a reason to avoid it.
What’s it like off the road?
Suzuki’s new Jimny is by far the most fun off-roader there is on the market, now and into the foreseeable future. By that I mean it has a level of feedback and involvement you just don’t get from larger, more complex vehicles, and therefore you get the satisfaction and thrill of driving achievement. Think of the difference between say a BMW M5 and a Lotus Elise, both fast cars but only one is pure driving fun, and you’ll start to get the picture.
It’s a bit like driving any older Suzuki, or even something older like a Series Land Rover or Patrol G60 – except the ride is way smoother and there’s less chance of the steering wheel ripping your fingers off. The vehicle is small and light, so you can become one with everything that’s going on, and in a good way – you can feel the engine working hard or not working hard, feel the suspension articulating.
The importance of light weight cannot be overstated for any vehicle, and while that’s well understood in the sportscar world, the 4×4 world seems to think heavier is better. Well, the Jimny is rolling proof it’s not. You just gently glide over terrain larger cars would tear and slide, and the light weight means soft suspension can be fitted which flexes nicely. Yes, there’s only 75kW, but with a bit over a tonne to move you can nimbly leap forwards and stop quicker than anything else.
You can see pretty much all four corners, and the bonnet is squared off nicely. The controls are manual – an old school transfer case level, five-speed manual, part-time 4WD. Yes, there’s hill descent control and hill hold assist, but you need not use either if you don’t want to. There’s no adaptive terrain system to reconfigure the car for you, that’s done with your own brain. For example, the throttle is very responsive, and you’ll need to learn to modulate it off-road. But that’s all part of the challenge and therefore the fun.
Fun is one thing, capability is another, and the Jimny is not only involving fun to drive, it’s also very capable in typical Suzuki fashion, which means it’s got the usual Suzuki pros and cons. On the plus side the featherweight mass helps a great deal as you just don’t sink in much, or break ground where heavier vehicles would struggle. The approach/departure angles are also good. Manoeuvrability is amazing, as is visibility.
The brake traction control is highly effective, maybe not quite Land Rover or Toyota standard, but it comes in early, smoothly, and effectively for the most part, unless really stressed. I deliberately brought the vehicle to a halt on a cross-axled uphill section and it was able to pull the car out without too much fuss, and it was only after really pushing it I upset the car enough for some wheelspin. Driven correctly however, the brake traction control is a huge aid to the Jimny’s capability.
The suspension has got decent flex, and importantly, flexes nicely and smoothly throughout its travel range, almost like it has swaybar disconnects (it doesn’t). However, not sure how it’d go with a load. The front/rear weight balance is ideal, just a touch to the front.
The engine is predictability revvy, but with an anti-stall fitted you can do a surprising amount of first-low-feet-off-pedals ultra-slow-speed crawling. The accelerator is touchy, so should you need instant power then you’ve got it, and that’s a good capability to have. You just need to learn the Suzuki way of driving. Once you get the revs up towards 2000rpm then neither power nor torque is an issue, yet the low-range means you’re still travelling nice and slow.
There’s not huge amounts of engine braking on the way back down hills so gentle modulation of the brake pedal is often needed – front discs, rear drums. It’s quite easy overdo the braking if you really want to go super-slow and stall the car going downhill in first low, something else to get used to compared to say bigger diesels where stalling downhill is near impossible. The hill descent control works down to 10km/h in high range, and 5km/h in low range. It is smooth and effective, so imagine it would be fine for slippery descents, but too fast for rocky ledges. And speaking of hills…this is one of the few vehicles you can do a keystart on, which means starting the vehicle in gear. That’s a technique often used in manual vehicles for situations such as failed hillclimbs.
The main disadvantage of the Jimny is the usual Suzuki problem and that is ground clearance, which I measured at 190mm under the front trailing arms. The differential filler plug is actually slightly higher up at around 200mm. You really want to be running 210-220mm for off-roading, but 190mm isn’t as bad as it seems because it’s the trailing arms which are lowest, and those are going to slide more than catch on something.
The standard tyres are 195/80/15 which have an overall diameter of 26.5 inches; the “JBOX” project car (see below) with ARB accessories was running 235/75/15, overall diameter 28.8 inches or another 60mm – half that to get the ground clearance increase of 30mm and then you’ve got plenty of clearance at around 220-230mm. Interestingly, the maximum tyre diameter increase permitted in Victoria is 50mm. The JBOX project car had its spare on the roof, and the original on the door so maybe a wider and taller tyre doesn’t fit on the door mount. Nothing a bit of aftermarket fabrication can’t fix.
Overall, the Jimny is a capable off-roader, and hugely fun with it, keeping well and truly alive the tradition of Suzuki 4X4 vehicles from 1970 to today. There’s nothing else like it on the market, and I doubt there ever will be. To be honest, I’m kind of tempted to add one to the driveway, wouldn’t take up much room.
And as a tourer? The measurement from the back of the first row seats to the rear door is 900mm, and width is 900 to 1300mm. That’s less than a mid-sized vehicle like the Prado or Everest, and payload is only 360kg. But, people do take them touring and if you’re smart with space and weight then why not. If you removed the rear seats you’d have a fraction more space and get a fraction more payload.
The fuel tank is 40L, and the consumption is 6.4 and 6.9L/100km for the manual and auto, respectively. In practice, you’re probably looking at a range of around 400-500km.
It is actually a requirement of a 2019 Jimny review to note that the Jimny resembles a scaled-down G-Wagen or Defender, so, box ticked. Perhaps of more interest is to compare the driving experience, which I think is closer to a standard Nissan Patrol GQ shortie but with less creaking and a better gearshift. Certainly the Jimny offers yester-year driving experiences in a modern package, and frankly for the enthusiast, that’s to be welcomed. It’s kind of like the Toyota 86 of the 4X4 world, fun and capable at a bargain price. What more do you want, carpeople of the world?
Does it have a spare?
Yes, a full-sized alloy, mounted on the rear door which is these days an unusual position, but welcome as it doesn’t intrude on interior space and makes the spare easily accessible when off-road. It does however reduce rear vision a touch. The wheels are 15×5 1/2JJ, offset +5mm, tyres 195/80/15.
Can you tow with it?
Yes, 1300kg braked, 350kg unbraked, but the maximum towball mass is only 75kg. If you need to tow anything like 1300kg, we’d suggest looking at a different vehicle. There is no trailer stability control.
What about ownership?
The warranty is, a now below-par three years, 100,000km, at a time when everyone else is moving to five-year warranties. However, there is a capped-price servicing deal. Resale shouldn’t be much of a problem; I think it safe to say that in 10, 20 and 30 years time a Jimny will be worth a lot more than the equivalent sized minicar like an Accent or Yaris.
What about safety features?
The Jimny does well on safety features, but the score is another matter. There’s AEB (autonomous emergency braking), a reversing camera, Weave Alert and Lane Departure Assist. There are six airbags, and two ISOFIX child restraint points.
However, the EuroNCAP rating was only three stars, and ANCAP have just released their rating which is also three stars, but seems to be using the European spec vehicle as the images have EuroNCAP on the crashed car. ANCAP said:
“Engineers observed a number of issues in the frontal offset test including excessive deformation of the passenger compartment, with penalties applied for loss of structural integrity, steering wheel and pedal intrusion and knee injury risk. Insufficient inflation of the driver’s airbag was also observed with the dummy contacting the steering wheel through the airbag, indicating reduced protection in more severe crashes.”
They also weren’t happy with the Jimny’s AEB:
“Performance of the Jimny’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system is limited with no cyclist detection or night-time functionality. Weak performance was observed for its avoidance of pedestrians, and active lane keep assistance is not available.”
“The results show that the fundamentals of vehicle safety are still critical, and simply fitting an AEB system is not enough to earn a good rating.”
This kind of odd, as we can’t see criteria for how good an AEB should be, just that one should be fitted. Anyway, as ANCAP’s scoring is getting increasingly confusing, here’s a graphic to show the difference between a 5-star safety rating and a 3-star one. Yes, they did change the graphics between 2018 and 2019, but the scores are still out of 16.
Still, a three-star rating is much better than the JL Wrangler which managed just one star in EuroNCAP.
Suzuki featured their “JBOX” vehicle sporting ARB accessories with a bulbar, roofrack, sidesteps and OME suspension, plus their standard driving lights and 8000lb winch. They also fitted steel 15″ wheels and added much taller and wider 235/75/15 tyres. They also confirmed their Air-Locker cross-axle locking differentials will fit.
The JBOX is a prototype and there’s no date yet for production variants of the accessories, but expect them to come to market at some point. About the only major thing missing is a snorkel, much needed for such a small vehicle. You can see a video of the JBOX here.