2014 Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review – Small Yet Capable 4×4 Packed with Character

Suzuki Jimny?

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review small 4x4

The Suzuki Jimny has been going now – in various guises – since 1969, starting with the LJ10. From 1981 to 1998, the second generation was available and re-badged for different countries (Samurai, Sidekick, Sierra, Katana, Caribbean, SJ410 etc). From 1998 to date (2014) there’s been the third-generation Jimny and no change in shape or design, showing that the old saying ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ really applies here.

The Jimny is neither an SUV or a crossover, but a true and proper 4×4 vehicle which is both rugged and capable. With staggering sales of 2.6 million cars worldwide to date, the Jimny obviously has something going for it, but what? We were sent a UK-spec 2014 Suzuki Jimny SZ4 to test, review, and find out…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review small 4x4

Here’s something that doesn’t happen often with cars I test; I like everything about the exterior design of the Jimny. First off, walking up to it the Jimny is absolutely tiny. Let’s compare it the already-small Suzuki Swift Sport. The Jimny is just 3,675 mm (144.7″) in length, or 215 mm (8.46″) shorter than the Swift. Its 1,600 mm (63″) width is also 95 mm (3.7″) less than the Swift’s, and the wheelbase is 180 mm (7.8″) shorter too. However, and quite importantly, the Jimny has the higher roofline at 1,705 mm (67″).

Although it’s small in stature, the Suzuki Jimny looks rugged and tough, taking a no-nonsense approach to design. For 2013, there’s a facelift and most of the sqaured-off front is new. The lowest section of the front sits high up away from the ground, and above that two large grilles, the upper one incorporating a heavy-set Jeep Wrangler-type chunky slats. The bonnet now houses an ‘air intake’, which is in fact fake, and does nothing to feed air to the engine. However, it looks great both from both the exterior and interior, as you drive.

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review small 4x4

The headlights are big, square units and appear to be tinted behind for better effect, and below that the fog lamps now have new housings too. Down the side, the windows are large and well-proportioned both front and rear, and the bodywork benefits from chunky plastic sides jutting out, along with flared wheel arches too. The 15″ alloy wheels and big tyres sit great within the arches, again making the car well-proportioned overall.

Around to the rear and it’s a traditional 4×4 affair, with a door that swings open from the side, with a spare wheel bolted to the door, and a stubby lower bumper that juts out, and which you can sit on while tying your boots or whatever. Of significance are the exceptionally short overhangs at the front and rear. These superb approach and departure angles (34˚ front, 46˚ rear) are another sign that it’s been pupose-built for off-roading.

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review small 4x4-3590

Overall, I simply cannot think of anything I dislike about the exterior of the Suzuki Jimny. It’s exactly a shrunken-down version of a classic Japanese 1990’s 4×4, much like the Mitsubishi Shogun, Isuzu Trooper, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Nissan Patrol of the time. The Jimny then, is a perfectly-formed miniature four-wheel-drive that looks as resilient and durable as it actually is.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review

Utilitarian. That almost sums up the Jimny’s interior. Open one of the doors, and you’re instantly transported back into the Nineties. Well, not physically, but if you only had that to go by and nothing else, you’d possibly think you were, for it’s reminds me of every Japanese car’s cabin I’ve had of the era. It features two trim colours; grey, and black, and almost every switch or controller looks like it was taken straight from a 1995 Honda, Mazda, or Toyota. Even the stereo is as basic as they come, with no bluetooth and won’t even read an MP3 CD.

However, if like me you like cars with character, the Jimny will grow on you from the instant you sit inside. Like the Fiat Panda I reviewed, the fact that the Jimny is so straightforward and minimal makes it very likeable, and you know where you are with it. A lot of modern cars that are crammed with electronic gadgets and tricks have no personality, and all those gizmos keep you at arms length. On the flip side, there’s something very satisfying about turning the Jimny’s chunky mechanical heating dials, or pressing one of the big 4WD controls, and hearing something metal clunk into place under the car.

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review interior heating controls 4wd 2wd 4wd-l radio

The top of the range SZ4 which we were sent to test has a couple of ‘luxuries’ on board, such as heated wing mirrors and air conditioning. And that’s it. The spec list for the Jimny made me laugh too, as it lists some of the ‘Comfort’ items as ‘Digital clock‘, ‘Door ajar warning lamps‘ , ‘Low fuel warning lamp‘. You get the idea; this isn’t the car to buy if you want all – or any – mod cons.

The SZ4 we had featured synthetic leather seats, and they actually look fairly good. They’re also surprisingly comfortable, and the entire time the car was on test, I never had any complaints. In fact, there’s also more elbow and leg room than you’d think too. It’s actually quite an airy interior, as the side windows are large and there’s great headroom as well, so don’t think you’ll feel claustrophobic just because it looks small from outside.

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review small 4x4 interior front driver seats

 

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review

The rear seats have very little leg room though, and are more occasional seats that are built for kids. Having said that, for one short journey it was necessary to have an adult sat in the back, and although they lacked any kind of leg room, they said the seat itself was decent enough.

As expected, boot space isn’t exactly cavernous, with just 113 litres behind the rear seats, and 324 litres with them folded down. In real-world terms, behind the seats there’s enough room for a few full shopping bags, and with them folded you’ll be able to stack a few suitcases. I get that the Jimny is more functional than anything, but I’ve got one big gripe where I think Suzuki are just being plain ol’ tight, and that’s regarding the speakers. Look, if Fiat can put a set of good-sounding speakers (which they are) in their most basic £8,500 Panda Pop, then surely Suzuki can chuck in a set on their £12,000 – £14,000 Jimny!

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review HDR boot space seats up

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review HDR boot space seats down

Overall then, yes the Jimny is basic, yes the interior is from circa 1995, yes you don’t get much room, and yes on some levels it’s a really impractical interior. But for all that, I still really like it. It’s bursting with character and personality, and I can guarantee most owners name their car because of it. I’m scoring the Jimny low, because let’s face it, it’s ruddy awful next to almost every car – but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it – I do, a lot. Just get some better flippin’ speakers fitted Suzuki.

Engine and gearbox

For the UK market, there’s one engine on offer; a 1.3 litre, 4-cylinder, 16-valve naturally-aspirated petrol. It puts out 84 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 81 lb ft (110 Nm) of torque at 4,100 rpm. Gearbox-wise, there’s a choice of either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic (only available on the SZ4).

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 small 4x4 Review 1.3 Engine

Let’s have a look at the performance figures (I use that term as loosely as possible). The manual gets from 0 – 62 mph in 14.1 seconds, while the auto will (just about) do it in… ahem… 17.2 seconds. Maximum speed is 87 mph for the manual, and 84 mph for the automatic. Normally, the Jimny drives via the rear wheels, and there’s obviously 4WD and 4WD Low to select for the rough stuff.

Official UK mpg fuel stats for the manual read as urban: 31.7, extra urban: 47.1 and combined: 39.8, and CO2 emissions at 167 g/km,  costing you £200 per year (Mar. ’14).

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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Fire the Jimny’s petrol engine into life, and you’re greeted by something that weirdly sounds quite good. There’s a bit of a roar to it, and it’s all very mechanical. Pull away, and you’ll find yourself changing through the gears quickly even at town speeds, the ratios being quite close together.

Change too early though, and the engine bogs down and refuses to give you any power. With it being naturally aspirated (no forced induction via a turbo or supercharger), you need plenty of revs to get it wound up and going anywhere even near to quickly. In reality, the Jimny is a nippy little thing up to around 45 mph, and being a tiny thing and weighing barely over 1,000 kilograms, it’s rather a fun car to drive around city streets, nipping quickly and positively between cars, and it’s the easiest car I’ve come across to park, as you can see exactly where the rear ends due to the spare wheel.

The suspension set-up (rigid axles with coil springs) is a bizarre mix, as it’s wallowy around corners but also quite firm at the same time. While it rides flowing undulations well, stuff like speed bumps and pot holes can be a jarring experience. Off-road, it works well but for normal conditions it’s not so good.

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review small 4x4

We had the manual version, and around town the Jimny’s 1.3 petrol engine copes fine obviously, but the trouble is that as soon as you get out onto the motorway, the 5th gear ratio is too short, so at 70 mph the little thing is revving its head off, and I never really felt comfortable on any highway stretches. 60 mph is fine, but at anything more it sounds strained. It’s certainly a reliable thing though, as you often see second-hand ones for sale with 120,000+ miles on the clock.

The Jimny also does something very quirky between forty and fifty miles-per-hour; the steering wheel starts to wobble heavily, very much like there’s a wheel out of balance. At first, I thought this was the case, but after some research I’ve found that it’s a common thing, and is known as ‘death wobble’ amongst owners. Apparently a new set of front radius arm chassis bushes will solve it for the most part, but it begs the question; How and why is a brand-new car sold with a problem like this?

The Suzuki Jimny isn’t that great on the road then. While it’s quite fun to dart about town in, it’s not really suited to motorway use and the suspension set-up isn’t very impressive either. What Suzuki need to do is to replace the current old 1.3 engine with the 1.2 litre petrol version from the Swift, as it’s more powerful, more efficient and better on CO2 emissions. There also needs to be a 6-speed gearbox too, so you can at least do long journeys in a less revvy manner. Up to now, I’m still not entirely seeing why you’d buy the Jimny, but perhaps a stint off-road will change that…

AWD and off-road. Stuck or superb?

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review small 4x4 driving in mud

From the moment you take the Jimny off road, it makes perfect sense. Let me explain. At the same time as I had the Jimny, I had a Land Rover Defender on test. Wanting to take the Landy off-road but needing a back-up in case we pushed it too far and needed a tow out of where ever we had got the beast stuck, we took along the Suzuki.

I can hear some of you laughing scornfully at that, and that it’d be like a monkey trying to pull an elephant out of swamp, but I’ll tell you from the off, the Jimny is a very capable 4×4 when the going gets tough. Not wanting to push the press loan too far, we were careful, but the Jimny through its paces off-road.

Driving up to a section of water, which hid slick, sucking mud underneath, we tested the depth first before stopping to engage the Jimny’s Drive Select 4×4, in this case 4WD- L (low ratio). Into neutral, clutch down, press the 4WD-L button, a clunking noise can be heard as it locks, and an icon comes up on the dash to say it’s engaged. As the Jimny enters the water, thick mud pushing out either side of the tyres underneath, I’m watching from the outside, skeptical about the Jimny’s off-road ability and already I’m edging towards the Defender and a thick tow-rope.

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review small 4x4

As the wee Suzuki pushes towards the edge of the water, the mud becomes thicker and more bog-like and the Jimny slows, tyres scrabbling for grip before the car comes to a complete stop, wheels spinning frantically to no avail. I roll my eyes and head for the tow rope, but as I look back the driver has it in reverse, and the Jimny slowly starts to pull backwards. Then it’s back into 1st gear, and slowly but surely the Suzuki inches its way forward through the slop. As we watch, unbelievably the Jimny pulls itself determinedly onwards, the tyres racing and forcing through the muck and water, and then it’s out and onto terra firma once more. Instantly, my doubts and skepticism disappear about the little Jimny’s off-road ability, and there’s a load of whooping and Eighties high-fives all round as the car sits with water and mud dripping from its flanks.

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review small 4x4 4wd indicator light

We did it a couple more times to make sure the Jimny hadn’t just flukily gained traction from something grippy under the water the first time, but no, it’s absolutely that the Suzuki Jimny is a real, true 4×4 with superb capability. And, that was done on what is tantamount to standard road tyres. We all agreed that sticking a set of off-road rubber on the Jimny would make it a brilliant little thing. Another demonstration of its prowess was to drive up to the bottom a steep slope – and where almost every other 4×4 would just bang its front overhang trim against uselessly – where the Jimny’s excellent approach and departure angles (34˚ front, 46˚ rear) come in handy, and it simply climbs straight up!

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review HDR approach angle

The Suzuki Jimny’s 190 mm (7.48″) of ground clearance is more than most SUV/crossovers get, and there’s plenty of articulation in the suspension too, making it great over something like a ploughed field. If you’re driving on the road and it starts to snow or rain heavily, the normal 4WD can handily be engaged at up to 62 mph (100 km/h), so there’s no need to pull over to do so.

Coming away from the Jimny’s muddy play area and onto the road, I’m now struck by a thought – I now get why so many people buy and utterly love them. It’s the same case as with the Land Rover Defender (review coming soon); they’re absolutely awful on the road – worse than the Jimny in some ways – and they make very little sense in many ways. But take the Jimny off-road, or through some heavy winter weather and you’ll be laughing as other big, heavy 4×4’s start to struggle and you nip along nimbly.

Price

The Suzuki Jimny has just three prices. The SZ3 is £11,995, the SZ4 £13,295 and the automatic SZ4 £14,195. Myself, I’d go for the basic SZ3 and save the £1,300, as you’re only losing out on the ‘leather’ seats, alloy wheels, roof rails and air conditioning, and the Jimny suits basic better.

Competition-wise, there’s nothing out there that’s like the Jimny, at least in the UK. The closest I can think of is the Fiat Panda 4×4, but although its four-wheel-drive system might be impressive, with 150 mm (5.9″) it’s not built for any sort of really heavy-duty off-road action, whereas the Jimny is. There’s also the Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin, but it’s much larger, way more expensive and not currently available new in the UK.

2014 Suzuki Jimny SZ4 verdict & score

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Lets talk frankly here; the Suzuki Jimny is outdated, just okay around town, terrible on the motorway, there’s no Euro NCAP rating and its small size makes it quite impractical. The engine and gearbox also feels dinosaur-like, and it needs an update badly in that department. However, after seeing just how capable the Jimny is when its challenged off the road, it makes far more sense if you’re in the market for a cheap, tiny, highly capable 4×4 as a second car, keeping it for city driving or for when winter arrives.

I can’t justify scoring the Suzuki Jimny high at all, but actually , I’d happily own a Jimny! It’s one of the most characterful cars I’ve driven, and in an age of cold, robotic and computerised vehicles, it’s a breath of fresh air to step into something so outdated and simple that it’s kinda cool.

Do you own a Suzuki Jimny? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  7
Interior  4
Engine  3.5
Gearbox (manual)  3
Price  5
AWD & off-road ability  8
Drive  3
Overall Score  5 / 10

  Specs

Model (as tested)  2013 Suzuki Jimny SZ4 manual
Spec includes  15″ alloy wheels, synthetic leather seating, leather steering wheel, Drive Select 4×4 system, radio & cd player, air conditioning, heated wing mirrors, electric windows, tinted rear windows, power steering See website for more info
Options you should spec  SZ3 specification instead of SZ4
The Competition  Fiat Panda 4×4
Price  (Feb. ’14) £11,995 – £14,195 This model: £13,295
Engine  1.3 litre, 4-cylinder, 16-valve naturally-aspirated petrol. It puts out 84 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 81 lb ft (110 Nm) of torque at 4,100 rpm
Power, Torque, CO2   Power: 84 bhp @ 6,000 rpm | Torque: 81 lb ft (110 Nm) @ 4,100 rpm | CO2: 167 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Rear wheel drive & Drive Select 4×4 | 5-speed manual
Ground clearance  Clearance: 190 mm (7.48″)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 112 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 8.8 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Not tested
Fuel economy (UK mpg)  Urban: 31.7, Extra urban: 47.1, Combined: 39.8
Weight (kerb)  1,090 kilograms – 1,105 (auto) (2,403 – 2,436 lbs)
Websites  Suzuki UK, Suzuki global

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Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

7 responses to “2014 Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 Review – Small Yet Capable 4×4 Packed with Character”

  1. Rob

    I sold my modified MX5 and bought a jimny after moving to the mountains and anticipating bad winters, its was a serious change of pace but I absolutely love my Jimny, my dad loves my Jimny, everyone loves it apart from the missus and thats because its normally coated in about 2 inches of slop mud on every panel.
    Its such a tough little truck, I’ve put more expensives 4×4’s to shame on road tires with them on all terrains off road. I’m only now after a year actually fitting all terrains myself and cant wait to test it this weekend with them on. It doesnt have huge ground clearance but its light and precise off road so you can avoid jutting rocks that lust for your transfer case.
    I doubt i’ll ever sell it, if I change car i’ll prob keep it and roll it out each winter when the SHTF because its unstoppable in snow/ice/floods

  2. Solomon Mbugua

    Am looking forward to buying a Jimny in 2017, a cheap n easy to maintain car I’ve noted but so far…this is the best n most comprehensive review on the internet!

  3. Kevin Longbon

    I am going to buy a 2014 Jimmny SZ4. Your review is bang on. Its agricultural to say the least. comfortable seats crap stereo. But i still smiled through the test drive.

  4. mike

    Bought 2014 just to have something different…First 500 miles loved it but then went off the car..Why low geared and over 65mph engine sounded like it’s working hard.2000 miles later and i get it you go into cruise mode take things at a slower pace and it’s really nice to drive. and comfortable to.

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