Let’s settle something right from the start. The Suzuki Jimny is a 4WD, a real 4WD. This is not an SUV or a crossover – it’s a 4WD.

Unlike everything else of this size that claims to be a 4WD, but which is actually a hatchback with a different body, the Jimny was designed from the ground up to tackle harsh off-road conditions.

Suzuki Jimny sits on a strong ladder chassis, has excellent ground clearance, sharp approach and departure angles and, best of all, a two-speed transfer box to give you low-range gearing for ultra-tough offload conditions.

Jimny, also sold here as the Suzuki Sierra and before that the Suzuki LJ50, is one of the old timers – it has just celebrated its 40th birthday.

The current Jimny shape was introduced late in 1998, but has received numerous changes in the intervening years the most recent being for model year 2015. By far the biggest update for the MY15 is the introduction of an electronic stability program to assist drivers to stay out of trouble if they do something silly.


Also new for 2015 is a bonnet scoop, which is purely there for decoration, a revamped grille and front bumper.

Inside there are new trim colours and … wait for it … silver surrounds on the instrument dials.

One thing is missing from the Suzuki Jimny compared with other ‘proper’ 4WDs is weight, lots of weight. With a mass of just 1060 kg the little Suzuki is a featherweight, carrying half to a third of the weight of the big boys.

Light weight is a huge advantage when driving on the beach. More than once we have been sailing over sand in 2WD – yes 2WD! – only to stop and help the owner of a Patrol or LandCruiser dig their vehicle’s wheels out of the holes they have dug for themselves in the soft stuff.

We’ve just spent an excellent day on North Stradbroke Island off the Queensland coast. Coming back down to earth we have also driven it in real life commuting / shopping / heavy traffic / motorway conditions on the mainland.

These days the Jimny has coil springs all round giving it a much better ride than its honourable ancestors with leaf springs. Its relatively short wheelbase does cause a choppy ride at times on bad roads, but on the whole it’s far quieter and more comfortable than seems possible for a tiny 4WD.

The steering remains recirculating-ball, but it has been tuned over the years and doesn’t have the same wandering feel around the straight-ahead position that used to trouble drivers not accustomed to this old-fashioned layout.

This is no sporty 4WD but it holds the road at speeds unlikely to be attempted by the average driver, and see the above notes about the addition of ESP.

Jimny is small and only has two doors, it’s wide enough to hold two largish blokes in the front without embarrassing them by rubbing their shoulders together. Getting in and out of the back seat through the front doors isn’t easy. Kids will make light of its, but their grandparents may struggle.

The luggage area is small, but has good height so you can cart a large suitcase and the like. The two rear seatbacks fold down individually to greatly increase the volume.

Power, if that’s not too strong a word as there’s only 62 kilowatts of it, comes for a reasonably modern four-cylinder, twin-cam, fuel injected engine. It drives through a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

Thankfully our road test Jimny had the manual gearbox as the extra few kW the auto would have stolen from the engine would have made it a real slug. The manual had to be changed down to fourth, occasionally third, gear to get up and over hills during on-road driving. No real problem as the changes are light and easy, partly due to the fact the gearbox is under the shift lever, not way out near one of the front wheels as in a front-drive SUV or crossover.

Fuel consumption is officially rated at 7.1 litres per hundred kilometres for the manual and 7.4 litres for the automatic. On the beach and over dirt trails in the bush we found the little Suzuki using 11 litres per hundred, on sealed roads this came down to a creditable seven to eight litres. Excellent economy that shows the Jimny would provide good day-to-day transportation.

Priced at only $19,990 driveaway (plus $2500 for the auto) the Suzuki Jimny offers a huge amount of driving fun for a very modest outlay. As it heads into its fifth decade we can continue to see it doing well in sales.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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