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Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4

Click to view picture gallerySome things you just like, however
  unusual. For instance, drinking
  piña coladas at midnight and getting
  caught in the rain
and Suzuki’s
  cheeky little Jimny

JIM… who? J-I-M-N-Y. Unique in the UK, the supermini-sized Jimny is the smallest 4x4 you can buy and comes with a starting price of under 12K. So, is that a good thing? Yup, because when we say 4x4 we mean a 4x4 that does the biz off-road.

While size-wise it might look as though it belongs in the city, it is in fact persuasively capable off-road. Latest face-lifted models come with one very handy improvement — a push button-operated Drive Select 4x4 system that makes it finger-pressing easy for the driver to switch between two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive and low-range four-wheel drive.

2WD to 4WD (and vice versa) can be done on the run at speeds upto 62mph so long as the front wheels are pointing straight ahead at the time. Engaging 4WD Low requires you stop the vehicle first. No problem: if conditions are that bad you would want to pull up and assess the terrain before going into the transfer box's lowest set of ratios.

“With global sales to
date of 2.6 million, the
close-to-cultish Jimny
clearly enjoys a strong
following — people who
enjoy its quirky charm
and appreciate its
all-weather, all-terrain
With global sales of 2.6 million to date, the close-to-cultish Jimny clearly enjoys a strong following — people who enjoy its quirky charm and appreciate its all-weather, all-terrain abilities; people who want the reassurance of bad weather (snow, ice, flooded roads, etc) mobility or who just enjoy some off-roading entertainment.

Under the Jimny's cheerfully chunky, wheel-at-each-corner body is a rugged full box-section chassis fitted with long-travel coil springs and gas dampers to optimise its off-road competence.

Combined with its impressive chassis articulation, narrow forest-friendly width, low ratio four-wheel drive setting, 190mm ground clearance, 34-degree approach and 46-degree departure angles, and a ramp angle of 31 degrees, the Jimny is able to go places denied to many larger soft-roader SUVs. Which explains why the Jimny hasn't changed very much at all in 14 years — according to Takanori Suzuki (Suzuki's European Chairman), it still delivers "precisely what its customers expect."

Inside the Jimny is well put together with hard-wearing trim. New seats are the most noticeable upgrade of the 2013 model year makeover: smart looking, comfortable and supportive leather-look items with 'Jimny' logo emblems on the seatbacks.

The first surprise is how much room there is for the driver and his/her front passenger: headroom is good, as too is leg and foot room — and there's plenty of space around the driver's shins.

The Jimny might only measure 3.6 metres nose to tail but there's room for rear passengers on the two-spot rear bench; however, although head and shoulder room is fine, legroom is restricted and most owners will probably use them for kids or extra luggage space.

Access to the rear is made easy courtesy of a front passenger seat that tilts and slides all the way forward, wide-opening doors and low sills. The rear seatbacks (split 50:50) can be reclined as well as fully folded forward to open up the luggage area when required.

They also have smooth-sliding headrests that sit very low on the seatback when not in use so as to maximise the good rearwards visibility for the driver — the same reason the spare wheel is mounted low on the side-hinged tailgate. Isofix child seat anchorages are also provided for the rear seats. As in the front, wide outer armrests are on hand for the rear seat passengers along with wide storage bins and cupholders.

“Think ‘4x4’ and your
next thought will most
likely be ‘heavy
drinker’… Officially the
Jimny contradicts that
with 39.8mpg for the
combined cycle.
A week’s hard driving on
a mix of roads gave
us an overall average
consumption of
Sit behind the three-spoke leather-rimmed wheel and you'll find the high driving position (at 1,705mm the Jimny's taller than most small cars) provides an excellent view of the road and traffic as well as the tops of the front wings; ahead in particular, although views out in all directions are very good thanks to deep glass areas all round.

The compact footprint (3.6 x 1.6 metres) coupled with a tight turning circle guarantees easy parking and traffic-cheating manoeuvring.

While controls and switchgear as user-friendly and easily-recalled, some acclimatisation is necessary with the stalks because the Jimny's indicators are on the right, not the left as you'd expect in a UK-market car — what this means is that for the first few trips you'll have an especially clean windscreen because you'll be wash-wiping every time you try to indicate! Don't worry — you adjust quickly.

Standard equipment includes push button selectable four-wheel drive with high and low ratios and automatic freewheeling hubs, AirCon (nicely efficient), CD tuner, power steering, electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors, power front windows (with driver's one-shot auto down), leather-rim steering wheel, rear privacy glass, lights-on & key-in reminder, driver and front passenger airbags, height-adjustable front seatbelts, roof rails, front fog lamps, and 10-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels.

The boot is not that big — just 113 litres — but folding down both rear backrests (they fold totally flat with the headrests removed) creates a 324-litre loadbay. Loading from the safety of the nearside is a piece of cake thanks to the regular-shaped tailgate opening to a full 90-degrees.

The integral roof rails can be teamed with a range of accessories for secure carrying of items such as skis, bikes and surfboards; also available are a tow bar-mounted bicycle carrier, multi roof-rack and roof-box for increased load capacity.

Beneath the neat power scoop on the Jimny's bonnet sits a four-pot 1.3-litre petrol engine. The all-alloy unit (with 16 valves and variable valve timing) generates 83bhp and 81lb ft of pulling power, accessed by a five-speed manual gearbox. Top speed is 87mph with 0-62mph done and dusted in what, on paper, sounds a leisurely 14.1 seconds — actually, work the gears and make use of the sweet-revving engine and it feels quicker.

“A friends Jimny
— her faithful ‘Flora’

has been in the family
for years and is
especially cherished
for winter wear
when she’s worth her
weight in gold.
As far as the 87mph top speed goes, last time I checked there was a 70mph legal limit in this country. Actually, on motorways the Jimny is more than happy to nip along at a steady 60-65mph, which was fine by me and took care of longer trips without any problems.

Think '4x4' and your next thought will most likely be 'heavy drinker'… Officially the Jimny contradicts that, with 39.8, 31.7 and 47.1 (respectively for combined, urban and extra-urban miles per gallon).

A week's hard driving over a mix of roads gave us an overall average consumption of 32.9mpg — far better than we had been expecting. Not so good is that there's no driver's computer so you don't have the benefit of a range or average mpg readout. CO2 emissions come in at 162g/km.

Ride-wise it's perfectly liveable as it hums along. And there's no denying it has a certain je ne sais quoi — it's really rather fun to tootle around in. It also has a brave off-road heart plus the ability to keep you mobile in severe weather when many others will be stuck fast — a friend runs one and her faithful 'Flora' has been in the family for years, and is especially cherished for 'winter wear' when it's worth its weight in gold.

The Jimny's city car proportions, light steering and decent brakes also make it a player in the cut and thrust of city traffic and, of course, parking's a breeze. Add to that its 'get you there and back again' dependability and you'd be missing out not to give it a go. — MotorBar

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 | £13,295
Maximum speed: 87mph | 0-62mph: 14.1 seconds | Overall MPG: 32.9mpg
Power: 83bhp | Torque: 81lb ft | CO2 162g/km