The Suzuki Jimny Is Objectively Terrible but Incredibly Charming
Suzuki’s Jimny is a charming car. One that, thanks to a combination of chunky looks, a go-anywhere image, and an occasionally lurid color scheme, you can’t help but love. However, much like the most charming people, it’s not perfect in the slightest. In fact, it’s objectively one of the worst cars on sale today. You’ll still want one though.
The Jimny is one of those cars that it’s impossible to walk by without squeaking “Oh! Jimny!!” Despite the fact it’s about as big as a Shetland Pony, it comes dripping with presence. Suzuki helped this with the option of highlighter yellow paint (an option, sadly, but one that means it apparently doesn’t need to be dolled up in high-visibility paint on building sites), and a design straight out of the Tonka studio. It looks ready to take on the world, despite being half the size of a regular car. It’s kinda like Scrappy Doo, but with more charisma.
The inside is roomy enough for a couple of adults up front. Its interior is a feast of chunky molded plastic, dials, grab bars, and other things that make you think off roady thoughts. Though still… half-size. It’s two-door only, and while there are rear seats, they’re not super roomy. The trunk is barely deep enough to fit an iPhone in lengthways, so the less said about that the better. Being able to fold its seats down does offer more space, for sure, but that forces you to choose between people and things. For some, it’s not a hard choice. For others, it is. People with children, for example. Though if you want to throw some extra practicality on there, you can always get some sort of roof box or lash your bags up there. Though to fit the car’s image, at least one suitcase needs to be covered in stickers depicting Hello Kitty dressed as a commando.
No matter how you like your cars, you can’t say the Jimny’s ugly. Sure, some of the interior plastics are a little scratchy, and you have to wonder why its bumpers are quite as chunky as they are, but it’s a cool thing. It seems to blend the Honda E’s cuteness with the ruggedness of a Land Rover Defender, and retro sensibilities of a Mini Cooper in to a small, adorable ‘my first off-roader’ package.
Curb appeal isn’t an issue. Its drive, however, is. Like lots of these things, they’ll have been bought thanks to the promise of off-road prowess and then used almost exclusively on the road (take a walk through Chelsea, London and count the Land Rover Defenders—new and old—and you’ll see how common it is). Having something ready for the (increasingly likely) apocalypse is all well and good, but if it makes the preamble a misery, perhaps the juice isn’t quite worth the squeeze.
Its tiny 1.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder motor produces 100 hp and 96 lb-ft and sends it to all four wheels. That’s enough, Suzuki says, to get it to 62 mph in 12.6 seconds and up to 90 mph flat out. It’ll manage just 30 mpg while doing so as well.
That 0-62 mph figure seems… ambitious. You need to rev the knackers off it to get it to 30 mph in town, and when you’re out on the open road, pushing it to 70 mph feels abusive. When you’re there, its square front end means further progress is slow. You make lots of noise for little payoff. For some, that aural-drama-to-license-risk ratio might be fun, maybe? However, it’s noisy on the highway, and strangely wobbly.
Soft suspension is on board to ensure it can fulfill its off-road capabilities, but to get the muddy stuff it makes road driving akin to gently bouncing on a small trampoline. In fact, its springs are so soft that by swaying your body side to side in the cabin you can make the whole car wallow.
Gears are swapped via a five-speed stick. It’s a long shift and it’s oddly fun to use. That’s a positive because to get the best out of its tiny engine you need to change gear often. For off-road duties there’s a two-wheel drive and low-range mode—and that’s where the Jimny’s talents truly lie. For getting up, down, around, or through pretty much anything you could reasonably need to, you can’t go wrong with a Jimny. It’ll just get on with the matter of moving. Whether the ground is dusty, muddy, or plain soaking, you get the impression that the Jimny will handle it. You have faith that the machine will see you through without issue—except here there’s no Active All Terrain Off-Road Super Mega Hyper Assist, there’s a ladder chassis, lots of mechanical bits, and human input.
When it comes to driving the thing, it’s much like the old Land Rover Defender. Flawed on road to the point where you need to almost literally drive it on its door handles to get the best out of it, and no nonsense off-road.
Sadly, as previously discussed, many of these new Jimnys in the world won’t be used off road. They’ll have CarPlay streaming Spotify, Waze guiding drivers from one place to another, and countless people outside pointing with glee.
See, what Suzuki has created is an instant classic. It’s inoffensive, charming, and happy. Again, like the Defenders of old, it’ll get you far more cred in town than outside of it despite its abilities.
It’s impractical, small, and for the vast majority of people it’ll be woeful to drive. But you’ll love it all the more for it. Like a puppy that’s just curled one out on the rug, you can’t stay mad at it. Its infectious charm will win you over time and time again—a rare trait in the vast majority of modern, homogenized do-everything SUVs rolling out of factory gates. Not only is it charming, but its charm is memorable too.