Review: To really appreciate the quirky Suzuki Jimny, you need to switch off your brain

CY Foong · Jun 25, 2022 12:00 PM

Review: To really appreciate the quirky Suzuki Jimny, you need to switch off your brain 01

THIS is the 2022 Suzuki Jimny and not to sound too much like a certain 6"5 (196 cm) YouTuber, it is chock full of quirks and features that would make him proud. However, to truly appreciate this little SUV, you might have to not sweat too much on the details.

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There are some forms of entertainment that are best enjoyed when you switch off your mind, like a stoner comedy or a Drake album. You don’t need to pay attention to the story, production, or logic because overthinking can skew the experience.

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That said, the Jimny is the sort of car you would want to not overthink because everything about this nearly RM 170,000 kei-ish SUV with a 9-month waiting list requires you to focus less on the details and more on the simplicity of a machine with 4 wheels, a roof to cover your head from the elements, and an engine that allows said machine to at least move within the speed limit.

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In the few days we spent with the Jimny, it stole the hearts of everyone with its unbridled honesty on the move and even while stuck in traffic. With so much (and little) going on, every moment behind the Jimny feels like an adventure on its own.

Exterior – Retro does it so well

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The Suzuki Jimny’s name was first introduced in 1970 and for a little more than half a century, more than 3 million units have been sold across four generations. The Jimny was also among the most recognisable off-roaders in Malaysia and it was the second generation that became one of the most beloved among fans.

Also read: For sale: Check out this fine-looking 1994 Suzuki Jimny for RM 38k!

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It is this boxy generation that the current fourth-gen draws most of its inspiration from and we think that of all the retro throwback designs being put out by carmakers over the past two decades, the Jimny is possibly the clearest winner.

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Suzuki made so many of the old SJ 410 and SJ 413 from the 1980s and 90s that some of us in WapCar grew up in one. Nostalgia is such a strong factor that eventually prices for these older Jimnys start to appreciate. The current generation is also facing a similar appreciation in prices and it has a long waiting list.

Also read: Suzuki Jimny orders closed in Indonesia after waiting list stretches past 4 years!

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The blocky Tonka toy looks are compounded by the Jimny’s diminutive size as one of the very few kei vehicles you can buy officially in Malaysia. Well, the Malaysian- and global-spec Jimnys do not qualify under the Japanese minicar classification for reasons we will explain later but it is still tiny compared to a Perodua Ativa.

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Parking the Jimny can turn you into one of those evil Kancil drivers that trick other users in thinking there’s an empty space. However, thanks to the old-school sideway tailgate design, you are less likely to incite rage on other drivers by performing the “empty parking space” trick.

Interior – Basic but gets the job done

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Speaking of old-school, as retro-modern as the exterior is, the Jimny’s interior feels like a step back to the 1990s. There’s no push-start button here as you’ll need to turn on the ignition with the key to start the engine.

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The tachometer and speedometer are proper analogue dials that are placed in square housings and there is even a little dimmer knob that you can turn to enhance or reduce the gauge’s brightness.

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At the very least the windows are not operated by a hand crank but like any old-school car, they are placed in the middle of the dashboard. The doors do not contain any buttons of sorts and while there are door pockets, they are thin.

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Still, there’s automatic climate control, audio controls on the steering wheel (which appears similar to the Swift), and an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support should you want to somehow turn this into a daily driver.

Also read: Review: 2021 Suzuki Swift Sport (ZC33S) – Is the 6AT a deal-breaker?

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Where the Jimny is worth all the basic features though is when you throw it off the beaten path because where the little Suzy belongs is not in the fancy-schmancy heights of Bukit Bintang, Mont Kiara, or Bangsar.

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It’s more at home in some fields in Tangkak, Setiawan, or Miri which is why the dash is filled with hard plastic. The doors don’t have switches as they are removable, which makes it light and less complicated.

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The driver seats are non-height adjustable nor is the steering wheel telescopic but who cares when the visibility is so darn good. The headroom is generous and thanks to its boxy shape, is consistent throughout the cabin.

Also read: Dear car makers, it's 2022. Telescopic steering adjustment should be standard on all cars

Cabin space – Uh, yes?

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Kei Jimny (left) and Jimny Sierra aka global Jimny (right)

In Japan, the Jimny qualifies as a kei car not only due to its 660-cc engine but also the size. Still, Japanese buyers could also get the same engine as overseas markets called the Jimny Sierra which is also wider and longer.

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However, the extra girth and length are due to the additional fenders and larger bumpers but the wheelbase in both the kei and non-kei Jimny is unchanged. So, space can be a bit cramped, especially in the rear.

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There aren’t many storage compartments in the Jimny with only two cupholders located behind the manual handbrake. The glovebox is enough to put a few essential items and there is only one USB port which is also where you would connect your smartphone.

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Yours truly is 173 cm tall, it's still a squeeze in the back even if you're way below 2 metres tall

The back is a tight squeeze with the rear legroom barely enough to fit one tennis ball. It’s not quite recommended for long journeys and most adults couldn’t really fit in the back. Even children might be uncomfortable though the seats do support ISOFIX.

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Speaking of, the front passenger would probably get the best comfort out of the lot as there is a bit of a squeeze to rest your left foot on the driver’s side. For a tiny vehicle like this, space is certainly compromised everywhere and that includes the boot space.

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Additional compartment for some outdoor gear

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Again, we can forgive this since the small cargo adds to the charm and there is a hidden storage if you would like to put more things. The seats also fold flat to free up more room for a short outdoorsy adventure getaway and the boot floor is made out of hard plastic that makes it easier to clean.

Driving experience – Surprisingly supple

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Keeping it old school is the ladder-frame chassis the Jimny is sitting on. Mention that chassis set-up and you might picture a pick-up truck like a Hilux or an SUV like a Fortuner. As capable as either of those are off-road compared to the Jimny, the little Suzy actually feels very pliant.

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No doubt, combined with the 3-link rigid axle with coil link suspension, the Jimny can flex around in the dirt and on harsh terrain. Still, even on smooth tarmac, the Jimny excels in comfort.

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It’s not exactly super comfortable and it is a stretch to compare it with a luxury car like a Lexus but for something that is meant to be an “affordable” off-roader, the Jimny works pretty well in the comfort department. It’s certainly miles ahead of the Myvi that’s for sure.

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Suzuki Jimny sound test
Speed Sound level (dB)
Idle with A/C on (0 km/h) 58
60 km/h 62
90 km/h 69
110 km/h 71

That said, the Jimny’s cabin can be a bit noisy but that’s due to the lack of noise insulation material. Our nifty sound level meter recorded an average of 71 dB at 110 km/h but it doesn’t really matter considering what the Jimny is meant for.

Performance – Another surprise here

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Powering the Jimny is a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated K15B inline-4 which is also used on the Suzuki Ertiga and the Vitara Brezza that aren't sold in Malaysia. The 102 PS/130 Nm engine is paired to a 4-speed automatic that sends power to all 4 wheels via Suzuki’s AllGrip system.

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We pit the Jimny to a 0-100 km/h sprint which is done and dusted in 15.81 seconds. For an SUV that isn’t catered for performance, it is not the figure that you would want to be entirely invested in.

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Beyond doing 0-100 km/h tests in the real world though, the Jimny surprises us yet again as the performance is capable even though it’s paired to a slushbox. The gear changes aren’t the worst on the Jimny and it can feel effortless.

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Push it hard and the Jimny will slot it in at just the right time, much more precise than another "modern" SUV that we had around the same time. As old school as the 4-speed is, on something that is meant to be as utilitarian as the Jimny, it responds as much as you want to.

Also read: 4AT vs CVT: Two steps forward, one step back?

Fuel econo…Living with the Jimny

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In an equal mix of city and highway driving for 100.5 km, the Suzuki Jimny’s fuel consumption is recorded at 8.1-litre/100 km which isn’t exactly earth-shattering considering its size and weight.

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Visibility from these side mirrors are great

Still, the Jimny feels like a proper car that you can live with on a day-to day basis. The small size makes it quite easy to move around the city and through tight parking spots which really makes it a more urban warrior than some clumsy, chunky pick-up truck.

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Can you spot a couple of references to the old Jimny in this photo?

The tall height adds a bit of a charm to the Jimny’s overall profile though some might find the boxy shape to be a bit too much, especially with an upright windshield.

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Even though everything might seem joyful in the Jimny, it has a few shortcomings when it comes to features that are barebones. Aside from two cupholders and two power windows, the Jimny also has two airbags, no DRLs, no reverse or front sensors, and a pair of automatic LED headlamps.

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Headlight washer button amidst all the blank switches

In some overseas markets, the Jimny comes with 6 airbags, AEB, lane departure warning (LDW), lane weaving alert, and automatic high beams. Knowing that, you might think Malaysians are short-changed considering how much it costs.

Price – Too much? Move along

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There’s only one variant of the Jimny offered in Malaysia and prices start from RM 168,900 (on-the-road, without insurance and with SST discount, valid until 30-June 2022). That might sound like a lot of moolah considering its size and features but that high price is the norm anywhere in the world, not just Malaysia.

Also read: Priced at RM 169k, here’s why the Malaysian-spec Suzuki Jimny is so expensive

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Having said that, if Naza Eastern Motor, Suzuki’s Malaysian distributor, were to offer more features for the Jimny, prices would certainly creep up beyond the RM 169k price tag which was already the talk of the town the moment it was announced.

Also read: RM 169k 2021 Suzuki Jimny is expensive? First 2 shipments sold out, more coming

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The third-gen Jimny, less charming than the current one but was cheaper at launch in 2013

Past generations of the Jimny never crept beyond RM 100k and the last generation that was sold here, the third-gen JB43, was priced from RM 81,488 to RM 86,488 back in 2013. Even accounting for inflation, that is still sub-RM 100k.

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Most Jimny owners are likely to spend their time in an urban jungle than an actual literal one

But do buyers really care about the high price? Absolutely not since it struck a chord immediately to those who can afford it. The instant it was launched, the first few units have been sold out and Suzuki’s representatives said that even with a 9-month waiting period, few cancelled their orders. It probably makes sense that for a lot of these buyers, the Jimny will be their secondary vehicle.

Conclusion

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You can convert your Jimny into a (clockwise from top left): a little G-Wagen, a Defender, the original Jimny, or a Ford Bronco

The Suzuki Jimny is undoubtedly a unique car that far exceeds its intended purpose. It brought character to what is a basic, essential tool for off-roading with its retro style and diminutive charm. There are even plenty of accessories available to spruce up the little 4x4 to add even more personality.

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At its nearly RM 170k price, the Jimny feels more like a fashion statement than something you would want to bash away at some off-road trail. It can handle anything beyond muddy paths and jagged rocks, sure but it’ll most probably be spending its days in an urban jungle than a literal forest.

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None of these really matters because, at end of the day, the Jimny is a companion you can’t help but fall in love with. You will forgive its shortcomings and high price the moment you take it out for a spin because it’s just too honest of a car in this crazy world.

CY Foong

Writer

Traded advertising for a career that fits his passion for cars. Enjoys spotting cars during his free time and has a soft spot for Japanese Kei cars but drives a thirsty manual sedan.

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