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19 Aug, 2019 2:00pm Richard Dredge
A full used buyer’s guide on the Suzuki Jimny covering the Jimny (1998-2018)
Suzuki has a long history of producing titchy 4×4 vehicles. As long ago as 1970, the Japanese firm launched the LJ10, a Jeep-style four-wheel drive powered by a 360cc two-cylinder two-stroke engine. Then in 1981 came the SJ: a bigger 4×4 with a 1.0-litre, four-cylinder engine. This was the first Suzuki 4×4 to come to the UK, where it was sold as the SJ410, and it remained on sale until the late nineties, when the Jimny took over.
After the SJ410, the Jimny was a big step forward in many ways, but in a fast-paced industry rivals soon eclipsed it for comfort and safety. Don’t dismiss this little Suzuki completely, though, because it can be quite endearing in the right circumstances.
- • Suzuki Jimny (1998-2018) – Short on frills but big on thrills, this small 4×4 is cheap and cheerful.
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The Suzuki Jimny arrived in March 1999 as a three-door hard top, but a year later the Soft Top was introduced, bringing with it a removable roof. A refresh in April 2004 added a CD/tuner, twin airbags, ABS and EBD, then another update in March 2005 brought a push-button selector for the 4×4 system and remote central locking.
A JLX+ model joined the range in March 2006 with body-coloured door handles, silver roof rails and a leather interior. Then a new range-topper appeared in July 2009; the SZ4 featured privacy glass, 15-inch alloy wheels and metallic paint.
Another refresh in January 2013 brought a Euro 5-compliant engine, minor styling tweaks plus Isofix mountings for the two rear seats. Further updates in November 2014 brought extra colours, plus standard tyre-pressure monitoring and ESP.
Suzuki Jimny reviews
Which one should I buy?
There’s only one engine: a 1.3-litre petrol. This initially came with 82bhp, but from March 2005 its power was boosted slightly to 85bhp. You can choose a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic gearbox, but we’d always take the former.
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No Jimny is lavishly equipped and, unless you’re buying a relatively new example, you should focus on condition rather than specification. We would avoid pre-March 2005 cars, though, because the revamped engine has variable valve timing, more low-down torque and is more efficient.
Alternatives to the Suzuki Jimny
The Jimny’s only true rival is the Daihatsu Terios, which was sold in the UK from 1998 to 2006. This was also small, cheap and quite capable off road, but not so good for on-road driving. It’s by far the most readily available used Daihatsu, but there still aren’t very many to choose from.
You could also consider the Dacia Duster. It’s larger and more modern than the Jimny, but similarly capable off road, and more refined, affordable and available with petrol or diesel power. If you just want the security of four-wheel drive but have no plans to go off-roading you could buy a Vauxhall Mokka or Nissan Juke. Unlike most B-segment SUVs, these are available with four-wheel drive. Both are plentiful and they’re also much more up to date than the Suzuki.
What to look for
Some cars are fitted with three-spoke alloy wheels, which have been known to buckle. Stronger replacements are available.
The front brake discs are somewhat prone to warping, so make sure to feel carefully for juddering through the pedal as you press it.
If you’re looking to buy one of the soft-tops, check to see if water has managed to get into the cabin, because leaks are a common occurrence.
Look closely for signs of rust, particularly in the wheelarches, door bottoms, boot floor, floorpans, and behind the bodykit.
It’s like stepping back in time. Refinement is poor, the dashboard is dated, many of the materials look cheap, and the rear seats are flat, unsupportive and have very little legroom. It’s not as though the boot is big to make up for those cramped rear seats; it can stow just 113 or 816 litres (seats up/down). Throw in vague steering plus a bumpy ride, and the Jimny is clearly very compromised.
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Service intervals are 9,000 miles or 12 months, alternating between minor and major, which are priced at £186-£290 and £318-£525. Jimnys more than three years old get discounted maintenance at Suzuki dealers, with services costing from £129-£259.
Even the major service is largely about checking and reporting, though; the replacements are the brake fluid, in-line fuel filter, plus the air and pollen filters. The minor service comprises an oil and filter change plus a check of the coolant level and electrics. The brake fluid should be replaced every two years or 18,000 miles and the coolant every three years or 36,000 miles. There’s no cam belt to renew.
The Jimny has been recalled five times over 20 years. The gearstick could fall apart on cars built up to October 1999. A loss of power steering assistance led to the second recall in July 2010; in April 2014 the third was for axle fixings that could work loose. The fourth came in September 2015 because of potential electronic stability programme failure, while the latest campaign tackled possible brake servo failure.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
The Jimny hasn’t made it into our new or used Driver Power surveys because it’s too specialised. But there are more than 30 owner reviews on the Carbuyer website with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5. Many owners revel in the durability of their Suzuki, its off-roading ability and its great looks – but not the poor refinement or disappointing fuel economy.
The Suzuki Jimny had an incredible 20-year stint, and it was hardly the last word in comfort, refinement or technology when it arrived. By the time it bowed out in 2018 it felt positively ancient, outclassed comprehensively by newer alternatives that were safer, quieter, better equipped and more comfortable. But as one owner told us: “I’d much rather drive a BMW, Merc or Audi. The Jimny’s wipers are rubbish and the headlights are like candles. But in the snow this little car leaves them all sliding about on the road – its 4×4 capability is unreal.” It’s extremely compromised on-road, but if you need something that won’t break the bank yet which will take you anywhere at any time of the year, even when the road runs out, the Jimny has few real rivals.