The Knowledge: When we can go outside again, let's do it properly with a Suzuki Jimny
Alex has been a road tester and motoring writer for more than 10 years, and has written on new, used and classic cars for What Car?, Autocar, The Daily Telegraph and PistonHeads, among many others.
It’s all a bit grim in the world at the moment, isn’t it? Thankfully, it won’t last forever. So now’s the time to look forward to those glorious days of summer – or maybe autumn – when we’ll be allowed to go outside again. And what better way to do so than with a cute, perky little off-roader you can buy for buttons, and use to explore the great outdoors? Cue the Suzuki Jimny.
The latest Jimny has stolen the limelight with its miniaturised G-Class looks – but it’s the earlier model, on sale – somewhat unbelievably – from 1998 until 2018, that looks like the real bargain right now.
It might be small, but the Jimny’s size belies its ability. It’s the mountain goat of cars, capable of scaling seemingly impossible terrain and embarrassing larger, more rugged machinery as it goes.
The key to its immense off-road skills is its lightness. The Jimny skips over boggy ground, and has less weight to haul up craggy inclines. A happy by-product is that the little 1.3-litre engine sips fuel, and is cheap and easy to fix when it goes wrong. Not that it will; Jimnys have a reputation for impressive durability.
Of course, there are downsides. A Jimny isn’t a great companion on the road – its bouncy ride and plasticky, cramped interior make a less-than-luxurious way to travel, while those tall sides and the narrow track mean cornering is best carried out at a leisurely pace. But as a characterful toy that’s cheap to run and easy to park – and that you can take green-laning at the weekends – the Jimny’s smile-per-mile ratio is off the scale.
Why you should buy one now
There’s a Jimny for every budget. No, really, there is. Want a tatty early example with a long-ish MOT that you can use as an off-road beater? Then you need pay no more than £1,500.
From there, prices run all the way up to £15,000 or thereabouts for a last-of-the-line example with a super-low mileage. Though if you ask us, you don’t want to do that, as it’s just too much to fork out unless you’re planning to stash your Jimny away for 20 years in an airtight bubble. And you don’t want to do that, either, as there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back; in any case, these things are just too much fun to mothball.
What to look out for
Engines are hardy if they’re looked after well, but listen for tapping camshafts and watch out for head gasket failures – they’re not unknown. Sympathetic maintenance is a must.
A Jimny that has worked hard off road may have more than just body issues underneath – look out for suspension problems such as worn bushes, snapped springs and tired shock absorbers
Jimnys can also suffer from steering wheel wobble above 40mph. This can be caused by a number of issues, all of which are fixable – but you might want to chip some money off to budget for investigation and repair.
Interiors are generally hardy, but scratched-up plastics and worn seats point to a car that’s had a tough life.
If you’re after an off-road weapon to get out into the countryside once lockdown has been eased, though, the Jimny will go anywhere you want it to – and all for a bare minimum of cash.
Go on, browse. You know you want to...
We'll just leave this link to second-hand Jimnys here.