There really is a unique kind of appeal with the Suzuki Jimny.
Some would point to the style; they truly nailed it, that much is certain. Some would point to the 4x4 capabilities; on that, the Jimny has a cult following that can rival much more esteemed brands. Some would just downright say that it's so freakin' cute; and we would agree.
We would argue that the Jimny, particularly this all-new model, is a great form of entertainment on four wheels. And it can truly spice up the daily drive whether you need to engage 4x4 or not.
This isn't our first outing with the all new Suzuki Jimny. The last one we drove (the Jimny GL manual) was enjoyable, but it had a few issues that were hard to get around. Given the hype and the brand's reputation, we had high expectations (and so do many of you) when it comes to quality, specifically for a Japanese made vehicle like the Jimny. Now we've got my hands on top spec model: the GLX automatic. Maybe this one can make up for it and convince us that the last one was the exception, not the rule.
When the Jimny GLX arrived, we really thought someone had dropped a few million Stabilo highlighters in a paint can and then sprayed it all over the Jimny. The paintwork seems brighter than the similar hues you'd find in the Hyundai Kona or even the Civic SIR from two decades ago. We actually do like the attention-getting paint, particularly with contrast it has with the black roof and black bumpers and overriders; at the very least, if any other driver collides with it, they can't exactly claim they didn't see the Jimny.
The styling is very classic and boxy. We like the proportions, the cuts, the creases, the details and the overall lack of excess automotive heft and fat. If Pacquiao was a car, this is how he looks just before a fight.
The details are likewise classic, simple, but very functional. The headlight bulbs (and all the other lights up front) are all housed in classic round lamps. But since this is the top-of-the-line GLX, LED headlights are fitted as standard (foglights are still halogen however). The grille with 5 holes and the S emblem in the middle looks really nice; if they used 7 holes, Jeep would have had an issue. Suzuki didn't bother painting the bumpers; they're going to get scuffed up anyway the moment you take it off-road. We also like the fact that the Suzuki didn't bother putting the spare tire underneath or tucking the tailgate hinge into the doors. What we did love, oddly enough, was the presence of old-school rails (the kind you'd find in an old Defender, or an L300) that prevent water from dripping into the cabin when you open the windows.
This fourth generation three-door Jimny has grown, it's still very tiny by today's standards. Width is where the there's a significant change, as the Jimny is 45mm wider at 1645mm. The Jimny is also taller at 1725mm, or +35mm compared to the previous model. Despite that, the new Jimny is actually shorter than the one it replaced; if we're just counting from bumper to bumper, the Jimny measures 3480mm long without the spare tire which adds an extra 170mm of length. If you're curious whether or not the Jimny can fit in your garage, then all you have to do is take about 6 normal steps or paces. That's the length of the Jimny, more or less.
What's important about the Jimny is to know that it isn't a crossover: this is an authentic SUV, complete with a ladder frame. That means it has some real off-road abilities, and it begins with some numbers: a 34-degree approach angle, 49-degree departure angle, and 210mm of ground clearance. To get a better idea of the clearance, the Jimny should be able to drive over a standard hollow concrete block standing up on its side. They measure about 200mm tall.
If you get on your knees and look underneath, you can spot the ladder frame which has been improved with these X-shaped struts connecting the longitudinal frame pieces. You'll also be able to spot the rigid axles both in front and in the rear, as well as the prop shaft that's set fairly high up into the frame to avoid damage when off-roading. Unlike the Jimny GL we drove before, this one didn't come with a skid plate for the rear differential.
If you have to open the tailgate, you'll have to park the rear of the vehicle further away from either the wall or another car. Unlike all the crossovers in our market, the tailgate swings out to the right, not up. That means you'll have to compensate, unless you want to leave a bright green mark on the car behind you.
With the seats up, there really isn't much space left, though there is a little luggage compartment that's good for some tools and such. If hunting is your kind of thing, that little compartment might be suitable for a small, uh, folding rifle. With the rear seats down, boot space is actually quite good; Suzuki says it can accommodate up to 377 liters of cargo (using the VDA standard) with the rear seats folded down. One issue we have with the Jimny is the material they used for the back of the seats. It;s not fabric that would easily scuff up; it's made of plastic. There's no issue with durability, but unless you have a non-slip mat of some kind on it, anything you put there will probably fly forward if you had to brake.
The front doors actually open quite wide for a small vehicle; we think it's even comparable to how wide van doors tend to open. Once inside, you'll be welcomed by a cabin that's really mostly plastic. That's not much of an issue though, as the execution is quite neat, functional, and rather rugged. We like the layout, the massive 9 inch touchscreen audio system, the details like the exposed allen bolts holding some pieces onto the dash, the A/C controls (automatic, for the GLX) that jut out from the dash, and the grab handle for the front passenger; that last one comes with a leather-like sleeve unlike the GL we drove before.
Overall comfort is much better than the older model. In the old model, when you close the doors, chances are you closed your legs too; it was that narrow. This one is more comfortable, especially for wider guys. And the front seats are very much improved in terms of overall support and plushness. The rear seats can only take two passengers, but that's OK. The Jimny is really more for personal transport for two, with the rear seats only best used occasionally or if there is no other option. That's the Jimny's limitation, especially as a 3-door SUV.
The 2019 Jimny now comes with a K15B that, as the engine code implies, displaces 1.5-liters. Jimny fans would know that the predecessor came with a smaller 1.3-liter unit that made 87 PS and 110 Nm of torque; nothing stellar, but adequate for a vehicle that weighed 1075 kilos. This new Jimny's 1.5-liter makes 100 PS and 130 Nm of torque that's moving a vehicle weighing in at 1110 kilos. The numbers sound insignificant, but when we compute power to weight (PS per metric ton), the story changes: the old model was 80.9 PS/tonne, while the new one is 90.1 PS/tonne. It's an 11% improvement in power to weight.
The big difference between this Jimny GLX and the Jimny GL we drove a month ago is the transmission. The GL came with a 5-speed manual, a gearbox that we said wasn't as refined as we expected it to be. This GLX comes with a 4-speed automatic. By today's standards with CVTs and automatics that have 5 or more speeds, a 4-speed slushbox doesn't sound like anything to write home about, but in practice this rather old-school 'box actually works well, and it shouldn't be that difficult to maintain, at least in theory.
As an urban vehicle, the Jimny GLX is more like it. We didn't like the manual gearbox of the GL, but the auto works fine for our kinds of roads; proving to be fairly smooth and very quiet for the daily drive and responsive enough to deal with city traffic. City fuel economy isn't as good as the 9.9 km/l we were getting in the GL, but at 9.6 km/l (18 km/h average) it's a happy compromise for automatic convenience.
Like the GL, the GLX is a hoot to drive in traffic. You can do maneuvers in city traffic that you won't dare do in a bigger or longer vehicle, and you're not so worried about bumps or potholes on the road with the clearance. It rides fairly comfortably too, and that's already factoring in that this is a vehicle with a very short wheelbase; normally, with a wheelbase this short, you'd be bouncing around uncomfortably. On a faster drive, the Jimny automatic does OK. It won't be as good as crossovers at high speed with its soft suspension or its OK brakes, but the Jimny is still fun, albeit old school.
Timing and weather didn't permit a more serious off-road test, though we were able to take it on a light trail east of the metro and get a feel for the stability that the 4x4 system offers in 4WD high range. Even on slippery and muddy roads, it does alright for something that's riding on highway tires. Stability control works well, mildly cutting in to prevent undue spin on the wheel with less load. We did get to play around with the inclinometer functions on the multimedia unit, and it's really a nice modern throwback to those fluid-filled inclinometer of old.
More importantly, those issues we experienced with the GL like external exhaust fumes being noticeable in the cabin or the maligned steering wheel are non-existent in the GLX, lending us to think it was really how the other unit was driven before. Hopefully other Jimny units out there are as well built as this.
There are really two issues with this Jimny: the first is pricing: the Jimny doesn't benefit from any free trade agreements. It's made in Japan, so it has to pay full tariffs unlike vehicles made within ASEAN. It doesn't benefit from JPEPA either; the engine is too small. The result is that this 2019 Suzuki Jimny GLX 2-tone (the black roof) costs PhP 1,095,000.
The price tag is pretty high considering the size, but once you drive the Jimny, you'll realize it may be worth it because of how entertaining your daily drive can be. The automatic feels a lot better to drive than the manual, and that's not because it's more convenient; it's because the powertrain isn't as noisy or as gruff as the one in the GL. If they can refine the 5-speed manual a bit more, that would be our choice but for now the Jimny GLX 4AT -archaic as the gearbox may seem- is the way to go.
Oh, and the second issue pertains to demand and supply. Global demand is very high, and understandably so given the hype. They can't produce it fast enough at their factory in Japan. That should get better when Suzuki starts to produce the Jimny in overseas factories, but for now, supplies will be slowly trickling in, making the Jimny a rare sight on our roads despite the really long reservation lines at dealerships.
Funny story though: someone actually offered to pay cash in full and up front for this already used test car from Suzuki. Too bad it wasn't for sale.