Suzuki Jimny Sierra long term test: field work

David Linklater
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Our Jimny Sierra mixing it up in the real (rural) world.

Report 1 24/05/24Report 2 20/06/24

REPORT 2: FIELD WORK (20th June 2024)

Mileage: 1321km

Fieldays this month afforded our Jimny Sierra a double-header of sheer excitement: its first road trip of any real length and its first opportunity to head off-tarmac, or at least into the often-muddy world of Mystery Creek parking.

Suzuki Jimny Sierra.
By special request, Fieldays entry wristband matched the Jimny. Cheers everybody.

Jimnys are only designed to be good at one of those things, of course. Especially when the road trip in question is basically 300km of motorway.

So here we go: a step into the real world of motoring after largely city running and the initiation ceremony for any new Suzuki: a post-1000km service check at the dealer. All good.

Suzuki Jimny Sierra.
Potentially space for a couple of Jimnys here.

With two of us on board, the Jimny was as you’d expect: noisy (3000rpm at 100km/h, 3500rpm at 110km/h on the Waikato Expressway) and bouncy. But despite/because of all that, also funny: we laughed pretty much the whole way, especially when two elderly blokes (well, more elderly) steamed past us at an estimated 120km/h in another current-gen Jimny. They say the hearing is the first to go.

High-speed directional stability is not this vehicle’s forte. It’s actually fine at 80km/h, gets the wanders at 100km/h but settles again at 110km/h. Motorway driving has never felt so engaging.

Suzuki Jimny Sierra.
Sadly, still no excuse to work that other lever. Be patient.

Unusually fine weather at Fieldays for the opening day meant off-tarmac parking wasn’t a challenge at all: firm underfoot and not even worthy of a shift from 2WD to 4WD High. Oh well, another time. But our Kinetic Yellow super-kei did cut a fine figure amongst all the working utes.

An overall average of 6.6l/100km for the trip was pretty good considering the car has no discernable aerodynamic quality and the 1.5-litre engine is always busy; the manual could really do with a 6th ratio and indeed seems to be geared with the expectation that there is one. No such luck.

Suzuki Jimny Sierra.
Cargo doesn't stay arranged like this on the move.

The large cargo tray, which sits permanently over the folded rear chairs, was useful for simply chucking gumboots and bags in, but it’s a bit… slidey on the move. A partition would be good; or hooks for the side panels, which I know do exist in the aftermarket. I will investigate.

We were also somewhat surprised the front seats were relatively comfortable, given they seem to be basically made of two small sponges; my back often suffers even on short trips, but it was fine in this car, on this occasion.

Suzuki Jimny Sierra.
Trip average of 6.6l/100km not bad for a little box.

Might have been because you sit so upright in a Jimny; might have been all that walking around at Fieldays. Whatever, the little Suzuki was a colourful addition to the team for our annual rural outing.

REPORT 1: JIM MEMBERSHIP (25th May 2024)

Mileage: 121km

I've just got a hard-core 4x4 in a pretty colour. I’m going to drive it mainly around town. Yes, now I’m one of those people.

Kinetic Yellow is inspired by high-vis equipment, according to Suzuki. You don't say.

Meet the latest addition to the DRIVEN Car Guide long-term fleet: the Suzuki Jimny Sierra 3dr. And just to set the ground rules, this one’s a bit different to our other long termers. Usually they are supplied by car companies, we share them around staff/contributors and report on our experiences far beyond the normal week-long review. They give us a more of an insight into what it’s like to “own” a car.

You have to accessorise a Suzuki Jimny. It's the law.

But I do actually own this one. I bought it. Which is not just my way of saying I won’t be sharing, but also to state that it was purchased at full price (there’s no other way to get a Jimny really, they’re in demand) from a main dealer.

Suzuki Jimny Sierra 3dr.
Certainly not the only new Jimny being delivered that day. There's a lot of it around.

Same financial status for the accessories: all purchased at retail. Fair and square, no consideration given or asked for its future fame within the DRIVEN world.

With a different engine and shorn of its plastic wheelarch extensions, the Jimny is small enough to qualify as a 'kei' micro-car in Japan.

I’ve always wanted a Jimny, I love the heritage and I love the fact it’s pretty much made to do just one thing really well: go off-road. Even though that’s not its primary role for most buyers.

Suzuki Jimny Sierra 3dr.
Delight in the tiny details: all part of the experience.

I also love Japanese kei-cars (a micro-car class with restricted engine size and exterior dimensions) and this is the closest any New Zealand-new vehicle gets to one. In fact, with a 660cc engine and shorn of its plastic wheelarch extensions, the Jimny does actually qualify as a kei-car in Japan.

The optional cargo tray renders the rear chairs useless, but they pretty much are anyway in a car this size.

I also feel I can afford to be a bit indulgent/silly with my personal vehicle, given I mostly drive other cars for my job. This is not a daily drive for me, although it still serves as a family car at my house. 

Suzuki Jimny Sierra 3dr.
If you don't need the rear seats, the optional cargo tray is a awesome.

To answer your next question, I did consider the new Jimny 5dr. It looks almost as adorable as the 3dr and the extra legroom is useful if you need it. I don't. The rear seats fold completely flat in the 3dr (not in the 5dr) which makes it a much more useful thing for me. Especially with the addition of the optional cargo tray - which renders the rear chairs useless, but they pretty much are anyway in a car this size.

Mine’s the Sierra, but with the above in mind I did consider the JX two-seat van - because I think its steel wheels look awesome and it’s $3k cheaper. However, it’s lacking a few key features: self-levelling LED headlights, phone projection and climate control to name a few. I think it was the very basic-feeling urethane steering wheel that finally put me off. Oh, and you can’t have the JX in Kinetic Yellow.

Suzuki Jimny Sierra 3dr.
Suzuki hasn't missed a beat on cabin style, but it did forget to include much storage space.

I was a little surprised to find that in the time between ordering and receiving the car (a matter of weeks), the sat-nav formerly part of the Sierra specification had disappeared. Deleted by the factory across the range starting with my shipment apparently, and not a big deal for me personally because I always use phone projection; but a potential issue given I had signed up and paid for a car fitted with what's presumably a costly piece of equipment. Actually, I didn't care. But some might.

Anyway, here it is: Jimny Sierra 3dr manual with the optional factory two-tone exterior finish (it adds $510 and a black roof to Kinetic Yellow, Chiffon Ivory or Brisk Blue) for $36,500. I had the carpet mats replaced with heavy duty rubber ones (no extra cost) and I also opted for the $899 3-year service package.

Suzuki Jimny Sierra 3dr.
Tactical Grille is aftermarket, blends heritage style with back-on-black.

You have to accessorise a Jimny: it’s the law. The original grille is now hanging on my office wall, replaced by the blacked-out Wilberforce Tactical Grille, which I think looks great with the yellow. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a $215 aftermarket item (there's so much out there) that’s less than half the price of Suzuki NZ’s own grey/white Heritage Grille.

What could clash more with yellowy-green than red mudflaps I thought, so I got those ($400). That and the cargo tray ($250) are both Suzuki accessories supplied by the dealer (which also kindly fitted my outsourced grille at no charge).

Suzuki Jimny Sierra 3dr.
It's a Jimny, in case you hadn't realised. Jimny, Jimny.

Finally, I need to carry two bikes. I considered and rejected roof racks on the basis of cost combined with limited load capacity on the gutter mounts (yes, just like a 1970s car) and opted for a Yakima Spare Ride 2 ($500), a brilliant piece of kit that’s designed for 4x4s with external spare wheels: it’s locked to the back door through the wheel mount so it’s really safe and strong. It’s also good protection against other people’s errant parking.

Yes, I do know the Jimny is famously crude on-road (beam axles front and rear!), but that’s part of the cheeky character and it’s certainly not pretending to be anything other than what it is. The closest thing in spirit (if not size) is a Toyota Land Cruiser 70: basically a classic 4x4 that you can buy brand new.

Suzuki Jimny Sierra 3dr.
Yakima Spare Ride 2 rack locks to the spare wheel mount. Only for proper 4x4s, sorry.

To those who taunt me (there have been several already), I am intending to go off-tarmac, because I’ve been lucky enough to experience what Jimnys can do through my day job.

But mine’s not hopping over any rocks until the new-car smell and shine is well gone.

What is the Suzuki Jimny?

Cute looks and city friendly dimensions sell it to many, but the Jimny is also a heritage 4x4 with tough underpinnings that date back decades. It's one of the world's great off-roaders.

Why are we running it?

To see how much the overwhelming emotional appeal of this little mite is undermined by the reality of real-world driving. And to have fun!


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