2015 Suzuki Jimny Sierra road test review | Life’s a beach

First reaching our shores about 40 years ago was the Suzuki LJ50 - arguably the first compact sports utility vehicle on the market. Looking back now, it was a trailblazer.

That paved the way for the Jimny Sierra, which remains true to the brand's original heritage and ethos - a fun, go-anywhere offering suitable for everything from the bush to the beach.

With prices starting from $19,990 drive-away it sits at the bargain end of the SUV spectrum and as our experience proved this week it's lost none of its unbridled attitude.

Comfort

Functionality is at the fore, with a hefty use of hard plastics across the console and dash. While it won't win any beauty contests the cabin will gain fans for its simplicity.

There is no chance of getting lost or bewildered by the operations, the Jimny has a utilitarian edge as dictated by the price tag and its audience.

The driver has two primary gauges, tacho and speedo, while in the middle is a digital temperature and fuel read-out.

Being a two-door four-seater it can take some work getting adults into the back and leg room can be cramped, although it can be done as long as those up front have some consideration.

Cloth seats are reasonably flat but spongy and we didn't have any complaints from passengers even after a four-hour trek.

On the road

Ground clearance of 190mm, short overhangs and a lithe 1060kg kerb weight makes this one nimble little beast.

It skipped over the Stradbroke Island sand like shelling peas and we had no need to drop the tyre pressures. The 1.3-litre four-cylinder is happy to work too and you need to keep things spinning on the challenging terrain to maintain constant momentum in the softer stuff.

Switching between two-wheel drive, four-high and four-low can be done on the fly by just pressing buttons on the dash.

Highway travels revealed the biggest surprise. Humming along at 4000rpm the Jimny rides surprisingly quietly, with limited road rumble - we expected it to scream all the way home after our beach shenanigans but cabin ambience was better than some small passenger cars.

The steering is light although not completely bereft of a responsive feel.

When on the bitumen and around town steep hills can present some challenges. Fully loaded with passengers or gear you really need to stick the boot in and make timely shifts to maintain speed.

What do you get?

The key inclusion with this latest model is

stability control, which helps the driver maintain control of the car by applying individual brakes and assisting to bring the car safely back on track to avoid fish-tailing.

Other than that, the standard items include air conditioning, CD stereo, electric mirrors and windows, anti-lock brakes and dual airbags. Alloy wheels are an option for $1000.

Iain Curry

Practicality

With only 113 litres of boot space it is a confined area, although the rear seats fold easily to create a handy spot for larger equipment.

Children's seats can be installed, with Isofix points available, but the rear tether stretches right to the back of the boot, which impedes space. The single-side hinged rear door can also cause loading issues in tight suburban car parks, although its a compact unit so there should be room to spare.

Dual cup holders sit at the rear of the centre console (automatic models have three) while the two back seats also get one each and the two doors have an elasticised band and small pockets, which are only really useful for maps or documents.

You do get a 12-volt plug in front of the shifter close to a storage spot perfect for phones, while there is a handy nook above the glove box for other bits and pieces.

Towing a small boat, jet ski or motorbike trailers can be done with a braked trailer capacity exceeding one tonne.

Running costs

Capped price servicing is at the cheaper end of the scale and costs no more than $600 annually for two services.

Funky factor

Well, things haven't changed much in 30-odd years of the Jimny being on Australian roads. It's a boxy little thing but compact dimensions and the bonnet scoop give it some retro appeal.

Steel wheels are standard but it wouldn't take much to convince us to upgrade to the alloys and we'd like to see an up-spec version with some better internal trinkets and maybe even some leather trim.

The lowdown

During the past two years there's been an explosion in what's become the sub-compact SUV genre. Joining the Mitsubishi ASX has been the Holden Trax, Peugeot 2008 and Ford EcoSport, while in the coming months we'll see the Renault Captur and Mazda CX-3 join the race, although none are as off-road capable.

Add an aftermarket stereo with Bluetooth capability and the Jimny becomes an attractive option for those who want to go off the bitumen.

The inclusion of stability control ticks a major box, especially for young drivers.

Yes, it still drives like an old car. But it's fun and brimming with personality and, backed by a strong Suzuki reputation for longevity, it proves you may grow old but not up.

What matter most

What we liked: Awesome go-anywhere ability, element of old-school driving.

What we'd like to see: Cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and better stereo.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year 100,000km warranty, extended to five years with dealer servicing. Capped price servicing for five years or 100,000km, prices vary between $269 and $299, intervals are six months or 10,000km.

Vital statistics

Model: Suzuki Jimny Sierra.

Details: Four-wheel drive four-seat compact utility vehicle.

Engine: 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 62kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 110Nm @ 4100rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

Consumption: 7.1 litres/100km (combined average, manual), 7.4L/100km (a).

CO2: 168g/km (m): 175g/km (a).

Towing: 1100kg, tow ball 110kg.

Bottom line: $19,990 drive-away, automatic $2000, alloy wheels $1000.



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