Suzuki Jimny Sierra 2012 Review

Suzuki Jimny Sierra 2012 Review

It’s been four years since we’ve had a Jimny Sierra to drive and it may be three grand more, but it’s still the best value-for-money off-roader you can buy.

I’ve always maintained that the Jimny is the perfect car to learn to drive in. It’s manual (although, you can get an auto ‘box if you want), and it doesn’t have unnecessary fluff to distract you from the task at hand. The sat nav is made of paper (it’s called a map book), the heat in the seats comes from your own buttocks, and the cruise control is your right foot. There’s hardly any power (62.5kW – notice how they put the .5 in there because 62 sounds just so low?) Torque isn’t much better at 110Nm and if you try to drive it at more than 100kph it

starts feeling a bit squiffy. So, it’s perfect for those who are at the beginning of their driving career because it’s just you, 62.5kW of fury and the road (or the mud, if you put it in low-range four-wheel drive).

That’s something you just don’t get for $22,900: low-range four-wheel drive. It’s the preserve of serious off-roaders which (increasingly) are bloated compromises to keep the on-roaders happy. The Jimny weighs a paltry 1060kg which means it almost floats on top of the mud rather than sinking in. This gives it credibility in the off-road community because they know that where a Pajero might get stuck like a hippo in quicksand, the Jimny is like a waterboatman on a calm lake.

I might be exaggerating a tad here. The suspension is anything but floaty on the rough stuff and it’s not that sophisticated on the blacktop. If you are a novice driver chances are that at least once you will end up off the road and, assuming you haven’t rolled it, a regular car will probably be stuck. The Jimny, though, probably won’t be because you’ll kick it down into low-range 4WD (courtesy of a button on the dash), and ease your way out.

The boot is quite small. There are two tiny cubby holes in which you can hide something like a wallet or a guinea pig, but nothing any bigger. There’s no boot blind, so anything in the car will be on show to all and sundry. Two people can fit in the back and the space isn’t bad for short journeys.

The interior accoutrements consist of a stereo with some fairly tinny speakers, a few cup holders, a couple of airbags…and (scratches head)…electric mirrors and windows. There is ABS, but nothing else to assist with traction (not that you’ll need it with 62.5kW). Around town the Jimny Sierra is a doddle to park and has excellent visibility. You can get in narrow spaces, short spaces, spaces where you might have to drive over something lumpy. It’s fantastic because every corner of the car seems like it’s within arm’s length. You could live in town, but beat a path to the gravel tracks on the weekend.

While I’ve expounded its virtues as a learner driver’s car, it would also suit those with less mobility as it has a high hip line – it’s easy to get in and out of. Older purchasers might plump for the automatic gearbox and, as they will undoubtedly have experienced cars from yesterday they’ll be right at home with the dimensions.

It’s narrow like a car from the early ‘70s, and with it being so high, you do feel the roll. This isn’t helped by the steering being lighter than I remember on the last version. Driving the Jimny is actually fun, unless you are extremely fat, in which case you will spill into the passenger area. If you’ve been in a Triumph TR6 (which I had the pleasure of being a passenger in on the way to Suzuki), then you’ll know what I mean.

And that is the essence of this car. It’s as unadorned as a car from the ‘70s, but without the hassle of leaking oil all over the driveway. On the inside it’s all practical, hard-wearing plastics and on the outside it’s a no-nonsense square-cornered, character-filled mud-plugger.

I know how motoring journalists in the ‘70s must have felt. Nowadays we have all kinds of things to write about, like how the voice in the sat nav sounds like an angry matron. The Jimny Sierra, though, is just a car. No more, no less. It doesn’t pretend to cosset or comfort you, or dazzle you with an array of electronic wizardry. It does the job: rough roads, smooth roads, on your own, or with a couple of others and a small dog, it’s going to get you there in quirky style.


  • Cheap 4WD thrills
  • There’s nothing really to go wrong (because there is, actually, nothing to go wrong)
  • Slightly better fuel economy than the previous model (7.1l/100km vs 7.3)
  • Position the mirrors right and visibility is excellent


  • No hidden storage
  • Steering is too light
  • Front seat won’t go back far enough if you’re more than 6’2”.
  • Is 2 airbags enough these days?

Price: $22,900

Comfort Power Steering
  Electric windows
  Electrically adjustable exterior mirrors
  Remote central door locking (including tailgate)
  Audio system – Sony Radio/CD/MP3 with 2 speakers
  Air conditioning
Instrument Panel Tachometer
  Glove box & passenger side compartment
Exterior Body-coloured bumpers
  2-speed intermittent wipers
  Rear window defogger/wiper/washer
  Coloured side-splash panels
  Roof rails
  Fog lamps – optional
  Spare wheel cover – optional
  15 inch alloy wheels
Safety and Security Push button drive Select 4WD system
  SRS dual front airbags
  Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
  Front ELR seat belts (pretensioners & force limiters)
  Height adjustable front seat belt anchors
  Adjustable head restraints
  Engine Immobiliser
  Side impact beams
Overall Length 3645mm
Overall Width 1600mm
Overall Height 1705mm
Wheelbase 2250mm
Ground Clearance 190mm
Minimum turning radius 4.9m
Curb weight 1060 (1075) kg
Gross vehicle weight 1420kg
Engine Type M13A with VVT, 4 cylinder, 16 valve
Displacement 1328cc
Maximum Output (EEC net) 63/6000 Kw/rpm
Maximum Torque (EEC net) 110/4100 Nm/rpm
Fuel Type 95RON
Fuel Consumption – Combined 7.1-7.3L/100km
CO2 emissions 162-167 g/km
Part time drive action 4 x 4 High/low ratio transfer gears
Transmission Type – Manual 5 – speed
Transmission Type – Automatic 4 – speed
Steering Ball and recirculating
Suspension – Front 3-link with coil spring rigid axle
Suspension – Rear 3-link with coil spring rigid axle
Brakes – Front Ventilated disc
Brakes – Rear Drum, leading & trailing
Tyres 205/70R15
Seating Capacity 4
Fuel Tank (litres) 40 L (Unleaded 95)

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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