I thought I would share my experiences if you are considering buying one of these small cars. I decided on a Justy as it has part-time 4wd (we get bad winters where I live) and being so small I naturally thought the running costs would be small too. The '96 onwards justy is the same car as the old model suzuki swift, except for the 4x4 system, and uses the familiar G13B SOHC 8 valve engine. when I bought mine, I was told it had a "slight tappet rattle" so I got it home and set the tappets- low and behold, it's still tapping. It turned out that the little ends had worn out on number 3 cylinder, allowing the piston to flap around all over the place. I have since found out this is quite a common fault with these cars, so beware. you need to make sure the underside is solid, sills and floors will rust badly. bodywork is thin and flimsy and the paint is easily damaged.transmission maladies need to be treated with caution- the gearbox and diff needs semi synthetic gear oil and correct levels must be maintained.
I fitted a good used engine from a swift (you need to change the flywheel, clutch and rear coolant pipe for justy items) and so far its been trouble free. so what is it like to live with day to day?
whilst not as economical as you would expect from such a small car, it will still do 40mpg and has a decent turn of speed, although it must be said it's more at home off the motorways where the brilliant handling comes into its own. Yes, the part time 4x4 does work- it comes in during hard cornering or when you lose traction on one of the front wheels. The car just NEVER lets go, during hard cornering you will back off before the car does.
The important thing (for me) is that it really will pull through snow without any drama. the 4wd works fine without you doing anything, it just charges up hills through the snow with virtually no spin whatsoever, and that's on budget summer tyres. You just need to be aware that is does NOT have the ground clearance of a proper 4x4 so charging at snowdrifts or offroading is not on the agenda.
Routine servicing is easy enough, although it looks extremely tight to change the timing belt with the engine in situ. according to the manual it only requires changing every 60,000 miles but I dont think I would be comfortable leaving it quite this long!
The GX trim level (the only one available) is pretty well equipped for a little commuter car, with central locking, cup holders, rev counter, remote boot release, electric mirrors and whilst the boot is absolutely tiny (it has to be- the rear diff lives underneath) with the rear seats folded flat you can fit in a fridge freezer.
It's too small to use as a family car, there is room for 2 adults and 2 children but not for anything else such as pushchairs,shopping etc. as an empty nester's town car it's great, power steering and small size means its a doddle to park.
In summary, its an ok car but you need to try before you buy. the justy is a little-known model and is thus very cheap to buy. also as it was by no means cheap when new, there are plenty of well-looked after one owner FSH cars out there. if you dont need the 4wd you'd do just as well with a corsa, saxo, 106 or fiesta, although these are more likely to have been thrashed. horses for courses....