Category: Suzuki

Putting the Sport in SUV with the Suzuki Vitara

Suzuki is no stranger to the world of off-roading, having the utilitarian Jimny, their first 4WD model as the bona fide option for trail-hungry enthusiasts from as early as 1970. Towards the end of the millennium however, scores of consumers were beginning to show interest in more usable utility vehicles but without the bare-bones build quality of the traditional off-roaders at the time. Enter the docile first generation Vitara shape in 1988, which was poised to bridge that gap. It offered an elevated seating position, improved creature comforts, all wheel-drive and off road capability all packaged into compact and configurable dimensions. Most importantly, the Vitara was affordable and accessible to the masses. This makes it arguably one of the first SUV forerunners, embodying the definition of the segment before it ever existed. So, what has changed in over 30 years then? 

The car we had on test – a facelifted fourth generation 1.4 Turbo GLX AT is not a brand new release. Its underpinnings date back to 2015 but the mid cycle refresh, which debuted in 2019 has updated the iconic nameplate with updated technology and features. 

First thing is first, the Vitara has gravitated away from its roots (somewhat) and ditched the lone 4WD layout that made this model a success story in the late 1980’s. Its capabilities have now been more aligned with the typical city orientated SUV with the transversally laid out motor powering the front wheels while offering an accessible 185mm of ground clearance. Out of the seven derivatives offered, the only model with Allgrip (4WD) is the naturally aspirated 1.6 GLX mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. 

The K14C Boosterjet in-line 4 turbocharged motor found in our test car is the one to have though, 103kW and 220Nm is plenty to haul the 1160kg body around. It is even enough to self induce a dash of torque steer and enable the assistance of traction control during acceleration in certain scenarios. It is the same plucky motor that makes the Swift Sport so nimble, in case you didn’t know. Such spirited performance from the modest looking model is unexpected. So you can imagine the surprising grin of continuously putting the SUV through its paces and the drivers display yielding a handsome reward of 13.2 km/l (which equates to 7.4l/100km in normal units of measurement). Sedate driving could achieve as low as the claimed 5.8l/100km but the fun factor seems to inhibit getting anywhere near this number! 

This motor can be coupled to either a 6 speed manual transmission or the new automatic with the same number of cogs. Despite the solitary driving mode, the shifting seemed light and comfortable while more vivacious use of the throttle in overtaking situations warranted responsive and intuitive up and down shifts. The tactile paddles behind the steering wheel were suitably sized and the gearbox responded timeously to manual interaction too. Where the experience fell short was an apparent engine shudder when coming to a stop, alike to that of stalling. Overall though, the Turbo GLX in automatic guise provided a very comfortable driving experience which could also instill some hooliganism with the surprising torque delivery – reaffirming its purpose as a Sport Utility Vehicle. The Vitara is also well equipped when it comes to the safety department, with active and passive features like ABS, EBD, BAS, ESP and 7 airbags.

The interior, while aesthetically outdated and basically arranged, is well put together and is constructed with high build quality – surpassing that of certain European rivals. The vehicle on test had almost 16 000km on the clock and there were little to no rattles in the cabin on smooth urban roads. Although an abundance of plastic textures dominated the front fascia, there were equally as many pleasant soft touch points too, boding well for mild comforts. Where I found vexation was the driver’s seating position. Designed with the Japanese domestic market in mind, the narrow bolsters on the base of the seat found my slender behind constantly wriggling to try and get comfortable – to limited avail. 

Keeping true to its precursor’s legacy, the Vitara retains an elevated, upright seating position which enables abundant visibility in all directions, albeit with a diminutive rear view mirror. The rest of the interior is otherwise filled with some cool and useful tech, chief being the 7” touch display which has USB, SD card and Bluetooth functionality, standard smartphone integration also applies. An analog rev counter and speedometer dominate the dials behind the steering wheel while the driver display includes a G-Force meter and power distribution graphs – Sport Utility Vehicle remember? 

Although equipped with a small screen, the clarity on the reverse camera made visibility when backing into parking bays much easier – especially in low light environments – impressive. Our vehicle on test was also equipped with a panoramic sunroof, which made for a warm sunny welcome on cooler autumn days but limited rear headroom for adults. The configurable boot can hold up to 375l too, which is just above average in comparison to its competitors in the subcompact crossover segment. 

The range includes several derivatives including our Turbo GLX 6AT, which is pricey at the top of the spectrum coming in at R426 900. There is some good news though, the naturally aspirated 1.6 GL 5MT 2WD can be had for as little as R310 900 – but don’t expect as many amenities or as much driving fun as the Turbo GLX can offer. While evolution over a 30 year period can create a product completely indistinguishable from its precursor, there are aspects of this subcompact crossover SUV that still allude to its rich heritage. While the nameplate has adapted to keep up with the times, it retains some of its pedigree sporty, adventurous flavour to suit the new era of consumers.

Toyota’s new Brezza Based Urban Cruiser

The Indian Kiroloskar Motor division of the Japanese automaker supergiant collaboration with Suzuki has created another re-badged version of one of their vehicles. The initial to models being a Berlino based Toyota Glanza and later the Across, Rav4 based Suzuki.

The latest product from this coming together will be the Toyota re-badge of the Brezza Sub-compact which serve as a mini Vitara in other markets. While at this point it’s unclear if Toyota South Africa has intentions of being this vehicle to SA, its somewhat apparent that its peaked their interests.

With the basic design proving to be near-identical, the slight change to the grill inspired by the facelifted version of the Fortuner and likely the new Toytota shared family face. Available with the option of two-tone paint in several colour schemes. It’s critical to mention the South African and Indian road condition similarities and the 198mm ground clearance and 16-inch alloy wheels, which should make the Urban Cruiser a compliant and comfortable, well cruiser, given the poor roads in our countries. Coming in at just under 4meters and 1.8m in width, the Brezza on which the Cruiser has been based, is the same size as vehicles like the Hyundai Creta, see our review here-

Powering the Urban Cruiser is the same 1.5Litre 77kW 138Nm naturally aspirated engine, found in the Ciaz sedan and the Ertiga MPV, linked to the choice of either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission. The higher-spec model offers a 48V Mild-Hybrid electric system and provides a quoted 5.8L/100 with the auto and 5.3L/100 for the manual.

Toyota Urban Cruiser in South Africa

It’s too early to gauge if the South African market will get the Cruiser, but it would be a handy addition for the brand- pricing willing.

We drive the new Suzuki Ignis

Suzuki Ignis

On launch with the new Suzuki Ignis

I would have loved to have been in the room when the briefing on the new Suzuki Ignis was created. It would have been quite the meeting when the car designs came in. It would have been a shock, but a good one, I thought as I sat on a flight from Jozi Town to the beautiful, but waterless Cape Town for the local media launch of Suzuki’s latest vehicle!

We arrived in a semi-wet Cape Town in the evening and then made our way to a studio which could only be described as a “watch this space” moment for SA television where the Ignis launch happened. Besides the culling of a few local beers from the waiter, the night ran without glitch and when the Ignis was revealed halfway through a light supper, we were greeted by a design that is nothing short of amazing and youthful, backed by one of my favorite tunes, “Hey Hey” by Dennis Ferrer danced to by some “Panstula dancers”.

So, what do you get with this new offering from our Japanese friends? For a price of R169 000 of your hard earned Madiba’s, you get a Crossover hatchback with the 1.2-litre four-pot, an engine from the Suzuki Swift, with a power output of 61 kW and 113 N.m and yes, this won’t get you a new quarter mile record, but will keep up with traffic surprisingly well, and that is aided by having a kerb weight of just 850 kilograms. This translated into some good fuel numbers too, but to be honest, pointed into some curvy roads in the Cape, that went out of the window as we wanted to see what this little offering from Suzuki could do. This little car has a design that is robust and harks back to Suzuki’s from yesteryear.

Suzuki Ignis

In the Cape air, the little Suzuki Ignis immediately blazed its way from the beautiful accommodation in Tableview towards wine county. From a convenience perspective, you immediately feel at home as all you need is your phone cable and the vehicle comes alive as you have connection with ease. Being six foot and still carrying weight from December, space is not an issue but I did fail the “sit behind you test” thanks to my awkward torso to leg ratio. The model that we had was the GLX version which is the top of range model. The motor is the same but the changes are the spec level and for the extra amount of R20 000, you get among other things, LED headlights, as well as daytime running lights, folding electric mirrors, auto aircon, you get the drift. For an entry level vehicle, the Ignis is very well specced and you find yourself lacking for very little. Chasing the Suzuki Ignis through some very windy roads, highlighted that you will not be getting a dull drive. Most cars in this segment suffer from a surprising amount of understeer dialed into the chassis for safety reasons but we found this little car to be very flat though the corners and would welcome more power to explore the chassis a bit more.

There is an auto variant of the Ignis which Suzuki does stress is not a conventional Auto with a torque convertor but rather, a manual clutch system that has it clutch operated by robotics. All I could hear here was BMW’s SMG gearbox that had you nodding all over town and almost crashing while trying to parallel park. Hopefully, this will not be the case with the Suzuki Ignis and we will get to sample this gearbox in due course. We ended up at a wine farm which was a lunch and wine tasting (read responsible) were at the backdrop of one if the oldest family run wine farms in South Africa, the Ignis was right at home. We left the venue running slightly behind schedule heading direction airport and this spirited drive through some glorious roads proved that this will be a loved little car that will be fun to drive on a daily basis.

Knowing the South African market, Suzuki needs to market this little car well as if people get to experience it, they will sell loads of these. Being a car community that is very brand conscious who tends to favour the hijack favorite Polo Vivo, people need to look at other makes and realise that there is life, and awesome cars outside Germany and this little Ignis proves that. You get Japanese reliability, cheeky and quirky design and the 2017 European World Urban Car of the year and you have a recipe for success. Open your eyes SA, you have and awesome little car right under your noses. Test-drive one and see what we are talking about!

The practical choice: Suzuki Ertiga

The practical choice: Suzuki Ertiga.

Truth be told, there isn’t much in terms of appeal when it comes to people carriers. Cars that are built to fit as many individuals as possible normally look like taxis, and they’re often beige in colour too. Think of the Toyota Avanza, I haven’t seen a single one of them in any other colour besides beige and not once have I seen a happy family going on holiday in one. Instead, looks of fear and dismay are the expressions of occupants in an Avanza, purely because the taxi driver is normally attempting a life-threatening stunt.


The smaller seven seating market is not one full of competition, though. If you were looking for something along those lines and you didn’t want the taxi driver stigma of the Toyota, you could choose a Suzuki.  The Ertiga is a car that can fulfil all your needs and the test car we received also happened to be beige. If I must be honest, when the car arrived at my offices I didn’t care much for it. The timing worked out that I had a fancier sports car with much more power at my disposal. Being young, you want to maintain a particular image, and the image of a crèche owner versus that of a successful businessman didn’t appeal to me. But it was only after a day of using all the fuel in my suave sports car, did the motor journalist in me kick in, and I did what all of us do…find the vehicle with the most amount of fuel in it. My personal car never has fuel in it because as mentioned, I am but a lowly journalist. So just like that, I had to swallow my pride and drive the Uber van.

Like any modern Suzuki, the Ertiga doesn’t scream excitement when you enter. What it does do is offer an ergonomically friendly setup. A radio that works easily, an air-conditioner that doesn’t require a degree and a Bluetooth system that easy to operate. After pairing up my phone and buckling in, I was set to find passengers, something the Ertiga needs for it to make sense. Naturally, I tried to find occupants that wouldn’t judge the fact that my social status had dropped immensely from the sports car driver to the delivery man. So I fetched my mother and siblings and off we went. The Ertiga’s 1.4-litre engine is not underpowered, but nor is it spritely. It’s around the middle where it’s just enough not to annoy you. It only has 70kW after all. The ride quality is as good as my couch, you don’t really know what’s going on under you, but you don’t care because it’s comfortable. Besides who wants to race around in a people carrier besides taxi drivers?


The two most notable aspects of the Suzuki Ertiga is the practicality of the car and the fact that it runs on smiles and laughter. No seriously, in the week we had it, the car barely used any fuel. In fact, it’s so good on fuel I decided to park the sports car and use it every day because fuel savings over power win every day in the minds of cheap journalists. It’s not just journalists who think this way, though; the average person does too. This is where you see why this car makes sense for the person looking for its attributes. Some need a seven seater for business, others because of endless procreation. Whatever your reason is, surely you’ll want the car to be fuel efficient too. In the case of the Ertiga it’s fortunate to be more visually appealing than the Avanza, but maybe not as nice looking as Honda’s new BRV. The point we’re making is this, if you need the space and a measure of reliability at a reasonable price, the Ertiga is not a bad choice, it’s a practical one. You can also have it in another colour besides brown.


Ertiga 1.4 GA: R189 900

Ertiga 1.4 GL: R215 900

Ertiga 1.4 GL AT: R231 900

Suzuki Baleno Launch

Suzuki launched its newest model last week, the Baleno. Believe it or not, there are two previous versions of this car that I am too young to remember, so this makes it Baleno number 3.

After a small 4 hour delay in Durban airport, we arrived in PE at 11 pm; this is when I first set my eyes on the Baleno, under the orange evening lights I made out the front end of Suzuki’s new hatch, Interesting, I thought. The next day I grabbed a proper look at the new Baleno, the design is of this vehicle is what Suzuki call ” Optical Flow,” it’s different and I liked the front end design of this car, the rear end not so much. I sometimes feel Suzuki are slightly missing the mark with vehicle design, the Swift Sport has always looked great and is the best looking car Suzuki make, the new Vitara Is also a looker, but some of the other Suzuki models lack in the looks department.


The Baleno is not replacing the Swift; rather it gives another option to customers who find the rear passenger and boot areas in the Swift not spacious enough. It’s a bigger car which can be seen visibility from the inside and out when compared to a Suzuki Swift. Intriguingly,though, it’s also 110kg lighter. The Baleno will feature the 1.4 67kw engine found in other model variants and will come as GL and GLX models, with the option of a 4-speed auto in the GLX.

The GLX features exterior changes over the GL such as HID projector headlights and daytime running lights, chrome accents all around, front fog lamps, indicator signals in the mirrors, a rear spoiler and privacy glass for the rear windows.  The GLX also features 16-inch alloy wheels and rear disc brakes, with the GL only featuring rear drums.  The main interior changes with the GLX is the 6-inch color screen, and while the instrument cluster remains the same, Suzuki has added another color display, this time only 4-inches, which shows various driving data.  Keyless go is also a feature on the GLX,  along with fully automatic aircon and rear parking sensors. Safety wise, the GLX features six airbags to the GL’s mere two.



Suzuki has priced this car competitively with the Baleno starting at R199,990 for the GL, R229,000 for the GLX and R244,900 for the GLX Auto. The new Baleno is covered by a standard three-year/100 000 km warranty, as well as a four-year/60 000 km service plan.

I enjoyed the drive in this car, and there are some features I liked, and some that I didn’t like so much, which I will discuss in my in-depth driving review in edition 07 of the TheMotorist digital mag. If you wish, you can subscribe here: TheMotorist Digital Magazine.



The new Suzuki Vitara: It’s back.

Little brother vs. Big Brother: The new Suzuki Vitara.

Being the older brother is what I do best. Growing up, I always got things first between my three siblings. I got to decide what we watched on holiday by “booking” the DSTV as well as the Television for the day. I also bullied my siblings into doing what I wanted by threating to expose their petty secrets to our parents. It’s safe to say; I had this under control. Yes, there were/are challenges, but in my mind, the pros far outweigh the cons. My siblings were known as “Richard’s brother” or “Richard’s sisters”, what a great title to have.

Fast forward the to the Launch of the all new Suzuki Vitara that we at TheMotorist were invited to, and my hard earned spot at the top of the sibling podium was occupied. This was done by non-other than my “little” brother, Francisco, the other half of our magazine. It all started when I met the other journalists also attending the launch. “You are Francisco’s brother aren’t you? You look just like him.” Correction, he looks like me, I’m the original. The feeling of annoyance lurked deep inside me until the sensational looking little SUV was introduced to us. It looked better in the flesh than on the promotional video they showed us.

Now that I was distracted by the car, I started to enjoy my day in beautiful George and Knysna, not worried that I was nameless, just my sibling’s brother. The day began with a drive from the venue in George,  and up the beautiful mountain passes in the surrounding areas. My first impressions in the new Vitara were how comfortable the ride was, the seating position was perfect for a 6-foot male, and the 1.6-litre engine was surprisingly peppy. My driving partner asked me to try and not kill her, as she had previously driven with my heavy footed brother before. I reassured her that I was going to show her how the older, more mature older brother drives. On the blacktop, the new Suzuki Vitara showed off by how quiet the cabin is on the road. It’s no performance car, but for a 1.6 litre four pot, it has some vooma. It had no problem getting up top speed, and once I figured how the cruise control worked, the drive was a s pleasant as a Sunday.

When we turned off onto the gravel, that’s where the Suzuki Vitara started flexing its muscles. It took on all sorted of bumps, pot-holes and rifts on the roads with the greatest of ease. Since the cabin is well insulated, despite all the dust and muck flying about; we were able to hold a conversation without any strain to our vocal cords. Things took an interesting turn when my driving partner moved to the captain’s chair. Now from what she told me about my brother I expected an easy gravel road drive, something relaxed that would give me the chance to get more acquainted with all the toys offered in the car.

What happened next was not what Francisco’s brother expected! The Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL+ went from a very comfortable family vehicle to a makeshift rally car. My driving partner was very comfortable behind the wheel at these speeds. Meanwhile, my right foot was looking for the imaginary brake pedal. What blew me away was how this little car was soaking all of this in. Here I thought that Suzuki had replaced the old Vitara with a compact pavement climber, but what I was seeing here made me realise that this little car would give more expensive cars a run for their money on this terrain.

Things came to a well-welcomed halt when travellers blocked the mountain pass with a blown tyre, and that’s when I requested the driver’s seats again, but at that stage, we were at the end of the pass and were back on the tarmac. The rest of the drive was as relaxed as the scenery, and our lunch in the heart of Knysna allowed me to not only take everything regarding how beautiful our surroundings were, but also to realise that we as consumers are spoilt for choice. With more and more vehicles emerging in various segments, it comes down to personal choice.

The new Vitara truly encompasses the spirit of the original compact SUV that was launched 27 years ago. Comparing the two models made reach epiphany, I am like the original Vitara since it all started with me. The original paved the way for the new fun and exciting model that came after it. The same goes with my siblings and I. As a result; this new Vitara is as good as it is because it has learned from its older sibling and taken its traits and enhanced it. It’s only fair then to pay respects to the original. I am ready to take all the credit. Sadly if you were to compare the two models back to back, the new Vitara would win the hearts of people since it’s young and hip. Poor original Vitara, you’ve done so much for this new car yet you’re now the “new Vitara’s brother”.


In all seriousness, though, the new Suzuki Vitara is an excellent little car in this hotly contested segment, and hopefully, more people will have an opportunity to sample it through a test drive. Hopefully, that will get people out of the psychological rut of blindly buying cars simply because of the brand behind it. Five models are available for purchase, the GL, two GL+ models, and two GLX models. All models offer different features and options. For the GL+ and the GLX, Suzuki’s AlllGrip 4×4 suspension is available, giving you more traction on the road but especially off-road. Two-tone colour combinations are also available in the GL+ and GLX as well as the choice of a 6-speed automatic gearbox for the FWD GLX. For those looking for a small, good looking and fun to drive SUV, the Vitara is an excellent choice to buy. After all, it’s based on a really good original.

Happy Motoring

Francisco’s Brother

Models and Prices:

1.6 GL      5MT:                            R239 900

1.6 GL+   5MT:                            R269 900

1.6 GL+   5MT AllGrip               R291 900

1.6 GLX   5MT AllGrip              R319 900

1.6 GLX   6AT                             R299 900

Do you love cars or do you want to get to work?: The new Suzuki Ciaz.

Feature Friday: Suzuki’s answer to those looking for an affordable Sedan, the Ciaz.

Keep-It-Simple-Stupid. This is a phrase that has been told to many and said by many, for good reason too. When things get complicated especially in cars, it detracts from the purpose of a car being a car. There’s nothing worse than a car that drives terribly but tries to distract you with gimmicks to hide the fact that it’s a rubbish car. Good thing nowadays there aren’t many new cars that are very terrible. Then again you do get some cars that make you wonder why the manufacturer put more emphasis on the sound system than the gearbox.

The Suzuki Ciaz 1.4 GL is a car that uses the K.I.S.S. philosophy. It doesn’t try wow you in any way, but it’s very effective in its purpose, that of being a good quality sedan. You get two types of people in the car buying world, those who love cars and those who want to get to work. The majority of people want to get to work but that doesn’t mean that they don’t require some creature comforts such as Bluetooth, a solid ride and good build quality. For those looking at those qualities in a car whilst needing some space at the same time, the Ciaz will tick all the boxes. The biggest box the Suzuki Ciaz will tick, is the price box. With a starting price of R180 000 you can’t disagree that this car is probably one of the best priced cars in its segment.

This makes me think of Pick n Pay’s no-name brand items. To be honest, If you gave me a glass of no-name brand milk versus a glass of Clover Milk, I wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference. At the same time if you placed both products in front of me and asked me which one I thought was better, I would probably say the Clover milk. Why? Because since I was little boy, each time I opened the fridge the only milk I would see is Clover milk, so automatically I think it’s the best. That’s the biggest problem in South Africa, we’re too used to brand names so in terms of sedans, we think something other than the “Big Three” isn’t any good. The reality is that there are good cars out there that are spacious and comfortable at half the price.

Obviously the brands that are regarded as the sedan staples in South Africa offer more in terms of performance, comfort and prestige. Those cars are in a different league, they are premium brands but the attributes they have don’t come for free. That is why you will pay double for those cars. The “big three” can be regarded as organic milk, yes it has more nutrients, but normal milk won’t stop you from eating your Corn-Flakes. Many health fanatics only drink organic milk, which is okay if you can afford it, but some may not be willing to pay R40 for 2 litres of milk, or it may be out of their budget to do so.

The same goes with cars, what about those individuals who aren’t in the market for a premium sedan? Those who simply want reliability and spaciousness at a good price? For those who want to simply eat their Corn-Flakes, they have great choices such as the Volkswagen Polo Sedan, Honda Ballade and Chevrolet Cruze. These cars offer just that and they compete directly with the Suzuki Ciaz in terms of price and specification. The Ciaz definitely holds its own against these cars. the fact is that the Suzuki Ciaz 1.4 GL or GLX will not implode if you drive it quickly, it responds well for a car larger car with a 1.4 litre engine. The car will also not refuse to turn a corner properly. The safety belts will not fall off in an accident and the large boot will not reject your groceries, in fact many things will be welcomed in the boot. This car is the direct answer to an affordable sedan.

If you’re looking in this segment of car, you need to decide what kind of client you are. Do you love cars or do you want to get to work? For some it may have always been a dream to drive one of the “big three”. If you part of that group and want the status that comes with driving a brand name, buy the brand and pay the premium. If you’re a more simple person and you want a car that operates in a different segment but is still spacious, comfortable and gets you from A to B, the Suzuki Ciaz should be one of your top picks. The choice is yours.


Climb Jimny Climb…

Thought Thursday: Suzuki’s off-road baby

Let’s be honest, the Suzuki Jimny doesn’t look like much. It’s not ugly nor is it attractive in any way. It’s not fast either and it’s not all that big too. So what is the point of this small, average looking 4×4 car and why do I often see them on the road? See the Jimny is a peculiar car, it kind of reminds me of my parents’ microwave. This microwave was bought in the early 90’s, around the same time Michael Jackson released the hit “Black or White”. Since then old Michael has seen the grave but this feisty microwave has kept going. The job of a microwave is simple, to heat food and make sausages explode. If a microwave was meant to heat and cool food, it would need to be a very smart device in order to do that and the thing about very smart devices is that they often don’t work.

Over the years as my parents could afford fancier things, my mother did what most mothers do, she bought new appliances. One of the things she bought was a silver button clad microwave-oven, which could tell you what the temperature was outside. Needless to say that after two years this appliance died more prematurely than a Hollywood child star. What did my mother do? She bought a brand new one, this time it could tell you if the milk you were heating was off or not. Again, like all overly fancy things, it met its end very quickly. As a result if you go to my parents’ home, you will find that original Michael Jackson era microwave ticking along and pinging when it’s finished doing its job.

The Suzuki Jimny can drive on the road perfectly. You may not be driving as quickly as everybody else, but you will get there eventually. Much like my parents’ microwave, it can defrost a chicken but not the same way a newer microwave can. The thing about my parents’ microwave is that it will do what it does best, which is to simply heat and reheat but it will not break down, it simply refuses. Which brings me to the Suzuki again, take that car on a 4×4 trip and it will be one of the last cars standing. I don’t know if it is the size of the car, or some sort of magical Japanese voodoo that they have used, but that car is simply brilliant in those scenarios. The Suzuki Jimny is simply an off-roader, and is just that. As a road car it ticks the boxes but what it can do on the road can’t compare to what it can do off the road.

I was always told this about a Suzuki Jimny, but I had never experienced it before, until I took a trip to Bass Lake Adventures. This is a 4×4 training facility that has seen many people roll their cars on the course. I am not one for off-roading, purely because of the preparation you need to do before starting. In fancier more expensive 4×4’s you need to sit with a neurosurgeon and choose all the right settings before you get going. In the Jimny all I had to do was put the car in 4×4 mode and set it to low range. Thereafter I could climb whatever I wanted and still keep the car and its occupants in one piece. Ascent after ascent, descent after descent the car kept going. No wonder the owner of the course uses a pair of these Jimny’s to teach people about proper 4×4 driving. In the world of 4×4 driving, many will agree that if you’re looking for a simple car to explore in, that won’t cost you all the money in the world, the Suzuki Jimny is the car to go for. Like most older appliances, it was built with that “it must work forever” philosophy and with a start up price of just under R230 000, what more could you ask for?


Feature Friday: Suzuki Celerio vs Volkswagen UP!

Battle of the babies

When I was a very young boy I remember my mother purchasing her first car, a white Fiat Uno. She went for the slightly fancier version called the “Tempo” and she had it specified with colour coded bumpers and mag wheels. We loved that car because it was so simple and small. I spent many years sleeping in the back seat of that car on our way back from school. Whenever I see one of those cars on the road now, I laugh because in my mind it felt like such a spacious car at the time and it was for a six year old. Cars like those were literally four wheels, some seats and a steering wheel. The biggest safety feature you had in a car like that, were your prayers to God. What could you expect for around R35 000 for a new car? That was more or less what my mother paid for hers.

Gone are the days of spending very little on a brand new car. With inflation being what it is, eighteen years make for a very big price hike for entry level cars. For R100 000, your options are limited, if you have a bit more saved up we might be able to assist you. I’ve spent the past week reviewing two small cars, the Volkswagen UP! and the Suzuki Celerio manual. Both cars are competitively priced, both cars offer similar features yet both cars are very different. Let’s start by discussing the target market these cars are aimed at.

Cars like these are aimed at the young and up coming. Perhaps they’ve just graduated from university or they’ve just started a new job, whatever the case, these are start-up cars for many. Let’s narrow that market more by talking about the words many people use to describe both these cars. “Cute”, “Sweet”, “noo-noo” and “Aww” are a few words I was told these cars represent when asking my peers. That being said, its safe to say that many men, especially young men won’t want to drive something labelled as “cute”. If you give a pimple faced man-child  R140 000 to spend, he will most likely find some used turbocharged car that’s seen better days, it’s silly but true.   DSC_0031

Therefore at the risk of sounding sexist, I will say the Volkswagen UP! and the Suzuki Celerio are cars that young females would be drawn to. As a result, there are aspects about both cars that may or may not affect your decision making.

Firstly: Is it practical? The Volkswagen UP! loses this round as it only has two doors. You may think two doors are fine but wait until its Friday night and you have to go out with your friends, then it’s not fine. The Celerio wins this round since it has four doors and can snugly seat three people in the back. The Celerio is also a higher car so you have more headroom to bob your head to your tunes.

Secondly: Is it safe? Both cars have air-bags and ABS braking systems but the Volkswagen UP! has curtain air-bags additional so based on that, we will give the point to the Volkswagen UP!

Thirdly: Is it economical? Both cars use 1.0l three cylinder engines and the power difference between the two is 5kW so its not a lot. Both cars have the same size fuel tank and having driven both I can say both cars are excellent on fuel so for economy, it’s a draw.

Fourth: Is it affordable? The Suzkuki Celerio I drove was the higher specification GL model which comes in at R126 900. It comes with many features as standard such as full electric windows, radio with bluetooth, central locking and power steering. The Volkswagen UP! I drove was the Move UP! which is also the one with higher specifications and has all the same features as standard. The difference is that for the UP! you will spend R144 700. So this round goes to the Suzuki again.

At this point, the Suzuki Celerio has got the upper hand, with practicality and price. The Volkswagen UP! has got the added air-bags as its only advantage now. It’s not over yet though, there is still a very important factor to consider, the looks or “Aww” factor as some may call it.

Fifth: Is it “Aww?” The Suzuki Celerio is not a bad looking car, it looks average in my opinion. There is nothing about it that stands out from an aesthetic point of view. The Volkswagen is the winner of the “Aww” factor, it is the better looking car. It has a unique modern shape that sets it apart from its competitors.

So it looks like we have a tie on our hands. The Volkswagen UP! takes safety and looks whilst the Suzuki Celerio takes the price and the practicality. The truth is, whatever car you buy you won’t be making a mistake because both are fantastic little cars that were both fun and entertaining to drive. Kids growing up in this generation and falling asleep in the back of either one of these cars are spoilt, they don’t know how good they’ve got it.



Feature Friday: Suzuki Swift Seabiscuit

The story of Seabiscuit is one that has been told many times over the years. This is a story of a race horse that was around during the time of the great depression, so spirits were low. I mean we would all be sad if we were broke too. Seabiscuit was not the most majestic looking steed in town, in fact it was smaller than the others. Seabiscuit was owned by a well known horse racing stable but was underestimated by its trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons and therefore sidelined. As a result the horse didn’t perform as well as it could have and was eventually sold to Charles S. Howard, who became Seabiscuit’s new owner.

Under the tutelage of a new trainer, everything changed. The horse started winning races and made a name for itself with the American citizens who viewed it as a symbol of hope in distressful times. This inspiring story is a heart warming one about believing in something and realising just how good it really is. It’s so easy to underestimate anything because it’s not what we’re used to. Like Seabiscuit, simply because the horse was slightly smaller than the others and was deemed a lazier horse, it was not given a chance, but Charles S. Howard had a different point of view.

This past week I spent some time in the Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL manual, each time I told people what I was driving, they replied by saying “a Suzuki!?”. I then responded by taking them to the car and letting them sit in it, look at it and then we went for a drive. After the drive, most people responded by firstly saying, “Is this really a 1.2?” and then secondly “I never thought this car was this nice”. Of course I waited for the opportune time to say my I told you so’s, and say them I did.

The fact is that other than the smallish boot space, I could find nothing wrong with this car. Instead, I can say this is a very good little car, a fun car too. The engine performs like a 1.4 and develops the same 63kW as its competitors 1.4 engines, and it develops 115Nm of torque. So driving it in the city or on the open road is not a painful task. When it’s cold, I turn a knob and it gets warm very quickly and the converse happens when it’s hot. The bluetooth radio is kind enough to start my favourite song from the beginning each time I start up the car and I never feel like I’m going to roll when I turn a corner. Lastly, I was even able to give Suzuki back their car with a quarter tank of fuel after driving about 500km since I got it, with a full tank. For R146 000 what more do you want? That is why I am quite baffled that only a quarter of these cars are sold compared to its main rival.

Us South Africans are brand loyal, which is good, but also bad. We are so used to sticking to one brand, when something different comes along we are like Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, we simply sideline it. We need to adopt the attitude of Charles S. Howard and be open to try different cars. You will be surprised how many small nice cars are available in the market. That being said, I encourage all who are looking in the small and affordable car segment to take some time and visit a Suzuki dealership and other brands which may be different from what you’re used to. Who knows you may just buy your own little Seabiscuit.