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Expect these Suzuki models in SA

2008-02-15 13:51

Lance Branquinho

With the world's 12th largest auto maker Suzuki set to return to South Africa by mid-year, what could the local market expect from their product line-up?

Most local buyers and off-road enthusiasts will rekindle fond memories of the diminutive Samurai three-door 4x4 sold here in the middle 1990s.

It only had 47kW worth of carb-fed 1.3-litre power, but weighing only 970kg and featuring low-range 4x4 hardware, it was capable of embarrassing most of the maxi-sized 4x4 wagons around when the terrain turned really nasty.

South Africans will have three SUVs and a hatchback model to choose from when the revised Suzuki line-up hits showroom floors in June. Suzuki's Jimny (spiritual successor to the Samurai), SX4 and Grand Vitara make up the SUVs, whilst the Swift hatchback completes the range.

Swift and sporty

A cleanly styled hatchback the Swift is available in both a three- or five-door hatchback configuration. With a strongly curved bonnet, and large, rectangular headlights, the Swift is unusual stylish for a Japanese hatch.

Four engines power the range: one turbodiesel and three petrol derivatives. Smallest of these is a 1.3-litre producing 68kW.

Mid-range engines are either a petrol 1.5-litre producing 75kW, or a Fiat sourced 55kW turbodiesel 1.3-litre, which produces 170Nm and returns 4.6-litres per 100km. The junior World Rally Championship racing pedigree of the Swift range shows in the Sport model. Powered by a 1.6-litre engine producing 92kW at 6 800r/min and 148Nm of torque, it tops off the range.

Little Jimny

Moving to the SUVs, the smallest one will be the oddly named Jimny, spiritual successor to the Samurai. It might have cute styling presence - especially the removable top version - with its large windows and tiny overhangs, but this is no urban off-roader, despite its diminutive size.

Powered by a 63kW, variable-valve timing equipped version of the same 1.3-litre, four-cylinder engine found in the Swift hatchback, the Jimny features shift-on-the fly 4x4 engagement and a low-range transfer case.

Featuring ladder frame chassis construction and 3-link coil suspension all round, off-road ability should be prodigious, whilst the 4.9-metre turning circle should make it painless as a week-to-week urban commuter.

Despite sporting less power than the equivalent Swift models - the engine has been tuned for off-road durability instead of performance - the Jimny will occupy a very niche market space, being the only small SUV featuring low-range off-road capability.

Crossing over with the SUVs

Next up is the SX4 Crossover vehicle, which features all-wheel drive which can be locked to a 50:50 split, and is entirely more road-focussed. Three engines power the XS4 Crossover, two being petrol powered and a turbodiesel.

Petrol power emanates either from a 2-litre, four-cylinder engine fed via double-overhead camshafts producing 107kW at 5 800r/min and 184Nm at 3 500r/min, or a 1.6-litre producing 79kW. Likelihood of the 2-litre arriving locally is slim as the engine is currently used only in the North American market.

Turbodiesel power is courtesy of a Fiat sourced 1.9-litre engine producing 90kW at 3 500r/min and 280Nm of torque at 2 000r/min, which coupled to a 50-litre fuel tank should enable useful range for weekends away.

The largest vehicle in the proposed Suzuki range will be the Grand Vitara. Powered by a 2.7-litre, double-overhead camshaft engine, it produces 138kW at 6 000r/min and 250Nm of torque at 4 500r/min, driving through either a five-speed manual or auto.

Two- and four-wheel drive derivates make up the model range, with the four-wheel drive models equipped with a low-range transfer case too.

Details concerning which specification packs of the various models which will go on sale locally are unclear, but the return of Suzuki is set to shake things up in the SUV and small hatch market.

I returned to the Suzuki stand at last years Frankfurt motor show three times in one day, marvelling at the Swift especially, and could simply not come to terms with their absence locally.

I even shared a hotel with legendary Pike's peak hill climb winner and Suzuki motorsport legend Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima, and was reminded time and again of the engineering purity which permeates the automotive products of company's who build both motorcycles and cars.

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