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Reader's ride: Suzuki v. Sani

2013-06-24 07:28


TOUGH LIL' FELLA: Suzuki Auo Club SA's Jaco Nel has taken his SX4 up the Sani Pass in the ultimate off-road challenge. Image: Motorpics


Reader ride: Suzuki SX4

2013-06-21 15:16

JACO NEL tells Wheels24 about his off-road challenge in his Suzuki SX4 through the Sani Pass. Images: MotorPress

It may only be nine kilometres long but the Sani Pass, the notoriously dangerous, steep and twisty gravel mountain pass linking KwaZulu-Natal to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho has long been considered a serious test for off-road vehicles.

Early in March, Suzuki unveiled its SX4 Crossover at the 83rd Geneva auto show.

Suzuki Auto Club SA’s Jaco Nel told Wheels24 about his trip up Sani Pass in his SX4, covering 1350km over varied terrain, including crossing Lesotho from the top of Sani Pass to the border post at Ficksburg:

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“The SX4’s odyssey started in Centurion, and after following the national route to Villiers, our crew opted for the road less travelled, traversing mostly rural gravel roads all the way to the town of Himeville, at the foot of the Drakensberg. The SX4 took the ruts, rocks and washaways in its stride, while demonstrating the benefits of its all-wheel drive system to good effect.

But the real test was yet to come. Arriving at the South African border post, located at the bottom of Sani Pass, the SX4 was dwarfed by all the large, so-called ‘serious’ off-road vehicles waiting to tackle the pass.

Needless to say, the presence of the compact Suzuki, which admittedly looks more like a sporty hatchback than an all-terrainer, evoked much shaking of heads. It was obvious that there was some serious doubt about the ability of the SX4 to reach the top of the pass.

Intent on proving the critics wrong, we set off from the border post, opting for the car’s 4WD auto mode to provide the necessary traction. The SX4 made it look all too easy, coping with the often treacherous conditions with consummate ease.

The last few corners near the top of the pass proved to be the most challenging, as the very steep gradient would normally require switching to low range. However, the SX4 wasn’t going to be intimidated by that fact, and bravely soldiered on, I opted for 4WD lock mode to optimise grip.


Much to the surprise of several onlookers, the SX4 arrived at the top of Sani Pass without so much as a scratch. But the challenge was by no means over. Some of the roads leading from Sani Top to the main road were even rougher than the pass itself.

Undaunted, the SX4 took the conditions in its stride, and didn’t miss a beat on the long and often challenging route to the Ficksburg border post. After a welcome respite and overnight stay in the cherry capital of SA, the SX4 was saddled up for the final leg of the journey, this time on tar.

Showing off its versatility, it swapped roles from talented all-terrainer to comfortable cruiser as it covered the final 400km to its home base.

The SX4 covered just more than 1350km in three days, of which 500km was on gravel roads. Fuel consumption averaged approximately eight litres/100km, and the entire trip was completed without a single hitch: no punctures, no body damage, and no mechanical ailments.

Our trip proved emphatically that the SX4 is a great all-rounder. It coped with a wide variety of road conditions, conquering the iconic pass in the process, while delivering on the comfort, performance and safety fronts, too.”
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