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2017 Suzuki Ignis review: emotionally, it’s a brilliant small car

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Cheeky, cute, retro: three words we’d use to describe the reborn Suzuki Ignis. In fact, the Ignis has so much personality, we’re reluctant to be negative for fear of hurting its feelings.

A car review must be rational, of course, but the Ignis is likely to be the most emotionally-driven car in the Suzuki range. If you like the looks – and we suspect most will either love or hate them – you’re unlikely to be disappointed by the rest of the package.

As a package, it’s a hard car to define. During the launch, Suzuki labelled it a B-segment SUV, compact crossover, city car and small SUV. It’s enough to give a car an identity crisis. But does it really matter which hole this square box falls into? Not really. Occasionally, it’s nice to bust a segment or two.

Just think of it as a slice of positivity at the end of a gloomy year. Leaving our emotional attachment at the door, we’ll attempt to provide some rational thinking.

Gee whizz, it’s cool

About that styling. Suzuki has managed to strike a neat balance between retro and modern, adding a number of touches to provide subtle hints to the company’s past. Enthusiasts will notice the slits on the C-pillar and the design of the side windows – a nod in the direction of the SC100, also known as the Whizzkid.

Other influences are less obvious, like the clamshell bonnet (Vitara) and blacked-out A- and B-pillars (Swift). As for the LED headlights (standard on the top trim model), it’s said that they’re influenced by Johnny Depp’s glasses. Hmm.

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To our eyes, the result is almost perfect. In profile, the Ignis is a match for any new car at any price, while the face is 100% Suzuki and 100% cheerful. See an Ignis in your rear-view mirror and, rather than feel hassled, you’ll feel like you’re being tickled.

It’s round the back where things start to go awry. It’s a curious look, dominated by a large black panel and four-piece rear lights. The general oddness is accentuated by the wheelarch extensions, standard on all but the entry-level Ignis SZ3.

But overall, the Ignis is like a positive emoji on wheels. Opt for one of the new metallic colours – Neon Blue, Flame Orange Pearl and Helios Gold – and the Ignis has the potential to add cheer to even the dreariest of things. Yes, including 2016.

The feelgood factor continues inside

Of course, going to the trouble of creating the look of a four-wheeled smiley would be wasted if the interior was as exciting as a vanilla sandwich. Fortunately, the cabin is dripping in charm.

There’s no disguising the fact that the Ignis is built to a budget. Suzuki hasn’t released official prices, but you can bank on paying between £10,000 and £13,500 for your three-dimensional emoji.

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As a result, you shouldn’t expect a sea of soft-touch plastics and Germanic levels of fit and finish. But cleverly – and no doubt inspired by Citroen’s treatment of the C4 Cactus – Suzuki has ensured the touch-points and most visible areas are pre-loaded with a feelgood factor.

The round air conditioning panel, neat toggle switches, Whizzkid-inspired slits by the footwell, plus white door cards and lower dashboard lift the gloom and give the Ignis an edge over its more rational stablemates (Celerio and Baleno). Even the bonnet release catch is a dinky pull button.

Crucially, the interior door grips feel good to the touch and are either orange or titanium, depending on the exterior colour.

Loaded with toys and goodies

It’s well-equipped, too, with the mid-spec SZ-T – likely to be the biggest seller – featuring air conditioning, DAB digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Mirrorlink, sat nav, rear-view camera, 16-inch alloy wheels and individually sliding rear seats.

An ability to slide 165mm forward and back means you can choose between rear legroom and boot space. In their rearmost position, the boot space is 267 litres, extending to 514 litres with the seats folded down. If you’re looking for the option to carry an additional passenger, you’re limited to the SZ3, with its rear bench seating three people.

The tall and upright dimensions means there’s plenty of headroom for both front and rear seat passengers, so if you fancy donning a party hat for the drive to work, the Ignis is the car for you. It’s worth noting that the super-wide C-pillars – for all their glory – do serve to restrict rearward visibility, while the side window design will obstruct the view from the rear seats. The rear camera – standard on all but the SZ3 model – eliminates one of these problems.

The mildest of hybrids

Your drive to work will be powered by Suzuki’s familiar 1.2-litre Dualjet engine, developing 90hp and 88lb ft of torque. Hardly earth-shattering figures, but then in its most basic form the Ignis weighs a mere 810kg.

In standard guise, you’ll need to push the Dualjet to the brink of screaming to get the most from it, as highlighted by the 0-62mph time of a leisurely 13.5 seconds.

If you’re after a little more poke, help is at hand in the form of the SHVS mild hybrid, as tested here. The belt-driven integrated starter generator assists the engine during take off and acceleration, shaving a couple of seconds off the 0-62mph time.

A compact lithium-ion battery sits beneath the passenger seat and is regenerated during braking and deceleration. Yet, despite the improved performance and lower C02 emissions (97g/km compared to 104g/km), Suzuki is forecasting a 10-15% share of sales for the SHVS model.

Given the relatively low – predicted to be £500 – increase in price over the standard 1.2-litre model, we suspect the take-up might be higher than Suzuki says. The additional torque is welcome, while the SHVS model is the only Ignis to dip below 100g/km CO2, at 97g/km.

Fun, if you know where to look

Suzuki

On the road, the Ignis behaves pretty much as you’d expect a tall, slab-sided, lightweight and short-wheelbase small car to behave. The ride is bouncy, bordering on uncomfortable on certain roads, while the Ignis will lean heavily if you get a little over-enthusiastic through the bends.

The steering is too vague and inconsistent to inspire much in the way of confidence, while the tall and slightly unsupportive seats provide the feeling that you’re sitting on rather than in the Ignis. A pure driver’s car this is not.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in an Ignis. The engine is willing enough, and – if you’re prepared to put up with the strained engine note as you hit peak power at 6,000rpm – there’s genuine joy to be found in maintaining momentum through a series of corners.

It helps that the five-speed gearbox is surprisingly sweet, while the low kerb weight (our fully optioned-up SZ5 hybrid weighed in at a mere 870kg) and a lorry-load of grip enabled us to enjoy a spirited drive over an Italian mountain pass.

That the Ignis is so small (3,700mm length, 1,690mm width, 1,595mm height) certainly helps when you’re faced with a series of oncoming Fiat Pandas straddling the centre white line on the edge of a 1,800-metre mountain.

A car without peers?

Which brings us neatly to the issue of competitors. It would be too easy to say that the Suzuki Ignis is without rivals, but it’s difficult to find a precise reference point. The first car that springs to mind is the Fiat Panda 4×4, especially when you take into account the fact that the Ignis is available with Suzuki’s Allgrip four-wheel-drive system.

Unlike the Panda 4×4, there’s no increase in ride height, so you’re stuck with 180mm of ground clearance. Furthermore, the Allgrip system eats away at the luggage capacity, robbing it of 63 litres of boot space.

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As you’d expect, the four-wheel-drive Ignis – which sends torque to the rear wheels via a viscous coupling – is also less efficient and slower than front-wheel-drive variants. If you want a proper fun-size off-roader, the Fiat Panda 4×4 remains the king of the mountain.

Our advice would be to enjoy the Ignis as a front-drive small car that’s as home in the city as it is on the motorway. It felt surprisingly long-legged when we were dicing with death on an Italian autostrada, with only a touch of wind and road noise blotting an otherwise excellent copybook.

Safety in numbers

It feels grown up, too, with the availability of Dual Camera Brake Support (standard on SZ5, optional on SZ3 and SZ-T). It’ll warn the driver and apply the brakes if it suspects a collision is imminent, and also packs lane-departure warning and weaving alert functions.

We tried the lane-departure warning system, which vibrates the steering wheel and displays a warning message to alert the driver. The vibrations are subtle, but there’s no missing the Christmas lights on the dashboard.

Hot off the press: Euro NCAP has just released the safety rating of the Suzuki Ignis. A middling three stars for the standard Ignis, which rises to the maximum five stars with the optional safety pack. It’s not too tricky to make a rational decision when presented with this kind of information.

Emotionally, the Ignis is almost perfect

But that’s enough rational thinking for one review; let’s get back to being emotional. Of all the cars in the Suzuki range, this is the one you’re most likely to buy with your heart and not your head.

Sure, there’s some rational thinking involved: a low price tag, 61.4mpg for the 1.2-litre, 65.7mpg for the mild hybrid, a huge dollop of practicality, and an extensive list of toys are just a few aspects that will appeal to your head.

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But it’s the styling, interior detailing, personalisation options, the range of colours and driving experience that will tug on your heartstrings. You might not like the look of the Ignis, and that’s your prerogative, but Suzuki must be applauded for blazing a different trail with the cheeky styling.

Boldy, Suzuki is going after MINI and Fiat 500 customers with the Ignis, as it seeks to introduce a younger audience to the brand. It deserves to succeed, as the Ignis is one of the freshest and most appealing new cars we’ve driven in 2016.

Suzuki Ignis

Suzuki Ignis, revised S-Cross confirmed for Paris 2016

Suzuki IgnisSuzuki has confirmed two new models for the 2016 Paris Motor Show with the Nissan Juke-rivalling Ignis mini crossover making its European debut and the S-Cross appearing in facelifted guise.

The all-new Ignis does on sale in January 2017 but has been available in Japan for a while now. It uses the new Suzuki platform also seen in the new Baleno, so means the cracking new 1.0-litre Boosterjet will be offered, as will a punchier 1.4-litre version. Four-wheel drive will also be available.

With smart, modern styling, the new Ignis promises to further broaden Suzuki’s small car range, bolstering its credentials as the small car experts. Prices are certain to be keen, with an entry price below £14,000 expected.

Suzuki has also toughened up the SX4 S-Cross (which it prefers to simply call S-Cross here in the UK); it now has more of a crossover look with a chunkier front end, more substantial lower cladding and a Jeep-style chrome grille.

Suzuki S-Cross

The revised S-Cross gets new engines, with 1.0-litre three-cylinder and 1.4-litre four-cylinder Boosterjet turbo engines replacing the aged 1.6-litre petrol in the current model. The 1.6 DDiS continues largely unchanged.

Suzuki confirms the S-Cross will be here sooner than you may think following its Paris debut, too: it’ll be launched in the UK in mid-October.

See more of both new Suzukis from 9am on the opening day of the Paris Motor Show on 29 September 2016. Or earlier if Suzuki decides to release full details of both Euro debuts in the build-up to the event…

Emotionally rational: Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet

2016 Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet review: emotionally rational

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Suzuki unveiled two concepts at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show: the show-stopping iM-4 and the slightly less interesting iK-2. The iM-4 became the new Ignis, which you can’t buy in the UK (yet), while the iK-2 morphed into the Baleno (which you can).

Cards on the table: we’re more excited about the bonkers and boxy Ignis than we are the Baleno (sorry Suzuki), but that’s not to say the ‘Swift+’ isn’t without appeal. In fact, while we were expecting something rather sterile and soulless, the reality is anything but. Once again, Suzuki has managed to build a car that hits the target and one that is sure to find fans in the UK.

But wait, isn’t the Suzuki Baleno a ‘world car’?

Ah yes, about that. Historically, so-called ‘world cars’ have tended to be compromised in some way: attempting to appeal to all, but becoming diluted in the process. The Baleno is the first Suzuki to be built in India but sold in Japan, where it has been on sale since October 2015.

It would be a tad unfair to suggest the styling smacks of a world car, but, well, it does. From some angles it can look a tad awkward, but overall it’s all a bit plain Jane. Suzuki has added some bling in the form of chrome door handles, a chrome belt-line and – inexplicably – a chrome tailgate trim.

Weirdly, aside from the tailgate trim, the base-spec Baleno (one of two trim levels) does without the added chrome and it’s likely to be more pleasing to the eye. In some markets, the splash of chrome might give the Baleno showroom appeal, but in the UK it just has the feel of something built by Malaysia PLC, circa 1995.

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Enough chrome already, what’s it like inside?

Firstly, there’s a complete absence of showroom-style chrome, so that’s a good start. The cabin is typically Suzuki, which is to say it majors on ergonomics and functionality, rather than soft-touch plastics and plush fittings. Suzuki is hoping to steal sales from the Skoda Fabia and Hyundai i20, which might be a struggle when based purely on interior quality.

But to dismiss the Baleno as little more than an also-ran would be to miss the point. While some parts of the interior certainly feel low-rent, the overall impression is one of a cabin built to last and one that isn’t likely to age. The touchscreen infotainment system is also one of the clearest and easiest to use systems in the sector.

To give you some idea of size, the Baleno is larger than the Swift, successfully managing to answer two major criticisms of the otherwise super supermini. The Baleno feels significantly larger inside, most notably for rear-seat passengers, who will revel in the additional legroom and headroom.

Tussling the Swift for practicality bragging rights, the Baleno sticks the boot in by offering 320 litres of luggage capacity. That’s a full 109 litres more than the Swift, making this a realistic proposition for Swift owners looking to upsize. Suzuki told us it is losing customers, with Swift owners seemingly unhappy to shift across to the Vitara or S-Cross. The Baleno is designed to encourage Suzuki loyalists to stick around.

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That’s all well and good, but it won’t drive as sweetly as a Swift

You’re right, it doesn’t, but that was never the intention. Suzuki readily admits that the Baleno “offers a more rational choice for buyers” by majoring on interior space, practicality and spec. But before you turn right over to the TV page, stick with us. It’s not over…

Thanks to an entirely new platform, the Baleno is one of the lightest cars in its class, with our 1.0-litre Boosterjet tipping the scales at a mere 950kg. That’s nearly 100kg lighter than the Swift Sport, which just happens to be one of favourite B-road terrorists.

The favourable comparisons don’t stop there. Suzuki claims the 1.0-litre Boosterjet unit offers performance levels comparable to a 1.8-litre engine, developing 110hp at 5,550rpm and 125lb ft torque between 2,000rpm and 3,000rpm.

Breaking out the Swift Sport comparison-o-meter once again, the 1.6-litre offers 134hp at 6,900rpm and 118lb ft 4,400rpm. Top speed and 0-62mph times (Baleno/Sport) are: 124mph/11.4sec and 121mph/8.7sec.

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So you’re saying it’s as good as a Swift Sport?

Goodness, no – but the performance figures go some way to expressing just what a delightful engine this is. Not only is Boosterjet the most comically good name ever chosen for an engine, it’s also a riot to play with.

Pull away and you can feel the Baleno’s lightness, before the Boosterjet takes over and propels you into orbit. OK, we might be getting a little carried away, the power delivery is wonderfully smooth and linear. It’s also accompanied by the familiar thrum of a three-cylinder engine. Marmite cliché  alert: you’ll either love it or hate it.

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The steering is too light to encourage much in the way of B-road frivolity, but the Baleno is loaded with unexpected character and playfulness. Stick it in third gear, make the most of the torque, and indulge yourself in some rational playtime.

It also rides surprisingly well, although the soft springs and the car’s overall lightness can result in the car being forced off line by rutted surfaces and cat’s eyes. There’s a hint of body-roll, but the 185/55 tyres provide plenty of grip.

Will anybody actually care how it drives?

Arguably not. The Suzuki Baleno will appeal to Mr Rational more than it will Mrs Emotional, but you’d be wrong to dismiss this as little more than a value-driven white good. Not that it isn’t excellent value.

Prices start at £12,999 for the entry-level SZ-T, with an extra £1,000 putting you behind the wheel of the SZ-5. For an additional £1,400, Suzuki will also offer a six-speed automatic transmission for the SZ-5, with a 1.2-litre mild hybrid also available.

Standard specification is astonishingly good: six airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights, air conditioning, sat nav, DAB radio with USB, Bluetooth, rear privacy glass and front electric windows. But you’d be mad not to opt for the SZ-5.

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The top trim adds automatic climate control, rear electric windows, a 4.2-inch central colour display, LED rear lights, adaptive cruise control and radar brake support. Oh, and get this: Apple CarPlay is standard… across the range.

Sadly, SZ-5 owners also will be ‘treated’ to the garish chrome trim. But before SZ-T buyers start scoffing, the chrome tailgate trim is for all…

Sounds like Suzuki has created the perfect supermini

The Baleno is practical, excellent value, well-equipped and drives much better than we ever expected, but before we reach for that fifth star, there are a few caveats.

Evidence of cost-cutting can be found in the interior, with fit and finish lagging behind, say ,the Skoda Fabia. Small details like the incredibly flimsy controls for the odometer and screen brightness will remind you that you’re in a cheap car. They have the structural reassurance of a Matchmaker chocolate stick.

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And although we loved driving the Baleno, there’s no doubt the Ford Fiesta remains the choice for keen drivers. The seats are also on the firm side, contributing to a feeling of being perched on rather than sat in the car.

We should also point out that – in order to save weight – Suzuki has loaded the Baleno with a 37-litre fuel tank. That’s five litres smaller than the Swift and eight litres smaller than the Skoda Fabia. Spend too much time revelling in the thrum of the Boosterjet and you might end up paying a few extra visits to the petrol station.

Enough baloney, time to summarise the Baleno

We weren’t expecting to write 1,500 words on the Suzuki Baleno, but there’s a surprising amount to say about this new supermini. We’d rather like to spend some more time with the car, which is a compliment in itself.

The styling has grown on us and we thoroughly enjoyed chucking it along the coastal roads of Northern Ireland. Indeed, we only checked the fuel economy on return to base and were pleasantly surprised to see a figure of 49.2mpg. A little way short of the claimed 62.7mpg, but given we were too busy boosting the jet to care, this is more than admirable.

The 1.0-litre Boosterjet in SZ5 trim is a thoroughly good way to spend £14,000. If you’re prepared to forgo the luxuries of the top trim level, you can drive away in a new Baleno for no deposit and £199 a month.

Baleno: bargain. Brilliant.

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2016 Suzuki Baleno 1.0: Early verdict

For:

Brilliant Boosterjet engine

Practical and spacious interior

Seriously well-equipped

Excellent value for money

Against:

Interior fit and finish

Sombre styling

Not class-leading dynamics

That chrome tailgate trim

2016 Suzuki Baleno 1.0: Specification

Price: from £12,999

Engine: 1.0-litre direct injection turbo

Gearbox: five-speed manual

Power: 110hp

Torque: 125lb ft

0-62mph: 11.4 seconds

Top speed: 124mph

Fuel economy: 62.7mpg

CO2 emissions: 105g/km

Reliable cars

The 5 most reliable car brands

Reliable carsAccording to a recent survey, UK buyers think German cars are among the most reliable on the road. However, real repair data from Warrantywise largely contradicts this, with Japanese brands dominating the reliability roundup. Join us as we count down the five most dependable car brands – and reveal the average repair cost for each.

Reliable cars5. Hyundai

Dependability score: 88

Want some Korea’s advice? Buy a Hyundai. You get a five-year manufacturer warranty, good-value prices and a strong dependability score of 88. The Tucson SUV is decent to drive, too.

Reliable cars5. Hyundai

Average repair cost: £577

Like many of its rivals, Hyundai is trying to move upmarket with its own premium sub-brand: Genesis. Would the promise of good reliability make you choose a Genesis over an Audi? Phil Collins has so far refused to comment…

Reliable cars4. Mitsubishi

Dependability score: 89

Mitsubishi sees the future in plug-in hybrids, like its Outlander PHEV. In the present, though, the firm is doing very nicely indeed. Sales are up, and a dependability score of 89 puts it fourth here.

Reliable cars4. Mitsubishi

Average repair cost: £833

Ouch! Yes, that’s the highest average repair cost here – a whopping £833. To put that in perspective, it’s more than double what you’d typically pay to repair a Smart. Good thing Mitsubishis are reliable, really…

Reliable cars3. Suzuki

Dependability score: 92

Suzuki got off to a shaky start with its Celerio city car, which failed a brake test conducted by Autocar magazine. However, the Celerio is now fixed and proving reliable, as a dependability score of 92 shows.

Reliable cars3. Suzuki

Average repair cost: £424

The latest Vitara is good fun to drive – and repair costs are affordable for a 4×4. The average across the Suzuki range is £424.

Reliable cars2. Toyota

Dependability score: 93

Toyota recalls always make the news, but their relative frequency shows how keen the company is to ensure its products are totally reliable. It just loses out to one of its Japanese rivals – but who could that be?

Reliable cars2. Toyota

Average repair cost: £592

Whatever you think about the styling of the new Prius, it’s likely to be very dependable indeed. Toyota has proved that hybrid tech needn’t mean excessive repair and maintenance costs.

Reliable cars1. Honda

Dependability score: 93

So here we are at the top of the table – and it’s Honda that takes first prize. Its dependability score of 93 is actually the same as Toyota, but average repair costs are lower.

Reliable cars1. Honda

Average repair cost: £535

From the practical Jazz to the banzai Civic Type R, Honda has a car to suit most tastes. If you value trouble-free motoring, it’s the number one choice.

Suzuki Vitara

Suzuki Vitara S (2016) road test review

Suzuki VitaraThis is the hot hatch of SUVs. It really is. It’s Suzuki’s latest (and rather good) Vitara, fitted with an all-new 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine and, in this case, an automatic gearbox. But is it worth the £20,000-plus asking price? Keep clicking to find out…

Suzuki Vitara rivalsWhat are its rivals?

There’s no shortage of trendy crossovers on the market, especially if you’ve got a Vitara S budget to play with. There’s the darling of the segment, the Nissan Juke, as well as its platform-sharing Renault Captur. Both of these are perhaps quirkier choices, but lack the off-road credibility of the Vitara. Then there are fashionable options such as the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X – both of which are available with a 170hp petrol engine, if you’re after sprightly performance.

Suzuki VitaraWhich engine does it use?

So, that 1.4-litre turbo? Despite being smaller than the 1.6-litre petrol also offered, it actually sits above the bigger engine in the Vitara range. It produces 140hp and 162lb ft of torque (that’s more than Suzuki’s hot hatch, the Swift Sport), resulting in a 0-62mph time of 10.2 seconds.

Suzuki VitaraWhat’s it like to drive?

The standard Vitara, especially when fitted with four-wheel-drive (standard on the Vitara S), handles really well. Body-roll is well controlled, while the steering provides plenty of feedback. It’s definitely a ‘warm hatch’ among crossover SUVs – even more so when fitted with this eager engine.

It feels considerably quicker than its 0-62mph time suggests. A low 1,210kg kerb weight (nothing for an SUV) makes it pretty nimble, while the automatic gearbox is quite happy to drop down in a hurry if you’re looking to overtake or accelerate out of a corner as quickly as possible.

Suzuki VitaraFuel economy and running costs

Following the downsized-engine-plus-turbo recipe, the Vitara S is actually more efficient than the sensible 1.6-litre in the range. Officially, anyway. While the auto returns 51.4mpg on the combined cycle (52.3mpg for the manual), small capacity turbos like this usually struggle to match their official figures. And if you drive it like a hot hatch? Well…

Suzuki VitaraIs it practical?

Yes, more so than many of its rivals. The Vitara boasts a 375-litre boot space with the seats up, while the boot opening is large and easily accessible. Rear passengers will appreciate the high-up seating position and good visibility and, although the interior does have a few less-than-premium plastics, it’s largely a pleasant cabin. There’s a lot of standard kit, too.

Suzuki VitaraWhat about safety?

The Vitara’s four-wheel-drive system should provide that extra stability if you regularly drive in slippery conditions. Like most of its ilk, it usually runs as a front-wheel drive car, diverting power to the rear when required. It’s clever, though – the Vitara will anticipate this before it happens. So, if you mash the accelerator mid-bend, it’ll send power to the rear before it detects slip.

Combine this with a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and a plethora of tech (such as an automatic radar braking system), and the Vitara should prove a very safe family SUV.

Suzuki VitaraWhich version should I go for?

If you’re after the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine (we’d recommend it if you’re budget can stretch to it), you’re restricted to the top-of-the-range Vitara S. The only choice to make then is the £20,899 manual or £22,249 auto. We’d probably opt for the manual ’box, but that comes down to personal preference.

Suzuki VitaraShould I buy one?

If you want a crossover that drives really well, then yes. It’s a hefty price to pay for a Vitara, but you do get a lot for your money in the range-topping Vitara S. Suzuki has a reputation for making reliable cars, so the Vitara shouldn’t prove troublesome, and it has more off-road ability that most of its peers. It’s a smart buy.

Suzuki VitaraPub fact

To brighten up the cabin, Suzuki has given the Vitara S various splashes of colour as standard. We like the red stitching on the steering wheel and seats, but the rings around the air vents definitely look pink to us. They’re red, insists Suzuki, but they’re anodised – which might make them appear pink in certain lights. Tell that to your mates down the pub.

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 SZ3 Dualjet: Two-Minute Road Test

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 SZ3 Dualjet (2016) road test review

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 SZ3 Dualjet: Two-Minute Road Test

Do not confuse this with the regular Suzuki Celerio. The regular Suzuki Celerio is a sensible, affordable city car that will provide impressive fuel economy and get you from A to B while stopping short of impressing your mates. Unless your mates are 80-year-old bingo players called Doris.

But this is the Dualjet version. Dramatic music, if you will. Without getting too techy, it basically means the Celerio is even more economical. The most efficient car in its class, in fact.

What are its rivals?

There’s no shortage of competition for the Suzuki Celerio – from trendier alternatives such as the Toyota Aygo and Volkswagen Up! trios, to rivals from Korea including the Hyundai i10 and Kia Picanto, plus newcomers such as the Vauxhall Viva. It’s a sector that’s come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and buyers are expecting a lot more from their low-cost city cars.

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 SZ3 Dualjet: Two-Minute Road Test

Which engine does it use?

All Suzuki Celerios come with the same engine – a 3-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol. But this model features the firm’s clever Dualjet technology, which uses twin fuel injectors positioned close to the engine inlet valves. This allows for a finer fuel mixture, providing a more effective transfer into the engine. The result is better fuel economy, lower emissions, and a slight increase in torque.

What’s it like to drive?

The Celerio is very much a shopping car, but it’s actually surprisingly fun. The steering is light and features a tiny turning circle – ideal in town – but the clutch is almost too light, making it difficult to feel the biting point. The Celerio’s compact dimensions (particularly its 1.6-metre width) mean it squeezes through gaps that would send door mirrors flying if you attempted them in most modern superminis.

Weighing just 845kg, it flies along, feeling much swifter than its 13.0-second 0-62mph time suggests (half a second quicker than the regular Celerio, thanks to that extra torque). It starts to feel slightly out of breath when you close in on the national speed limit, but that’s unlikely to be an issue for the average Celerio buyer.

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 SZ3 Dualjet: Two-Minute Road Test

Fuel economy and running costs

Of greater importance is just how efficient this Celerio is. It’ll return an incredible 78.4mpg on the combined cycle – 12.7mpg more than the regular Celerio with the same engine, but without the Dualjet technology. It emits 84g/km CO2, meaning you won’t pay anything in road tax (but then you wouldn’t with the 99g/km regular Celerio, either).

Is it practical?

The ‘box with a wheel at each corner’ approach is nothing new within the city car segment, but it does make for a car that’s rather practical for its diminutive size. Four adults can fit in relative comfort, with plenty of headroom and legroom – but those of a wider build might want to look elsewhere. This isn’t the most stylish of city car interiors, with lots of hard plastics, but it feels fairly well-built.

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 SZ3 Dualjet: Two-Minute Road Test

What about safety?

If you take Euro NCAP’s three-star safety rating for the Celerio at face value, you’d be right to be concerned about its crashability. But it scored reasonably high for adult and child occupants, losing points for the lack of safety systems such as a speed limiter, lane-keeping assist or autonomous emergency braking as standard. Are you willing to go without these in a bid to keep costs down?

Which version should I go for?

The Dualjet Celerio costs £500 more than the equivalent Celerio SZ3 (£8,499 compared to £7,999). You’ll have to do the sums to work out whether you can justify that extra initial expense for the improved fuel economy, but no one will find the regular model particularly thirsty. There’s no tax advantage for buying the Dualjet, either.

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 SZ3 Dualjet: Two-Minute Road Test

Should I buy one?

The biggest challenge the Celerio faces is the quality of its rivals. They all offer more personalisation options (something buyers in this sector love, car manufacturers keep telling us). And the Celerio really is little more than a white good – a very efficient, and surprisingly enjoyable white good, perhaps, but it’s going to earn you little kudos if you care about that sort of thing.

If you value a low purchase price (or finance rate) and extremely low running costs with a modicum of practicality, the Suzuki Celerio makes sense. And you might enjoy driving it more than you’d expect, too.

Pub fact

UK buyers can only opt for the 1.0-litre petrol engine (with or without Dualjet tech), but Indian customers can have a 0.8-litre two-cylinder diesel. It produces just 47hp and returns 78.6mpg – a fraction more than the Dualjet petrol.

Suzuki SJ - Great Motoring Disasters

The Suzuki 4×4 that cornered like a motorbike

Suzuki SJ - Great Motoring DisastersWhen it comes to road transport, four wheels are generally better than three, and if staying dry and safe bothers you, two wheels even more.

Suzuki’s baby SJ410 four-wheel drive, however, occasionally seemed uncertain over whether it was a four-wheeler or a two, a little too much of its maker’s proud motorcycle prone to sudden appearances while cornering.

See, the SJ410, a rather neat and temptingly affordable jeep-in-miniature, had a tendency to tip and fall.

Install someone young, fast and unaware behind its neat plastic wheel, show them a bend and they could rapidly learn about high centre’s of gravity and their potential effects on tall, narrow objects travelling at speed, as well as the unsuitability of off-roaders for speedy on-roading and how toppling over does not look cool.

Suzuki SJ - Great Motoring Disasters

Not that ‘cool’ was a cool word in the mid ‘80s, when the Suzuki SJ fad really took off. But the Suzuki suddenly became a very cool thing, particularly if it was white, had white wheels and was (usually) occupied by someone wearing white stilettos.

Commonly found outside night clubs in the era when George Michael, Madonna, Duran Duran and Frankie Goes to Hollywood sang floor-filling hits, the SJ was a favoured set of wheels for the legendary 1980s Essex Girl, who usually chose the soft-top version of this tiny four-wheel drive to better show-off her orange tan and peroxide streaked hair. Occasionally, this myth was even true.

Suzuki SJ - Great Motoring Disasters

The Suzuki SJ, however, was not originally designed for the cocktail-and-paper-umbrella world at all. It was a descendant of Suzuki’s 1970 LJ20, a miniature twin cylinder jeep with utility styling, selectable four-wheel drive and a price low enough to forgive its canvas doors.

Cleverly, its spare wheel was helpfully stored behind the front passenger seat so that it squeezed within the tight dimensions of a Japanese Kei car.

Despite its puny 25bhp it was an effective device in a quarry, and among others, began being bought by civil construction companies. They favoured it over Land Rovers, because the LJ was so cheap that its purchase price could painlessly be written-off over the life of the contract, the no-doubt heavily-abused Suzuki binned on the project’s completion. Others simply bought them as a cheap set of fun wheels.

Suzuki had discovered a new niche, and in 1975 enlarged the LJ’s 360cc twin to a heady 550cc, creating the LJ50. The spare wheel migrated to a mounting hung from the LJ’s rear-end, this big-engined export version not needing to comply with the Kei car rules.

It sold well in Australia, encouraging Suzuki to introduce the still more reckless LJ80, this time with a four cylinder developing a rampant 41bhp. The LJ80’s eventual launch into the Netherlands, the absence of inclines presumably flattering its performance, formed a bridgehead for an advance party of these baby jeeps into Europe.

But it was the 1982 SJ that led the invasion into Britain’s nightlife, although it took a while to warm up. Launched as the SJ410, it was propelled by a 1.0 four that could push it no further than 68mph on 45bhp and four speeds, which was fine for off-roading if less effective on the A118 towards Romford.

A separate ladder chassis, simple drum brakes and a quartet of leaf springs were designed to sustain a tough life on building sites and in the bush, spanners and a welding torch good for fixing anything that broke. Not that much did – the SJ was a tough little thing.

Like plenty of early off-roaders this Suzuki was part-time four-wheel drive, the price-reducing absence of a centre differential not only requiring you to jab a lever for all-wheel drive, but also to get out and lock the front wheel hubs.

Not good for footwear if you’d entered a bog, especially stilettos. But with low range as well you could get yourself across some pretty testing terrain and being light – just 850kg as a soft-top – the SJ could get about like a mountain goat. And without munching on the local vegetation.

In Britain sales were limited by the fact that there was a quota applied to the import of Japanese cars, the so-call Gentlemen’s Agreement largely devised in a (failed) bid to protect British Leyland’s tumbling market share.

Suzuki investigated building the SJ in Europe to circumvent it, and did a deal with Spain’s Santana Motor which ironically, also made BL’s Land Rover to its own recipe. Assembly of the SJ began in 1987, allowing Suzuki’s increasingly successful UK importer to bring almost unlimited numbers of SJs over here.

Suzuki SJ - Great Motoring Disasters

Two years earlier the SJ413 had been launched as an estate, its 1324cc motor putting out 66 ground-shivering horsepower to further tempt buyers. This and a five-speed gearbox boosted the SJ’s top speed by 10mph to 78mph, although it was still going to struggle against a white Escort XR3i cabriolet screaming its way to Millionaires.

But before that came scandal, and not of the Essex girl variety. An assortment of consumer bodies, including Britain’s Which? and America’s Consumer Reports, discovered that if you drove a tall and narrow vehicle into a bend faster than you would a Lotus, it tended to topple over.

In fact, you could be going a lot slower than you would in a Lotus and still momentarily reduce tyre-wear on the SJ’s in-board flank.

The discovery of this destabilising habit produced a small explosion of angry newsprint. And in America, a lawsuit, which uncovered the fact that Suzuki had tried to hide the truth about the SJ’s instability.

Little of which seemed to impede its sales and certainly didn’t produce a recall. Instead, salespeople were lamely told to make buyers aware of its on-road limitations.

Suzuki SJ - Great Motoring Disasters

Towards the end of the ‘80s the SJ had almost become a cult car, its UK importers cannily exploiting its appeal with the sale of special versions like the Rhino, complete with silhouette of said beast on the spare wheel cover, graphics packs, alloy wheels, bull-bars and side rails.

All of which allowed one nightclub guest to distinguish their SJ over another’s, though perhaps less successfully in a dark winter car-park.

In 1988, Suzuki supplemented by the decidedly more stylish Vitara, whose stabilising extra width usefully diminished the chance of scraping its roof. That sold well in white too.

Today the SJ is almost forgotten, partly because it became as unfashionable as shoulder pads, but also because most disappeared into the ether, their thin steel panels dissolving as fast as ice cubes after the party.

But if you want to relive some of the experience – though not the tendency to topple – you can buy the Suzuki Jimny, the SJ’s diminutive and long-running successor, debuting in 1997.

It’s not so great on road, but it’s brilliant off-it, and doesn’t cost much. Which was Suzuki’s original point.

Now watch the video that caused all the fuss…

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