Suzi’s next generation
SUZUKI re-shaped the Australian automotive market with the LJ50 lightweight four-wheel-drive in 1974.
Now it’s doing it again with the first compact SUV featuring rearwheel drive.
Adam Le Fevre, boss of Queensland importer Suzuki Auto Co, says the five-door SUV mixes ‘‘style with clearance’’ and will appeal to people who want to get away for short trips with light-duty towing.
So it was put to the test with an 1800km three-day round trip from Brisbane to Yeppoon towing a Jayco Discovery pop-top caravan weighing about 1.3 tonnes with a 120kg ball weight.
The five-speed manual transmission petrol model has the same 1850kg braked towing capacity as the allwheel-drive variants, but is about 44kg lighter, slightly more economical and still has all the advantages of an SUV layout, such as a high driver stance.
Official fuel economy figures say it sips unleaded petrol at 8.7 litres/100km on average, which is 0.2 litres/100km better than the AWD version.
On our test, it achieved just under 10 litres/100km around town, but with the van attached it ranged from about 14 litres/100km to a whopping 17.6 litres/100km over the Mt Morgan ranges section.
Hills and aerodynamic drag at speeds of more than 80km/h had the biggest effect on fuel economy.
The short drawbar on the Jayco reduces the turbulence between the Suzuki and the van, but a higher tow vehicle might prevent the front of the van acting as a windsock.
The biggest advantage over the AWD model is the $4500 saving on price, although this comes with steel wheels and doesn’t have satnav.
But like all five-door Grand Vitaras, it now comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming plus a handy reversing camera that allows you to perfectly line up your ball coupling without a guide.
Our test model was also kitted out with a Guardian IQ electronic brake controller ($300 fitted), Coast FourBar Level Ride Kit ($175) and ORA extended mirrors ($139).
The former saved us from rearending a Camry that decided to suddenly stop in front of us.
The weight distribution bars effectively prevented that ‘‘porpoising’’ effect over undulations in the road.
However, the extended mirrors were hopelessly inadequate.
They vibrated too much for any clear vision, they went out of alignment when we reached 80km/h and were blown back against the driver’s side window by passing trucks.
The Suzi’s large standard mirrors are more than adequate, but extended mirrors are required by law when you have a van wider than your vehicle.
Power from the 2.4-litre petrol engine is adequate for towing this van so long as you give it a little more revs in first and second gear, however hills quickly sap its strength.
Towing this type of van is probably beyond the capabilities of the fourspeed auto petrol model. But if you want a practical city run-around with occasional lightweight towing thrown in, the Suzi manual is a dependable bet.