There is a new BUD­GET BAKKIE in town.

The lit­tle work­horse can carry some se­ri­ous loads and also tra­verse chal­leng­ing ter­rain

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

THE first thing peo­ple ask when I tell them about Suzuki’s bar­gain bakkie, the Su­perCarry, is: “Suzuki has a bakkie?”

The an­swer is yes, very much so, as the Su­perCarry is a real work­horse in the lines of the cab-over-en­gine Mit­subishi L300, which le­gendary work­horses are still de­liv­er­ing coun­cil work­ers and tools to work sites to keep Msun­duzi mov­ing.

MADE TO LOAD

Un­like a mod­ern bakkie with load bins so high you need a lad­der to pop any­thing over the side and lengths so long you can park only in the truck bays, the new-gen­er­a­tion Su­per Carry is tiny — or “ul­tra com­pact” as the brochure de­scribes it.

Yet, its load deck has drop sides so the load bin is be­low hip height, and it is large enough to fit a pal­let with ease.

In SA, the Su­perCarry is li­censed to carry 750 kg. Of course, in Sef­fricanspeak, three quar­ters of a ton sounds just like a ton and luck­ily this lit­tle bakkie is li­censed for this weight in In­dia, where it is quite pop­u­lar.

The brochure also said the Su­perCarry’s ground clear­ance of 175 mm al­lows the lit­tle work­horse “to tra­verse chal­leng­ing ter­rain”.

My idea of “chal­leng­ing” in­volves The Slope, a 30-de­gree sandy in­cline of ruts and tree roots, but the Su­perCarry is not a 4x4, so I took it to the level but muddy grounds of Duzi Turf’s to load a pal­let of grass.

GIV­ING IT STICK

Then I gave it the ul­ti­mate test — a fe­male driver who have not driven stick in two years. Af­ter ad­just­ing the seat for­wards to de­press the clutch fully (it is the one on the left, right?), we man­aged (just) not to spin the rear wheels all the way to the field be­ing har­vested. In fact, in­crease the ra­tio of the gears a cog or two and this lit­tle rear-wheel drive bakkie could be­come a very nice drifter toy in the lines of the old Nis­san 1400.

A turn­ing cir­cle of just 8,6 me­tres en­sures the Su­perCarry could turn be­tween the muddy spots, but with a load on the back and soft tyres, it will go over muddy ter­rain.

Suzuki’s proven GB12 four-cylin­der petrol en­gine makes 54 kW at 6 000 r/ min and 101 Nm torque at 3 000 r/min. It does not sound a lot com­pared to the stan­dard for big bakkies like the Hilux or Ranger, but the over­stroked pis­tons and ra­tios (1:4,43 in first) of the fivespeed man­ual gear­box are such that the bakkie moves at le­gal speeds where you want to go over dirt or tar.

A fuel tank of 30 litres should give at least 300 km with a load, or fire the driver. The small 155/R13 tyres need a lit­tle care over pot­holes, but this size tyre is the cheap­est to re­place.

CREA­TURE, ERM, COM­FORTS

As for crea­ture com­forts in the cabin, the brochure calls the de­sign “sim­ple and straight­for­ward”. Trans­lated, it means the driver seat can slide and there are two sun vi­sors. Only the driver’s door un­locks — ar­guably a safety feature — and a 12 V socket keeps phones charged.

What the brochure does not tell you is the cub­by­hole takes a six pack of cooldrinks and on a win­try day the 1 196 cc heater un­der the seats makes for cosy bums. From ex­pe­ri­ence in these cab over en­gine bakkies, I must, how­ever, warn those bums will also get a tad toasty on a hot days. There are two fixed air vents, and they point at the floor.

THE COM­PE­TI­TION

At R129 000 with a three-year or 100 000 km war­ran­tee on Suzuki’s proven driv­e­train, and R14 000 for a high Beek­man canopy, only the longer, lower Changan Star 1,3 is cheaper. But this Chi­nese bakkie has a shorter war­ran­tee (one year or 60 000 km).

The other contender, the turbo-diesel Tata Su­perAce, has more power and the same war­ranty as the Suzi, but it has to shake the dis­mal rep­u­ta­tion of the first Ace. Some would want to add the Dai­hatsu Gran Max at this point, es­pe­cially as its 1,5 en­gine makes the most power (77 kW/140 Nm) in this group.

But the joke is on them, as Dai­hatsu’s owner, Toy­ota, has qui­etly closed this high-revving brand in South Africa.

PRICE AND POWER

Changan Star 1,3 R106 990 (60 kW/102 Nm) Suzuki Su­perCarry 1,2 R129 900 (54 kW/101 Nm) Tata Su­per Ace 1,4TD R159 995 (52 kW/132 Nm)

In fact, in­crease the ra­tio of the gears a cog or two and this lit­tle rear-wheel drive bakkie could be­come a very nice drifter toy in the lines of the old Nis­san 1400.

Suzuki’s Su­perCarry is a real work­horse, but is value of­fer­ing has yet to be dis­cov­ered by the gar­den ser­vice providers in Msun­duzi.

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