The chances are you will not because most consider a 4×4 as big and expensive, but what if I told you the car to get you out of similar situations is actually smaller and less money than you would probably think?
And what if it was one of a range of five cars costing from under £15K? That is the tantalising truth behind one of the motor industry’s least known but capable car-makers, Suzuki.
“They make motorcycles don’t they”, I hear you say, and they do along with marine engines, but in the UK the Japanese brand is enjoying a steady and significant rise of 6.6% in a market which has decreased 4% in car sales so far. You are going to see more of them on Britain’s roads after it recorded the best ever year of sales exceeding 38,000 units, particularly among private buyers.
Those are truly remarkable achievements for any manufacturer, but their 4×4 range is similarly impressive within these statistics. Out of its seven models currently available, no fewer than five have all-wheel-drive capability.
Suzuki has just showcased its sophisticated 4×4 models for the British motoring media in a series of driving days at the international off-road evaluation centre in Walters Arena, South Wales.
|This is where the world’s top motor-sport teams test their rallycars, motor manufacturers test their newest luxury off-roaders to develop suspension and traction systems, and where the Army has put new vehicles through destructive testing.
It’s a tough, uncompromising big challenge for the little Suzuki “Tesco Tractors” but they proved up to it as a way of life. Suzuki fielded their Ignis city car, Swift hatchback, Vitara SUV, S-Cross and Jimny for evaluation.
Suzuki use subtly different all-wheel-drive systems for the models depending on their powertrains and likely use, but the emphasis is always on simplicity and reliability to get the job done and keep the car going over what may seem impossible tracks. It couldn’t be much simpler or harder.
|This is the patented name for the Suzuki 4WD technology.
Ignis city car and Swift hatchback, from £15,000 and £16,000 respectively, use the Auto viscous hydraulic system which requires no driver input to work.
The £19,300 Vitara SUV and its stablemate S-Cross from £22,000 employ a push-button Select electronic powertrain and the Pro system is fitted to the range-transfer equipped Jimny from under £13,000, the familiar boxy off-roader known world-wide for two decades.
This Allgrip range covers 52% of the UK market for 4WDs, so there’s huge potential for growth. Currently it accounts for six out of ten of the most fuel efficient and clean 4x4s you can buy.
There’s a mixture of fast smooth roads, gut wrenching boulder tracks and hang-on-for-life hills you’d have trouble walking up or down let alone expect to see a city car like the Ignis pass by.
In fact I think the Ignis (above) was the most impressive of the group we tested, it’s small but big on ability when faced with these conditions.
It was agile and more comfortable than the Jimney (top of page) but did not have the transmission sophistication of the little Jeep-like chappie for the really steep ascents and descents.
The Vitara (left) was much more comfortable than the lively Jimney’s shorter wheelbase would behave and its automatic transmission really came into its own as the roads changed. The ultimate must be the fashion-led S-Cross where green-wellies would not be needed or get dirty as it scrambled over mud and rutted tracks while you were insulated from them by a compliant suspension and some very good seats.
A few hours spent off-roading always teaches you something new so you appreciate a vehicle and its abilities even more; you get more out of a vehicle and yourself but also potentially can save a car from damage and that’s a cost we all want to avoid as we enjoy our cars and way of life.
Images by Matt Kimberley