As you will no doubt be aware, we here at Carwitter are big fans of the Suzuki Swift and the SX4 S-Cross. With that in mind when Suzuki invited us to try out the 4×4 versions on a series of off-road courses in North Yorkshire we jumped at the chance!
Suzuki, believe it or not have quite a history when it comes to four-wheel drive cars.
Their first 4×4 the LJ10 was a 25 bhp 360 cc powered machine that sold well in the Japanese Domestic Market. Even during my childhood it wasn’t uncommon to see Suzuki SJ410/413’s embarrassing more established machinery on off-road courses. The SJ was known as the Jimny in other markets, a name which adorns the current version here. It was not uncommon to see cars like the Suzuki Vitara parading around with their rhino spare wheel covers.
Suzuki have always maintained a 4×4 presence with the Jimny and Grand Vitara but it seems they would like to reignite that link between small 4×4’s and their brand. With that we found ourselves at a country house in North Yorkshire with three 4×4 cars from the brand. A Jimny, a SX4 S-Cross and a Swift 4×4
In our initial review of the SX4 S-Cross we found that the car was great value with good engines, lots of space and at a very good price point for a car in this sector. Fuel economy figures and CO2 figures are really quite impressive for a 4×4 car of this size. On the negative side some of the interior plastics were a bit cheap, and items such as the touch-screen stereo are a touch on the basic side.
The great on road handling we found previously would normally spell disaster for any off road ability. The S-Cross isn’t a hard-core off roader by any means but the clever use of an electronically controlled clutch-like transfer box really is quite impressive.
In sport mode on the road the car actually puts more power to the rear wheels to give a sportier drive. Off-Road this electronically controlled system cleverly works out how much power is needed to the back wheels and you could feel that reassuring shove from the back as the fronts started to lose traction.
Even with road tyres and large alloy wheels the car didn’t seem phased by the quad-bike track it was on. Typically I’d expect this car to be used by those who occasionally traverse loose surfaces, or those who want a bit of comfort for the winter months but don’t want to sacrifice good fuel economy and a comfortable drive.
The Swift has long been a favourite car here at Carwitter. The combination of great looks, great handling and reasonable prices has had the Swift on our radar for a while. Luckily the Swift 4×4 continues to impress. We drove it on the same quad track we took the SX4 S-Cross around.
The difference being the Swift is that it uses a viscous coupling to determine when the rear wheels need to engage. From a driving point of view this means no thought has to be put into selecting the right mode as effectively the car does the work for you.
The Swift 4×4 has been raised slightly and fitted with a few bash plates. In addition to this plastic body moulding has been added to indicate this is the tougher one. Thankfully these are much more subtle than you sometimes see on vehicles like the Yeti 4×4 or the earlier nuovo Panda 4×4’s.
When driving on the specially laid out circuit we didn’t find any of the obstacles really troubled the Swift. Only in a couple of situations was the ground slippy enough to feel glad for the extra traction at the rear wheels. Again this car will appeal to those who would like a bit of comfort from having a 4×4 car but don’t want to sacrifice on fuel economy, style or comfort.
The last car of the day was the Jimny. Seen by some as a weird, small oddity the Jimny has always had a following in 4×4 circles. A real body-on-chassis off-roader that can trace it’s lineage back to the first Suzuki 4×4’s the Jimny is a very capable car. Small and light with the added benefit of lockable differentials and selectable low range gears the Jimny can handle most things thrown at it.
The route selected to showcase the Jimny was one trafficked mostly by Landrover Defenders. After a short display drive by an instructor we were handed the keys and allowed to take the mountain-goat of a car through this really tough course. The only modifications made were that the Jimny was fitted with aggressive off-road tyres, the bumpers were ‘trimmed’ due to said tyres and we were asked to keep away from the wading areas due to them being a little deep for an unmodified car.
The Jimny is known amongst off-roading groups for being very capable, and will attract people who need that very capable and reliable 4×4.
Driving all three cars back-to-back showed Suzuki have made a real effort to incorporate 4×4 technologies appropriate to the cars. Fitting a locking differential to a swift could quite easily have ruined the car, whilst the more complex but efficient system in the SX4 S-Cross is a great compromise.
In the next year or so we are told we should see more from Suzuki, including a production version of the IV4 Concept Car running a system similar to that in the SX4 S-Cross
Carwitter Feature Writer – Pete Flint-Murray