Suzuki says it will be an all-hybrid UK motor brand by late 2021, as it drives down emissions for its passenger car range.
But the Japanese marque’s eco mission suffered a casualty; the highly acclaimed but petrol-powered Jimny off-roader is being withdrawn from that line-up, only to re-appear minus its two rear seats – anyone over four feet might say these won’t be missed – thereby qualifying as a light commercial and exempt from the same emissions ruling.
Such conjuring looks mundane though against Suzuki’s hybrid stunt: just 10 per cent of its UK range was petrol-electric two years ago, before soaring to 75 per cent this year and going fully dual-power next. Admittedly, it is getting a helping hand from world no1 carmaker Toyota: the two marques have traded shares in each other and pledged to share hybrid and small car technology, with immediate benefits for Suzuki in the form of two ‘oven-ready’ UK models.
The first is a Toyota RAV4 spin-off, called Across, with styling made to look less er… cross at the front end than the donor car. There will be just one version and Suzuki predicts demand will exceed the 1,000-unit supply for year one suggesting two things: ‘Big T’ probably doesn’t want ‘Little Suzi’ robbing its dealers of a cash cow, and prices will be keen when Across arrives at dealers in October. At £45,599, it undercuts the RAV4 PHEV by almost £1,800. The Across plug-in hybrid powertrain enables 4WD and an impressive 0-62mph in six seconds, yet DC&EC readers will note just 22g/km CO2 emissions and a respectable 46 miles in EV mode.
New model Number two is good news for the brand’s ‘buy UK’ credentials and a shot in the arm for Toyota’s chronically under-used Burnaston plant, founded in 1992 but now potentially Brexit blighted due to its reliance on EU-sourced parts. The Derbyshire site was said to be operating at half capacity even in 2018, but production of Suzuki’s Swace aka Toyota Corolla Touring Sports – estate to you and me – should now help. It also gives Suzuki a UK-built car in the popular touring estate/wagon sector when Brexit, anti-EU and China feelings, and carbon footprints from long distance imports are persuading more Brits to buy homegrown – the rest of Suzuki’s UK range comes from Hungary, India and Japan. As with the Across, Suzuki has given the Swace an arguably better front end treatment, and promised a price reflecting “the value that Suzuki customers expect”. (The price has been announced at £27,499 to £29,299).
In a press webinar, Suzuki chiefs were also, unsurprisingly, keen to paint an upbeat market picture where the brand is not only holding share in a flaky market, but building on it in a year battered by Brexit and Covid. It also happens to be the marque’s centenary. ‘Mr Suzuki’ started out making highly efficient looms but always looked to diversify, dabbling with car production before WWII and, after a cotton industry crash in the 1950s, taking the plunge into motorcycles and then cars.
Two initiatives have since helped boost Suzuki to around 10th place in global car manufacturing (depending on whose stats, though Suzuki claims 8th using its own sums): a partnership with Maruti in India that has grabbed nearly half of the huge sub-continental car market and a commitment to all-wheel drive; we were reminded that every UK Suzuki model is available with its trademark AllGrip system, which does what it says on the tin. This also carefully avoids the dreaded 4×4 label, now associated with gas-guzzling Tonka toys and not what Suzuki’s marketeers want as the brand goes greener. This new thrust also ties in with eco-friendly facelifts for the company’s two big yet compact sellers, the Ignis mini-SUV (from £14,249) and Swift supermini (from £14,749) – together, they account for a staggering 60 per cent of Suzuki’s UK sales. Both get an enhanced 1.2 Dualjet engine, CVT auto ‘box option, and other tweaks to drive down emissions and boost mpg, while Suzuki has launched both revamps with tempting PCP deals.
The success of both models highlights Suzuki’s deft touch with small cars: once a misfit amongst rivals who fill every potential market sector, it now looks like the master in this strange new world.
Cometh the hour – cometh the marque.