Do you fancy a Cappuccino?
Over the years, Suzuki has produced some truly wonderful motorcars, each of which has either established, maintained, or built an unique platform for the brand. Among the cars that have been supplied to the UK new car scene are the intriguing X-90 and the undeniably sporty Cappuccino, both of which were strict two-seaters.
The X-90 was a bit of an oddball really, being based on the Vitara model of the time but being neither a practical crossover (although its boot was accommodating), nor a family car. In its own way, it was as impractical as a Renault Avantime, another remarkable machine, notable for its Espace dimensions but less than two-plus-two carrying capability. While it only sold in drips and drabs, with just a few hundred examples hitting our shores in the mid-1990s, there is an active X-90 Owners’ Club, which seems to appreciate it.
The Cappuccino, on the other hand, was launched much earlier in the UK, in late-1993, to much acclaim, being named ‘Best Sportscar under £20,000’ at that year’s London Motor Show. Like the X-90 it was rear-wheel-drive and its roof could be a T-Top (a ‘targa’ type), when the panels were removed. However, they were the only similarities. The Cappuccino’s roof panels could be stored in the boot, robbing much of its available space, with the rear portion, complete with glass screen, folding out of sight behind the seats. It was a neat solution to providing full convertibility.
Powered by a tiny, 657cc, 12v, twin-cam, three-cylinder engine (Suzuki’s history with ‘three-pots’ is extensive) that was both turbocharged and intercooled, it developed a modest 63bhp. However, tipping the scales at fractionally more than 700kgs, meant that its performance was sparkling, despatching the 0-60mph benchmark in a smidgen less than 10.0s, with a top speed in excess of 105mph.
I can recall the first test drive session, which demanded Olympic-grade calisthenics from me to fold in my long legs and obtain a moderate driving position. Being of narrow construction (the car, not me!) meant that my passenger was compromised a little. However, I was able to flick it through the gears and thrill to its quite astonishing dynamic capabilities. Its ride quality was firm but forgiving and the steering was deliciously crisp. The combination of tiny dimensions and a road-hugging stance was thoroughly engaging and the Cappuccino’s kart-like agility was memorable.
To import the car from Japan demanded extensive technical co-operation, so that it would meet UK National Type Approval. The task took fully 18 months at a huge cost to the importer, reflected in the unit selling price of £11,995. Although a handful of other colours have been grey-imported, the majority of UK-specification models were either silver, or red. In total, around 1,200 examples were sold in the UK and, again, there is an active Owners’ Club.
Luscombe’s summary: Suzuki is a brand possessing a tremendous history and models like the Cappuccino and even the X-90 demonstrate the ground-breaking nature of the brand.
Next week: Iain samples the latest Suzuki Vitara.
Investing in a Suzuki demands a specific mindset
There are very few car brands that engage so completely with their owners, as Suzuki does, suggests Iain Robertson, as he endeavours to enter the mindset of a typical Suzuki customer (bearing in mind that he is also a current Suzuki owner).
As a road tester of all types of motorcar, I might be described as an atypical Suzuki customer but, had I not acquired a first (28 years ago) and then second (25 years ago) Suzuki Swift for my eldest son, both of which I drove extensively, I might never have discovered the brand ‘magic’ that exists. It should be highlighted that I am also a motorsport fan and I was impressed by the giant-killing performance of the Swift in the British Saloon Car Championship of the time, a factor that led me to the brand.
Over the years, I have met many Suzuki owners, all of whom have their own reasons for becoming a loyal Suzuki customer. While sportiness is a small but pertinent attraction, earthier reasons exist for the vast majority of them, usually in the areas of dependability, low operational costs and robust designs. However, for most of them, an unremitting love of their Suzukis acts as the umbrella consideration.
Yet, perhaps some of this fascination may also lie in the hands of the typical Suzuki franchisee; the local, often family-owned dealership for the brand. I am yet to meet an unenthusiastic Suzuki dealer! Okay, some, like Robin Luscombe and his tightly-knit team of enthusiasts, manage to exceed expectations on all counts, in the process becoming a consistent top-performer in customer appreciation surveys. I am convinced that much of the loyalty stems from the dealership.
When you assess individual customers’ demands of their cars, an exercise that I have carried out around the UK, another aspect of commonality arises. Celerio and Ignis are acquired as much for their compact practicality, as they are (notably in the case of Ignis) for their individual style statements. The Swift has become a common denominator, a virtual default factor, of the compact hatch arena, with its latest Sport variant establishing so many ‘Best of’ qualities that it is a standout model in its own right.
Yet, Vitara is such a leading model for its blend of SUV competence across a range of two and four-wheel drivetrains, it might as well be called ‘the Vitara Class’. The new Jimny simply builds on an unburstable base, while S-Cross introduces Subaru-style on-road 4WD capabilities, with an eye to cost-efficiency and build excellence.
You see, the bottom-line of being a Suzuki owner, as exemplified by my ownership of a Baleno, is that no other brand can deliver all of the qualities that Suzuki can and which it does, with a sense of joy and driver pleasure that knows no bounds.
Luscombe’s summary: We are grateful that our successes are recognised by our customers and bodies that are not car-related. However, we never lose sight of the fact that Suzuki product speaks for itself and we understand its language and how it relates with all of our customers.
Next week: Iain explores Suzuki practicality.
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