If you want a Celerio, get one soon, before they run out!
Perhaps I should explain the Japanese city car rules first…if you believe that our roads are overcrowded, spare a thought for the cluster of islands that make up the country we know as Japan. Japan was decimated by the second world war but was determined to emerge from its bicycle and motorbike dominated transport situation. In 1949, the legal category of ‘kei-car’ was formulated to make its people mobile in a fast-developing sector of industry.
Based on small capacity engines (starting with a 150cc limit), a category that we know better as cyclecars and that was epitomised by our country’s post-WW2 dependence on tax-friendly three-wheelers (like the Reliant Regal, the ‘Trotters Independent Trading’ type of vehicle, among a host of others) continued to grow. Engine capacity increased, as did the amount of technical sophistication. In fact, Suzuki’s first ‘kei-class’ car was the Suzulight of 1955.
By the early-1990s, the engine capacity had increased to just 660cc but the ‘kei-cars’ were being exported in big numbers to other developing markets, often with larger capacity 800cc to 1.0-litre engines fitted. Although still restricted in exterior dimensions, they featured turbochargers, automatic gearboxes and even 4WD systems. They were super-compact but were just as speedy as their respective manufacturers’ larger, or ‘national-class’ cars. The Japanese government felt forced to introduce both a power limit (63bhp) and speed restriction (88mph) to the million-selling machines.
Increased domestic prosperity and ultra-modern cities created huge traffic problems for Japanese commuters. The roads network expanded by way of compensation but soon became gridlocked, with more polluting transport. Even swingeing congestion charges could not reduce the local demand for ‘kei-cars’ and, in a major irony, by the late-1990s, Mercedes-Benz was selling its own ‘kei-class’ car, the smart car, to Japan. If you wanted to park in a Japanese city, even with high taxation, a ‘kei-car’ was the way to do so.
By 2014, the Japanese government decided to remove any incentives on ‘kei-cars’, as a result only Daihatsu, Honda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki continued to produce them. Both Nissan and Mazda sell rebadged Suzukis, while Toyota and Subaru do similarly with Daihatsus.
While a developing market may exist for electric versions of ‘kei-cars’, only the Mitsubishi i-MIEV remains on sale in Japan. Increasing legislative pressure from the EU means that cars like the Celerio, even with its western increased engine capacity, will be unable to meet future CO2 emissions requirements and, with fewer than 2,000 examples finding UK homes, Suzuki GB has taken the decision to cease importing it by late autumn.
Luscombe’s summary: While we are sad to wave farewell to Celerio, more emphasis will be placed on both hybrid and electric developments of Suzuki models, to ensure that you gain from cleaner and more economical versions of our cars.
Next week: Iain takes delivery of his new Vitara.
Tackling Suzuki’s safety advancements
When you buy a new Suzuki, you may wonder about how safe it is, suggests Iain Robertson, as apart from front, side and curtain airbags, ESP (Electronic Stability Program) and anti-lock brakes, there is actually a lot more to understand.
While none of us necessarily wishes to consider the implications of a motor-related incident, sometimes it is unavoidable. Suzuki has always endeavoured to be at the forefront of vehicle technology and, in the race to cut running costs, it has led by reducing the weights of its cars. While this ensures that they are more nimble and can travel further on each gallon of fuel, there could be no compromise in vehicle integrity.
Suzuki developed its TECT programme, which stands for Total Effective Control Technology, which provides a high level of collision safety. While largely ‘invisible’, it is a manufacturing strategy that incorporates various metal and plastic structures that are designed to absorb the energy of an impact and disperse it around a central cabin unit that protects the occupants. In other words, like the fairground ride attendant, who instructs you to ‘keep your arms in’, should bad things be happening outside of the cabin, you will be kept safe within it.
Over the years, many carmakers have sought to meet international crash legislation (the UK works to the NCap standards) and many collapsible elements that were designed to dissipate energy appeared both around and inside our cars. They extend to collapsible bumper units that can tolerate low-speed clashes and return to normal afterwards, to switchgear and controls that are flush-mounted, or rounded in their construction to avoid even minor abrasions, in the event of an accident.
Of course, very little can defeat the Laws of Physics but Suzuki does its very best to ensure that you are protected as much as possible. Ultimately, the best way to survive is by avoiding clashes with either other road-users, or the scenery, but it is useful to appreciate that Suzuki provides as much help as possible.
Luscombe’s summary: The best advice we can offer is to create as much of a safety space around you as possible, when in heavy traffic conditions. Brake lighter but longer and plan better, while giving greater clearance to the vehicle ahead.
Next week: Iain looks at Suzuki’s Advanced Forward Detection System
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