The Future is Bright…the Future is online content
Hello and welcome! My name is Iain Robertson. I am a motoring journalist and a Suzuki owner (I pay for it!).
Thanks to the foresight of Robin Luscombe, the illustrious boss-man at your Suzuki (and Mitsubishi) dealer in Leeds, over the next few months, I hope to introduce you to my Suzuki Baleno, various members of the dealership staff and to inform you about many things Suzuki. I can promise you, it will be an entertaining trip that you can dip into on a regular basis.
My personal Suzuki baptism occurred in the late-1980s, when I bought my first Suzuki Swift 1.3GTi. In 1993, I traded it in for the latest version of the same car. As a person who writes about all makes and models of cars, it is inevitable that I become tempted by one brand over another. Yet, Suzuki impressed me and, even though I dabbled with various other brands over the years, when I decided just over two years ago to invest in a new Baleno model, it was for the right reasons.
To state that I ‘own’ it is not strictly true, because I have a private lease on the car, which costs me £193 a month. I became enamoured with the prospect of leasing, when I started to account for aspects like vehicle depreciation. Yet, it is a personal choice that will not meet everybody’s desires, especially if ownership is a key. However, as a self-employed individual, leasing meets my needs to perfection, as I know what the regular costs are and I can budget accordingly.
Twenty-two months into the programme, I have been immensely impressed by the car’s total dependability. It never lets me down. While that alone is a good enough reason, I also love the fact that the Baleno, in SZ5, one-litre turbo-petrol form, is different enough to the customary run of Fords, Vauxhalls and Toyotas of the same class. It is a handsome car and is more than spacious enough for me, its well-over six feet tall driver.
Being a fan of its remarkable one-litre, three-cylinder, Boosterjet engine helps a lot. It produces enough grunt (109bhp) to make the best use of its sub-900kgs, all-in kerbweight. As a result, I am perpetually amazed by its zesty performance and astonishing pull from low engine revs. Having tested every 1.0-litre engine fitted to rival cars presently sold in the UK, I make no apology for stating that the Boosterjet unit is the best of them all. It is also amazingly economical, returning 60mpg with ease and even topping 70mpg on long trips.
You will hear more about my car in coming weeks and also all about its normal running costs. It is set for replacement in May 2020 and I am yet to decide whether I choose a new Suzuki Swift Sport (which I like loads), or a Suzuki Vitara 1.4S (which I like even more).
Luscombe’s summary: If you fancy a Baleno, like Iain’s car, speak with any member of our staff and we shall help you to understand it more fully and how it might fit into your lifestyle.
Next week, Iain talks turkey about Jimny and ventures off-road!
Tech for tech’s sake?
In-car technology has been developing at an accelerated rate since the turn of the century, highlights Iain Robertson, some of which is not merely terrifying to some new car buyers but also introduces aspects of complexity that may be a step too far.
It is now over a decade ago since I first drove a car with Park Assist. It was a fairly simple concept that demanded a small amount of driver involvement but it could park the vehicle both in parallel and perpendicular positions. While I was impressed by it overall, my greatest fear was that, were I to specify such a facility on a personal vehicle, I would probably end up parking the car upright in a chosen slot, which would be neither a good look, nor job defining.
My current Suzuki Baleno was at the ‘cutting-edge’ of automotive technology, when it was new 22 months ago. While it does fall into a classification of ‘affordable motoring’, it incorporates the EU-standard TPMS (for monitoring tyre pressures), ABS (antilock brakes) and TCS (grip and stability control) that form a bare bones minimum for ALL new cars. Of course, it also has a selection of airbags and crash beams around the car for occupant protection (in the event of a smash).
However, its technological bag-of-tricks continues with autonomous braking, by which a radar sensor located behind the front grille’s ‘S’ logo determines the distance of my car (which is adjustable through three predetermined settings) behind the vehicle, or obstacle, ahead, sounds and flashes a driver warning and, if no action is assumed, applies the car’s brakes automatically to draw it to a grinding halt. The car utilises this same technology for its distance cruise control, which (annoyingly) illuminates the brake-lights, as speed is reduced behind slower vehicles.
While the default settings are always ‘on’, it is fortunate that they can be switched off. However, the latest Suzuki Swift moves the game on by incorporating lane discipline, by which the driver’s knuckles get ‘rapped’, should the car deviate from the lane in which it should be travelling. There is an audible warning and the steering wheel tugs at the driver’s fingers, which is intensely worrying, when carrying out overtakes, or straightening-out bends, when visibility permits. Yet, the auto-on headlamps and wipers, as well as the rear-view colour camera are very practical.
Look, I am not keen on nannying electronic road signs that flash-up my speed and thank me for being at, or below, the posted speed limits, but these driver ‘aids’, or ‘assist’ systems, fitted to new cars are every bit as intrusive. Invest in a Volvo and you can welcome (or not) blind-spot warnings, which are admittedly useful, chassis vectoring that limits enthusiastic cornering, anti-ditch-visiting systems (useful in Sweden), elk avoidance technology (also useful in Scandinavian countries) and rear crash mitigation that warns you of what might crash into the back of your vehicle. Of course, NCap star ratings for vehicle safety place demands on carmakers to incorporate at least two ‘driver assist’ systems in new models and it is a growing list.
In research carried out in the UK, a list was formulated to highlight the percentage of new car owners, who simply cannot and are unlikely ever to use the following technology:
Self-parking – 61 per cent
Screens in the back seats – 58 per cent
Lane keep assist – 58 per cent
Seat memory settings – 57 per cent
Sports mode – 54 per cent
Adaptive cruise control – 51 per cent
Motorway speed alerts – 51 per cent
Automatic braking – 49 per cent
Phone functions operated via voice control – 48 per cent
Multi-media device connectivity – 46 per cent
Traffic information – 43 per cent
Cruise control – 42 per cent
Electric sunroof – 39 per cent
Climate control – 39 per cent
Reversing cameras/sensors – 38 per cent
Heated seats – 36 per cent
Automatic headlights – 33 per cent
Sat nav – 32 per cent
Bluetooth – 28 per cent
Automated windscreen wipers – 23 per cent
Digital radio – 15 per cent
For what it is worth, a girlfriend of mine, who also owns a Suzuki Swift, can be on her hands-free mobile, while driving, and on several occasions I have heard, in the background of conversations, the distance alert buzzing away merrily. When I have suggested that travelling TOO close to the vehicle in front might have unfortunate ramifications for her, she informs me that the system is clearly ‘broken’. Unfortunately, I have witnessed her driving style, which is both unnecessarily fast in some instances and, like a lot of drivers, she relies on last-minute-braking, upon arrival at junctions, or obstacles to her progress…but she just cannot get her head around ‘distance alerts’.
For a surprising number of drivers, the latest technological advancements are little more than one, or more, steps too far for them. As a professional hopping from one car to the next on a regular basis, even I have to admit to throwing-in the towel on occasions, not least when attempting to pair-up my mobile-phone unsuccessfully with a vehicle’s connectivity, or when attempting to decipher one carmaker’s application of the systems and then its version of operational efficacy.
If anything, there is a need for greater standardisation. While driving the most recently launched Mitsubishi Shogun Sport, its indicator stalk is (annoyingly) on the right-hand side of the steering column, as opposed to the more normal left side, which leads to windscreen washes, when a headlight ‘flash’ is required, and high-speed screen-wiping, when making overtaking manoeuvres. For safety’s sake, a car’s primary switchgear should be in the same place, from one make and model to the next, just as we no longer have centrally-located throttle pedals.
It would also help immeasurably, if manufacturers used their innate abilities to fit increasingly larger information touch-screens in cars, to be accompanied by useful and legible snippets from the operational elements of the Owner’s Manual. After all, they must be aware that the vast majority of us no longer possesses the ability to read things located within the darkest recesses of the glovebox, even if there is space for it!
Luscombe’s summary: Interestingly, 71% of over-55s found it much easier to acclimatise themselves to new technology than the 51% of 18-24 year olds reported as doing so. Luscombe Suzuki helps customers of all ages and, should any technological issues be brought to bear, a member of our team will be sure to find a solution for you.
Next week: Iain looks specifically at ‘Distance Cruise Control’
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