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Gripping yarns… off-roading in Suzuki cars

Suzuki Jimny - Gareth Herincx

For those of us that live in the country, 4x4s are not so much a lifestyle choice as a necessity at certain times of the year.

To have that extra peace of mind when the going gets tough is crucial and thankfully these days there’s no shortage of vehicles capable of tackling snow, ice, mud and even floods.

Suzuki is well known for its great value small cars, but as we found out when we invited to an off-road day in South Wales, four-wheel drive is in the company’s DNA too.

Suzuki AllGrip cars

Five out of Suzuki’s seven models have varying degrees of “AllGrip” four-wheel drive either as standard or an option.

  • Jimny with AllGrip Pro (standard): 1.3 SZ3 – £12,999
  • Ignis with AllGrip Auto: 1.2 Dualjet SZ5 4×4 – £14,999
  • Swift with AllGrip Auto: 1.2 Dualjet SHVS SZ5 4×4 – £15,999
  • Vitara with AllGrip Select: 1.6 SZ-T ALLGRIP – £19,299
  • S-Cross with AllGrip Select: 1.0 Boosterjet SZ-T ALLGRIP – £22,049

For the record, there’s no AllGrip option for the Celerio city car and Baleno supermini, but as you can see from the above, there’s something for all shapes and sizes – from the cute but surprisingly capable Jimny and the quirky Ignis right up to the Vitara and S-Cross SUVs.

Of course, Allgrip is no secret to Suzuki owners because 4×4 models account for 25% of sales in the UK. What’s more, Suzukis account for seven out of the Top 10 of the most fuel efficient four-wheel drive budget cars on sale.

Choosing a type of AllGrip depends on how hardcore you expect your driving to be.

  • AllGrip Auto (available on the Swift and Ignis) is a permanent four-wheel drive systems which transfers additional torque to the rear wheels when required.
  • AllGrip Select (Vitara and S-Scross) has four drive modes – Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock. For instance, Auto, runs most in two-wheel-drive for fuel economy, but will switch to all wheels if it detects wheelspin. Lock is for extricating the car from snow, mud and sand.
  • AllGrip Pro is fitted to the Jimny, Suzuki’s legendary little 4×4 which has been in production since 1970 with global sales of 2.9 million. Needless to say, it’s an old school four-wheel drive – you simply press one of three buttons – 2WD, 4WD or 4WD-L (with lower ratios) for steep slopes and rougher terrain.

We tried the Jimny and Ignis in on a varied off-road course. Clearly the Jimny is more serious of the two and it was able to tackle seriously challenging terrrain – a mixture of muddy forest tracks, steep hills and an old quarry.

It may not be as sophisticated as many a modern 4x4s, but it’s a mountain goat of a car thanks to its relative light weight and punchy little 1.3-litre petrol engine. Its dinky stature also means it more difficult for it to get bogged down and it can squeeze through gaps other 4x4s cannot.

Suzuki Jimnys offroading

Frankly, at £12,999, it’s an absolute bargain and it’s no surprise that Suzuki shifts more than 1,000 of them every year without any marketing.

The little Ignis couldn’t be more different to its tough little uncle. Launched in 2016, it’s a mini crossover that’s instantly recognisable from all angles. It looks particularly cheeky from the front, but it’s those chunky C pillars and trapezoid upright rear that really catch your eye.

Whether its looks work for you or not, the Ignis is a fun package on the road, but how would in manage in the wilds?

Well, it’s no SUV, and it certainly can’t tackle the kind of terrain a Jimny can, so it’s more of a soft-roader. The combination of a relatively low ground clearance for a crossover, plus limited approach and departure angles mean that muddy tracks and grassland are about as far as it can go.

Suzuki Ignis Hill Descent

It does have one surprise up its sleeve though. We drove up a fairly steep gravel track, turned around, engaged Hill Descent Control and the Ignis drove down at a smooth and controlled low speed, without the need to touch the brake pedal.

Ultimately, as well as being a funky, economical runabout, the Ignis will be your friend when the weather turns nasty and you need that extra grip in the wet, and on snow and nice.

All in all, impressive stuff from cars so small – all on regular road tyres.

About Gareth Herincx

Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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