Pint Sized Performance: Suzuki Cervo SC100 CXG

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We all love going fast, right? However, all that power and torque is often rendered useless when face with heavy traffic and questionable road surfaces. What really matters at then end of the day, well in this writer’s opinion anyway, is how the car makes you feel.

Sure, plenty of vehicles will dazzle you with ludicrous power figures and the sort of acceleration that could rearrange your fillings, but if it doesn’t make you make you smiles, and in some cases laugh at the end of the day, is it really worth having? Sometimes a car with minimal power and weight, means you can use all the power, all of the time, giving you the kind of thrills at sensible speeds, that your average hypercar will deliver at Mach 2, in a matter of speaking.

Enter the very Suzuki Cervo SC100 CXG, a car born with economy and inner city commuting in mind, but has turned out to be one of the darling JDM fun cars of the 20th Century. The CXG was not the first car of its type to be built by Suzuki. Sure, they pretty much hit the ground running when they churned out the first ‘Kei Car’ in 1955, but the Suzuki Fronte Coupe which was unveiled in 1971, broke new ground and gained a cult following not just in Japan but in international markets as well.

The recipe was like putting a Porsche 911 in the dryer, tiny engine in the rear and a boot up front. Sold as a 2+2 and with styling by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, it was something pretty special. The Cervo replaced the Fronte in Suzuki’s coupe come fun box in 1978, and the car featured here is the ultimate expression of that design, the SC100 CXG.

Under the bonnet sits a 970cc four-cylinder engine mated to a simple four speed manual box. In terms of power, the SC100 CXG could manage 47hp at full chat, which for the time, and given the size of the car, was plenty. Sure, due to the legislation at the time, the CXG was slightly heavier than the Fronte Coupe it replaced, but who cares.

Owner Alan ‘Mac’ McKinney is a blue-blooded Ford man at heart. However, despite a home-built Shelby Cobra and current GT40 project taking pride and place in his garage, he could not imagine parting with the CXG, a car he affectionally refers to as ‘The Suz.’ “There are only 14 left on New Zealand roads and my car has been in the family for 15 years,” says Mac. “Despite being 40 years old, it is still going strong. I get plenty of use out of it and it can’t help but make me smile every time.”

Hop inside and the term ‘wraparound’ could almost be used to describe the interior of the CXG. Lankier folk will struggle to get comfy, but for those of average height, like me, it didn’t take long to get in the zone. Simple white on black dials stare at your like binoculars and the ‘essence of driving’ surroundings mean there is nothing to distract you from the job in hand. 

Turn key, and the ‘Suz’ turns over in quick succession, and that tiny 1000cc four pot chugs into life. Give it a wee rev and the sound of glorious pint-sized internal combustion happening behind you is glorious to behold. Clasping the wheel in your mitts, you select first gear, drop the clutch and then proceed out into suburbia with the biggest grin imaginable.

As you might imagine, you don’t make rapid progress and enjoy the most sumptuous of rides, however, when you plant boot just to make the darling Suz get up to speed, it really doesn’t matter. Honestly, at not one point does the driver of a SC100 CXG feel anything less than giggly. Heading up and down the rolling hills of south Christchurch suburbia, you have to ring its neck, mashing your foot firmly into the carpet as before you reach the next incline.

Changing down from third to second becomes the SC100 driver’s favourite pastime. Racing that four pot right up to the 6,500rpm redline becomes addictive to say the least. Each shift on the four-speed box feels mechanical and allows you to feel and integral part of the drive, let alone the machine itself. Those tiny wheels and tyres mean you bounce along like a spring lamb, and according to Mac, “If the car is fully loaded, you feel every bump in the road,” he laughs.

The twists and turns are devoured with such fun, providing you keep the revs high. IN fact, once you get used to the roads in your area, you could take each sharp switch back corner nearly flat-out. Sure, you do become increasingly aware of other motorists in their massive Corollas and Golfs, but you will be having so much more fun than they will.

The Suzuki Cervo SC100 CXG is a Marmite car. Those who don’t like it will run a mile, but those who get it, will be savouring each moment before they can experience this pint sized JDM giggle factory again and again.

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