- Published: Wednesday, 09 July 2014 21:08
SINGAPORE - June 27th was a big day here for small car specialist Suzuki. Local distributor Champion Motors opened a new showroom for the brand on the ground floor of the Automobile Megamart at Ubi, and introduced two new models for Singapore on the same day.
But in the launch of the two cars could well signal bigger things for the car market in general.
One of the new Suzukis is the S-Cross, a crossover built in Hungary and aimed at family buyers who want something practical and yet rugged-looking.
The other new car is a quirkier offering, but one that Champion Motors sees two potential markets for.
The Solio is a compact, two-row MPV (or Multi Purpose Vehicle) that could appeal to young people who need plenty of space, according to Koh Ching Hong, the managing director of Champion Motors. At the same time, he foresees that retirees or people with elderly parents will appreciate the ease of access that the dual power sliding doors give.
From a peak of more than 346 cars registered per month in 2007, monthly sales are now down to fewer than five cars on average this year.
“I believe very strongly that COEs will stabilise at a lower (price) level,” he says. The main reason is that the COE supply is on an expansion path.
In the best case scenario, says Mr Koh, we could see COE prices dropping below $50,000 next year.
If the growing COE supply does bring prices down, brands like Suzuki can hope to capitalise. Mr Koh is already planning accordingly. Champion has two to three more new models planned for Singapore over the next 24 months, he says.
“Suzuki used to be a very major player in the mass market,” says Mr Koh. “I think the market is turning around in 2015, 2016, 2017, and it’s the right time for us to reposition Suzuki as a great mass market player.”
Given that Suzuki’s success is tied in with cheaper COEs, perhaps we should all be wishing the brand well.
Suzuki's New Cars
A five-door family car with rugged looks, the 1.6-litre, 115bhp S-Cross is powered by a 1.6-litre engine with a CVT (or continuously variable transmission) that has seven pre-set ratios to simulate a seven-speed gearbox.
It’s front wheel-drive in standard trim, with Suzuki’s Allgrip four wheel-drive system optional.
Allgrip models have four different driving modes, suited to different terrains.
Dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and engine starting, six airbags and HID headlamps with LED daytime running lamps are standard on all modes, which is plenty of equipment considering the car starts at $111,900 with COE for the two wheel-drive S-Cross.
The Allgrip model costs $118,900 and a panoramic sunroof bumps the price up by a further $3,000.
It’s a frugal car, too, with the front-drive model returning 17.2km/L on average and the Allgrip model, 16.1km/L.
Meanwhile the boor offers 430 litres of space with the rear seats up. They can be folded in a 60/40 split, and they have adjustable seatbacks to vary the amount of cargo room available.
A small, boxy car whose van-like shape offers lots of space and practicality, the Solio has dual electric sliding doors that can be remote operated. The Japan-made car also has keyless entry and engine starting, automatic headlamps and four airbags as standard.
The Solio’s 67bhp engine is tiny, at 1.2-litres in displacement, but so is its thirst for fuel. It averages 18.9km/L officially.
With a CVT, the little Suzuki needs 13.5 seconds to reach 100km/h so it’s not disastrously slow, and its 33-litre fuel tank shouldn’t cost much to fill. It's one of the few cars here cheaper than $100,000, at $98,900.