We at Top Gear have a huge soft spot for Japanese car culture. There are the midnight car club meets, the crazily tuned supercars, legends like the GT-R and NSX… and there are irresistible little kei cars and the simply absurd concept cars that turn up to the Tokyo motor show. We love it all.
And Suzuki appears to be pushing all the right buttons with its announcement of what’ll be at Tokyo 2017, in a month’s time.
The headline act (for now) is the car in the first image above. It’s the e-SURVIVOR – lord knows the intonations you’re meant to use when pronouncing that name – and it’s Suzuki’s vision for small SUVs up to 100 years from now. Yep, 100. And you thought it would all be hoverboards and teleportation by then.
It borrows some of its styling nods from Jimnys and Vitaras past, with some very retro flourishes. There’s even an old-school ladder frame chassis. But everything else is shiny and new: glass doors, electric all-wheel-drive mechanicals… and light-up blue wheels that make us think of those trainers that flash every time you take a step.
What’s interesting to note is that there’s a steering wheel. Not something we’d normally say about a new car, but this is one that’s casting its eye a century ahead. Clearly Suzuki reckons us mere fleshy things will still be allowed to enjoy driving in 2117. Phew.
Back in the present, Suzuki also has plenty to titillate us. There’s three versions of the XBEE (pronounce it cross-bee), which is basically a titchy little crossover that channels rather a lot of Toyota FJ Cruiser. A car that ceases production pretty soon, so Suzuki’s judged the XBEE’s arrival rather well.
It comes with a couple of taglines, specifically “I want to go out further and have fun with more friends” and “I want to enjoy life cooler”. The cruel may suggest the XBEE is the wrong car for either aspiration, but we’re just left thinking it looks like an adorable sloth. It comes in three forms: standard, Outdoor Adventure (with wood effect, of course) and Street Adventure (never mind two-tone, it’s three-tone).
Then there’s the Spacia – a superbly slab-sided kei wagon with an aggressively styled Custom version – and the Carry Open-Air Market Concept, the retro little street food chariot that should knock all those Citroen H Vans into a cocked hat. Specifically, when it comes to being able to start up and then drive home at the end of the day.
We’re expecting more from Suzuki, too, with the brand-new Jimny rumoured to debut at Tokyo. It replaces a car that’s been on sale with barely an update for nearly 20 years. Which gives it either a very easy job, or incredibly tough boots to fill, depending on how much you like the rugged charm of the go-anywhere-for-not-much-money 4×4…