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Retro Drive: Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.

Retro Drive: Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid
Suzuki's SC100 - affectionately dubbed the Whizzkid - shows what downsizing was like three decades ago.

 



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| First Drive | Buckinghamshire, England | Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid |

Overall rating: 3 3 3 3 3

If you thought the current trend for small, economical hatchbacks was relatively new, think again. The Japanese were doing it long before we were with kei cars - miniscule, lightweight vehicles designed to cope with stodgy Tokyo traffic and undercut the country's strict parking regulations and tax charges. Kei cars first appeared in the 1950s, but the Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid arrived a couple of decades later. It was one of the few such cars of the time to be officially imported to the UK, too - the first Whizzkids arrived here in 1979 and developed a near instant cult following.

Key Facts

Price when new: 2,400
Value now: 3,000 - 4,000 (mint)
Engine: 970cc four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: three-door hatchback
Rivals: Honda N600, Mitsubishi Minica Skipper, Subaru Rex
Combined economy: 56.5mpg (at 56mph), 41.9mpg (urban)
Top speed: 87mph
0-62mph: 16.5 seconds
Power: 47bhp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 62lb.ft at 2,800rpm

In the Metal: 3 3 3 3 3

You could be forgiven for not recognising the Whizzkid. It's believed that about 130 are left on UK roads, but this immaculate 1982 example belongs to Suzuki GB. At only 3,190mm long, 1,395mm wide and 1,220mm tall, it's truly dinky. The blocky lights and wraparound front grille render it firmly of its time (late seventies/early eighties), but it's distinctive nonetheless. The gilled fastback section behind the rear window is reminiscent of a sixties Ford Mustang, too.

Until you look closely at the rear, there's little to give away the fact that the engine is in the back. Only a generous number of grilles and slats around the hind quarters offer any sort of hint. Inside, there's the usual utilitarian, black plastic Japanese dash, though the deep dial pods are quite charming.

Driving it: 3 3 3 3 3

The pedals are offset to the left and almost invisible beneath the lower section of the dash, so the driving position takes some adjustment. Everything's very delicate, which isn't what we'd expect from an unassisted car of this era. The steering is light, courtesy of the big wheel and skinny tyres, while the clutch and accelerator pedals are springy and responsive.

It isn't exactly powerful, but travel alone, without luggage, and the Whizzkid becomes a typical old school small car - the kind that thrives on a thrashing. Again, it's not fast, but that requires keeping the buzzing engine revved up and driving closer to the limit more often, which is all the more fun.

The ride is bouncy but comfortable and the steering weights up during cornering. Give it some welly and you'll quickly become aware of the rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive. The extra weight at the back makes for a rather loaded and wobbly rear end. Brakes? They're there, but you'll be standing on them before you notice anything. Early engine braking is a better bet.

What you get for your Money: 5 5 5 5 5

In 1981, the Whizzkid cost 2,400, which was hardly megabucks at the time. What's even more impressive is the frugality - 56.5mpg during a cruise and no less than 41.9mpg. Pretty astronomical figures for car conceived in the 1970s, and proof that low weight (655kg in this case) really is the answer to fuel economy issues. Rare though they are, 4,000 should get you an absolute minter of an SC100 these days, if you can find one, that is.

Worth Noting

Early SC100s had even smaller 540cc three-cylinder engines, but the 970cc four-cylinder unit was adopted for greater power. Suzuki even added a counterweight to the front bumper of the heavier, four-cylinder car to even up the distribution.

Generous standard equipment for the GX version included a cigar lighter, heated rear window, reclining rear seats, push button radio (which still works very well), rack and pinion steering and fully independent suspension.

Summary

The Suzuki Whizzkid proves that downsizing is nothing new. Cheap, frugal and totally fit for purpose, it achieves its targets with the kind of character and distinction that so many modern superminis lack. You wouldn't want to live with it every day, nor would you fancy testing its safety features, but it's easy to see why it's so coveted.


Jack Carfrae - 21 Jun 2011









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1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.

1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.



1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.
 

1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.
 

1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.
 

1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.
 

1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.
 

1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.
 

1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.
 

1982 Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. Image by Max Earey.
 






 

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