Suzuki Cervo


Don't worry, I won't say anything about the earlier Cervo model also known as the Suzuki Whizzkid or the model after, and its truck version called Mighty Boy.

Thing is, Suzuki has never really been big enough to develop cars for a single purpose. Convertible? Cut the roof off of a hatchback. Truck? Cut the roof off of a hatchback. Van? Take the rear seats out of a hatchback.

Here in North America, there are exceptions, but think about it: the XL7 was a version of the Chevrolet Equinox, the SX4 was also sold as the Fiat Sedici, the Equator truck was really a Nissan…

By sticking to a few core models, Suzuki was able to stay independent far longer than most people imagined. 

But back in 1988, the company was doing well, it had a loyal following for the Cervo kei car, and it was time to introduce something that would attract young women but not alienate young male buyers.

Suzuki's solution? The hatchback-van-coupe Cervo for 1988.

You may have guessed by now that I'm a total sucker for oddball designs that weren't as successful as hoped. I enjoy them because they often have features or an engineering approach that has since become normal.

We're very lucky that someone in Japan has taken the time to scan the car's fantastic brochure, seen above, as it perfectly illustrates my point.

We should also be thankful for the scan because sometimes Google Translate isn't very helpful. 

Cervo is crowned the title of the world’s first electric power steering. By turning the steering in the motor attached to the steering column, this power steering selling it is to contribute to improving fuel efficiency without the use of hydraulic pressure…But steer feeling was the worst squishy. 10 000 rotation octopus…I want you to return the hot tension of when I saw the exterior sheet-only design.
— Page of EMoon,

First, yes, it was the first production car with electric power steering. Second, it was one of the first modern vehicles to have a large fixed glass roof. Third, it had an options and accessories list that would put Mini to shame.

Inside, the car was designed as a 2+2: the front seats looked like they were lifted from a concept car but the rear seats were as straight as a board, folding flat to increase cargo space.

It had other things we take for granted now, too. There were storage cubbies everywhere, integrated cargo tie-down straps (in yellow!), and premium stereo options.

Underneath the Sears catalogue of options, however, was a far more conventional car. Powered by a 547cc non-turbo, carbureted three-cylinder engine, its 40 horsepower was made at a dizzy 7,500 rpm.

Did that stop Suzuki from fitting a three-speed automatic transmission? Of course not! Or offering an all-wheel-drive version? Nope! 

Wikipedia even says that Suzuki entered a turbocharged version (likely using the engine from the Cultus…er…Swift) in the Safari Rally–but I can't seem to find photographic proof!

In a modern sense, this car is similar to a Hyundai Veloster—a small car packed with features, and sold for a reasonable price. Unlike the Veloster, however, the car was so unsuccessful that they replaced it after just two years…

Let's end on a more positive note, with some marketing copy from the car's stunning (I'm serious, it's cool) brochure.

There’s a new star in town. The new Cervo. It’s cute and nimble and dances briskly through the city streets and skips along the country roads. Girlish? Boyish? It’s a tom-boy that real boys can’t take their eyes off. Peek out through the shining glassroof. What is that? A UFO? I can see a rainbow! There is always something new to discover in a New Cervo.

Sources / Recommended reading