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DRIVEN: Suzuki Liana



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Suzuki's C-sector “new concept family car”, the Liana, may be getting considerable publicity from being part of a celebrity try-out on BBC TV's Top Gear programme. But the practicality and value of this innovative little Tardis on wheels shouldn't require too much more celebrity endorsement to make an impact on the UK medium family car market.

In spite of a serious limit on engine line-up – the GL and GLX models are both restricted to the Hobson's choice of a 1.6-litre 16-valve DOHC engine delivering a tad over 100bhp at 5500rpm – the technical, design and styling innovations in this vehicle more than make up for the shortfall.

The model tested was the GLX with a four-speed auto gearbox. It may have a 0-60mph time of well under 24 hours, but who cares? Suzuki believes that the acceleration is so unimportant to the target customer for this vehicle that they don't put it in the literature.

The ride is smooth, the steering responsive. In spite of a number of technical innovations to cut engine noise: silent cam chain; a crankshaft cap, fully-floating cylinder head cover and tuned engine mountings, the engine noise is still a little intrusive cruising above 4000 revs. But nothing that the use of an engine with a bit more 'grunt' wouldn't cure: Suzuki's excellent 2.0-litre job, perhaps?

The Liana stands for “Living In A New Age” by the way. And obviously the future is very highly specified – because the amount of kit on both variants is high. The GL lacks the aircon and the ABS with electronic braking-force distribution (EBD). But otherwise, they share an impressive selection of bells and whistles. The big selling point is the interior space – particularly height. There's plenty of headroom for a six-plus-footer.

Strengths: Spacious interior and good visibility
Weaknesses: Limited engine choice and no diesel option
Opportunity: Medium MPV market growing
Threat: Plenty of established rivals
The USP: Sensibly-priced family-mover
Price: £11,495 OTR
Engine: 1586cc 4-cyl 16v, 101.9bhp,106.2lb-ft
Transmission: 4-spd auto
Dimensions: Weight:1185kg
Length: 4230mm
Width: 1690mm
Height: 1545mm
W/base: 2480mm
Performance: Top speed 105mph
Efficiency: 35.8mpg comb; CO2: 192g/km
Rivals: Megane 1.6 Expression, Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec, Golf 1.6 SE, Leon 1.6 S

Long term: Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4

This surprisingly competent package is expected to steal sales from rivals

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