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[ The Suzuki Cervo ]
The Suzuki Cervo was introduced in 1976 as the successor to the Suzuki Fronte Coupé, the Cervo name was originally affixed to a kei sports coupé, and then to models derived from the Suzuki Alto. The nameplate was retired between 1998 & 2006, and again in March 2010. It may reappear in the future.
The 1st Generation (1977-1982)
( Cervo SS20 )
Suzuki returned to the sports minicar market with the new Cervo in October 1977, which was also known as the ‘SC100‘ in some markets. The ‘SS20‘ Cervo was mainly a JDM model, although it was also sold as a LHD in Chile, with a 539cc 3-cylinder 2-stroke engine. The SS20 used the chassis from the 1976 Fronte 7-S, but was equipped with the larger T5A engine, this was the rear-mounted version of the LJ50 used in the Jimny & Fronte Hatch, also known as the T5B in the FF Alto/Fronte. The body was based on the Giugiaro designed Fronte Coupé, but with a bulge in the front and bigger bumpers which led to the loss of some of the original’s grace. Instead of square headlights, the Cervo received round items. The new rear glass hatch added convenience. It was built at the Kosai Assembly Plant at Hamanagun in Shizuoka Prefecture.
1979 Cervo CX-G (SS20)
Worse was that the new 550cc engine was strangled by emissions requirements. Whereas the most powerful 360cc version had offered 37 PS (27 kW) @ 6,000 rpm, the new T5A only provided 28 PS (21 kW) @ 5,000 rpm and had an additional 55-80 kg to drag around. To keep acceleration acceptable, gearing was rather low, keeping claimed top speed to 120 kph (75 mph). This was 10 more than the Fronte 7-S sedan version could achieve, thanks to lower wind resistance, but Car Graphic were only able to reach 111.80 kph (69 mph) when testing the car in 1977, with the 0-400m sprint taking 23 seconds. The engine ran out of breath past 7,000 rpm. Suzuki were aware that the Cervo, unlike its predecessor, was no longer a mini GT car. The advertising also reflected this, generally targeting the female demographic, except for the sporty CX-G version.
The SC100 (Whizzkid)
Equipment levels ranged from the entry-level ‘CX’, ¥608,000 in 1977 (£4,489), via the ladies’ version ‘CX-L’ to the top-of-the-range ‘CX-G’ at ¥698,000 (£5,153). The lowest priced CX model received microscopic hubcaps, painted black, as were the bumpers, which werechromed on better equipped versions. The CX-L was added in September 1978 and had brighter trim, to specifically target female customers. Only the CX-G had front disc brakes, the others had to make do with drums all around. Handling was as can be expected for a rear-engine car leading to a somewhat twitchy front end. The export SC100’s had a heavier 4-cylinder 970cc engine which was counter-balanced by a weight in the front bumper. Sold in Britain from April 1978, it was popularly known as the ‘Suzuki Whizzkid‘.
The 2nd Generation (1982-1988)
In June 1982, an all-new Cervo was presented. Based on the underpinnings of the recently changed Alto/Fronte, the Cervo now sported front-wheel drive with a transverse mounted 4-stroke engine. TheF5A engine was the same as used in the SS40 Fronte. A twin-choke carb meant a whopping 29 hp (22 kW) was available, rather than the 28 hp (21 kW) in the ‘cooking’ Alto/Mighty Boy !! The Cervo offered a lower, much more sporty driving position than its Alto/Fronte sister cars. Anyone over 172 cm (5 ft 8 in) would certainly hit their head on the ceiling. Strangely, considering its supposedly sporty character, the Cervo was higher geared than its Fronte sister car. To distinguish the Cervo from the other SS40 versions, the model codes were:
SS40C (Cervo); SS40S (Fronte); SS40T (Mighty Boy); SS40V (Alto).
The Cervo-based Mighty Boy was the only coupé utility in the 550cc class ever built.
The new more aerodynamic body looked a bit more plain than its sharp predecessor, but the fastback shape echoed Giugiaro’s original design. The headlights were square, there was more glass than on the SS20 but with a broad B-pillar and the larger rear glass hatch, still not a proper hatch now offered better access to a much more usable luggage space. The rear seat folded and some versions even offered a remote opening mechanism and heated rear window. The SS40 was also the first Cervo to offer automatic transmission, a 2-speed. This all reflected a steady move away from the original ‘mini Gran Turismo‘ concept towards a much softer ‘Personal Car‘.
The 1982 Cervo (SS40C)
When introduced, only a CS (4MT) or CS-Q (2AT) were offered for ¥580,000 – ¥620,000. By September the more upscale CS-L (5MT) & CS-QL (2AT) were added to the lineup, offering partially fabric covered seats and a number of other conveniences at a starting price of ¥687,000. All had 10″ steel wheels. The automatic transmission was never too popular, offering only 2 gear ratios and considerably worse acceleration, mileage figures were down 20%, along with a higher price. In May 1983, less than a year after introduction, the Cervo received a light facelift. In light of new regulations, wing mirrors were moved to the doors and the screw holes on the fenders were covered up. The mechanical changes included a slightly adjusted cam profile, the compression rate was upped to 9.7:1 previously 9.5, the EGR & catalytic converter were improved and the engine received an automatic choke. The lineup also received an overhaul, as follows :
CS / CS-Q Base 4MT/2AT No radio, single-speed wipers ¥580,ooo – ¥620,000
CSD / CS-QD Base+1 4MT/2AT AM radio, intermittant wipers ¥650,000 – ¥690,000
CS-F Base+2 5MT Fuel efficient version to replace CS-L, radial tyres ¥719,000
CS-G Sport version 5MT Rev-counter 12″ wheels, optional alloys, front discs ¥730,000
There was also a CS-M/CS-QM special edition based on the CS-D in either an all-white or an all-red paint scheme with a black and red interior at ¥633,000-¥673,000. The CS-G was aimed at a more masculine clientele, and was the first SS40 Cervo to use male models in the advertising. The CS-F had a very high 5th gear and offered a 5% fuel mileage improvement over other Cervos. An even sportier version appeared in November 1983, when the CT & CT-G Turbo versions were offered. The F5A Turbo was Suzuki’s first forced induction car engine and produced 40 PS (29 kW) and a useful 54 N/m (40 lb/ft). It received an electronic carburetor and a lower compression rate of 8.6:1. Only a 5-speed manual transmission was available, and front disc brakes were standard. The CT weighed in at 560 kg (1,235 lb), prices were ¥748,000 & ¥898,000 respectively. A 2-tone red and black interior and dummy hood scoop added to the Turbo’s sporty looks, while the CT-G also received a rev counter. The top speed was around 135 kph (84 mph).
In January 1985, another minor facelift occurred, with new, more comfortable seats and a new front grille. The interior also sported more fabric, an improved manual shifter and a half-leather steering wheel on the CT-G. The side mirrors were now mounted in the corner between the door and A-pillar, rather than on the door itself. The CT-G received body coloured bumpers and mirrors, which was optional on lesser versions. Power output was up to 31 PS (23 kW), due to a new carburetor. Top speed according to the German ‘Auto Katalog‘ was up by 5 kph, to 120 kph (75 mph). The lineup consisted of the CT-G sporty Turbo, CS-G sporty NA, the CS-D/CS-QD ‘deluxe‘ versions with a vinyl rear seat and the CS/CS-Q standard versions.
With Kei-car sales shrinking overall and the Cervo losing market share, sales were dropping precipitously. In February 1987 the 2nd-generation Cervo received its 3rd and final update. The Turbo was discontinued and the lineup rationalised to 2 versions, the sporty CS-G with a 5-speed manual and the lower grade CS-D with either a 4-speed manual or the 2-speed automatic. As further rationalisation all models now had roll-type safety belts, before that CS and CS-D versions had come with fixed belts, front disc brakes and air conditioning.
By January 1988, a new Cervo had been presented and the SS40C was discontinued shortly after. Due to its lesser sales, the SS40C never received as many technical improvements as its Alto sister model. The Alto Turbo gained fuel injection and other technologies, but the sport like Cervo had to make do with a carburetted 40 PS (29 kW). These days, many Cervo owners modify their cars by bolting on parts from later Altos, making the Cervo live up to its sporty appearance.
The 3rd Generation (1988-1990)
On January 22nd 1988, the next Cervo was introduced. Suzuki were accentuating the Cervo’s van capabilities this time around, with a squat, boxy rear end which gave the car an excceedingly bizarre appearance in combination with the front clip and door skins of the Alto/Fronte. The C-pillar was very wide, the front part of the roof was made of glass, there was a small wraparound rear spoiler and a more prominent one at the top of the hatchback lid. One nickname in Japan was the ‘Airbrick‘, while others referred to it as the ‘side alley beauty‘ (横丁小町) yokocho komachi hinting at the Cervo’s continued popularity with stylish young females. The interior was no less unusual than the outside: a large gray and bright yellow diagonal pattern covered the seats while white gauges added a touch of sportiness. Storage compartments abounded, in the thick C-pillars as well as in a central console. A high-powered ‘Mitsubishi Diatone‘ stereo was also included as standard.
The new Cervo benefitted from various technical improvements made to the Alto/Fronte, namely fitting the new F5B SOHC 547cc, 12-valve 3-cylinder, normally aspirated engine gave 40 PS (29 kW) at a peaky 7,500 rpm. Three well-equipped models were available :
CGXF front-wheel drive 5MT (CG72V) @ ¥698,000 (£5,170)
CGXL front-wheel drive 3AT (CG72V) @ ¥750,000 (£5,551)
CGXJ front-wheel drive 5MT (CH72V) @ ¥770,000 (£5,704)
In March, 3 models with the world’s first electric power steering, CGPF/CGPL/CGPJ were added to the lineup, at an eye-watering ¥150,000 (£1,111) surcharge. Actress & pop idol Yuka Ōnishi was the spokesperson for the ad campaign, while an all female motorcycle racing team ‘Team Angela‘ raced a turbocharged Cervo in the ‘Rallye des Pharaons‘. However, it was to no avail as the rivals, Daihatsu’s Leeza and Mazda’s Autozam Carol both sold much better. Combined with the removal of certain tax breaks for small cargo vehicles, this meant that the Cervo’s already narrow slot in the market had essentially disappeared. When the new 660cc Kei regulations were introduced, Suzuki decided to call it quits rather than spend a lot of money to update such a slow-selling vehicle and Cervo production ended in May 1990.
The 4th Generation (1990-1998)
(Cervo Mode CN21-22S; CP21-22S; CN31-32S; CP31-32S)
Yūji Oda (織田 裕二)
Again targeting the female demographic, the Cervo name made a return in July 1990. Now, however, reflecting the new kei-car standards, the engine had grown by 110cc and it was 100 mm (3.9 in) longer. More shockingly, the car was of a traditional 2-box design, sold initially only as a 3-door hatchback. Eventually, the Cervo Mode developed into a full range of cars, coinciding with the discontinuation of the Fronte which had left a niche above the regular Alto. Reflecting the desired clientele, male heartthrob Yūji Oda appeared in the marketing campaign.
Cervo Mode (3-door)
The Cervo Mode was initially only available with turbocharged 660cc engines of either 3 or 4-cylinder configurations. In November 1990 a 5-door version followed, along with lesser engines. The Mode looked more pedestrian than previous Cervos, with the Maruti built version, the ‘Zen‘ in fact being marketed as the Alto in Europe.
Cervo Mode : (5-door)
The Cervo was a bit sportier than it appeared at first sight, however. The hottest version, the SR-Four was the first kei car to have a 4-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC Turbo Intercooled engine the F6B, and was also the first to be equipped with Pirelli P700 tyres as standard. ABS was optional, as was Full-time 4WD.
Specifications: 1990 Suzuki Cervo Mode
S-Turbo FF (CN21S) 5MT/3AT F6A 657 cc 3-cyl 61 PS (45 kW) @ 6,000 rpm 650/670 kg
S-Turbo 4WD (CP21S) 5MT F6A 657 cc 3-cyl 61 PS (45 kW) @ 6,000 rpm 710 kg
SR-Turbo FF (CN21S) 5MT/3AT F6A 657 cc 3-cyl 61 PS (45 kW) @ 6,000 rpm 650/670 kg
SR-Turbo 4WD (CP21S) 5MT F6A 657 cc 3-cyl 61 PS (45 kW) @ 6,000 rpm 710 kg
SR-Four FF (CN31S) 5MT F6B 658 cc 4-cyl 64 PS (47 kW) @ 7,000 rpm 670 kg
SR-Four 4WD (CP31S) 5MT F6B 658 cc 4-cyl 64 PS (47 kW) @ 7,000 rpm 730 kg
By November 1990, the 52/55 hp carbureted/EPI non-turbo F6A SOHC 4-valve engine became available in a whole range of versions: ‘M’ as 3 or 5-door later only 5, with manual or automatic transmissions and FWD or 4WD, a sportier ‘S’ only as a 3-door, and the luxurious ‘L’ only as a 5-door with the more powerful EPI engine which also appeared in 4WD’s equipped with automatic gearboxes.
In September 1991 the range was revised, receiving side impact protection and a high mounted brakelight. Since these were considered structural changes the car received a new set of model codes, becoming the CN22S / CP22S / CN32S / CP32S. The SR-Four now came with all-around disc brakes while the S-Turbo was discontinued. A FWD automatic ‘MC’ version joined the range at the lower end, equipped with a column-mounted gear change. Other special versions abounded, with the luxurious ‘F-Limited‘ EPI 3-door joining in December 1991 and the somewhat cheaper, carbureted ‘M Selection‘ in April 1992. In July of that year, the 3-door, automatic only ‘S Selection‘ managed to find a slot in a pricelist now comprising a faintly ridiculous 27 variants. This didn’t hinder Suzuki from adding more versions, the well-equipped ‘LoFt‘, in June 1994 and the ‘A’ in April of that year.
In October 1995, the lineup received a facelift and some minor technical changes. A 2-valve base version the B, C & E, developing 42 hp (31 kW) joined. The carbureted 12-valve engine equipped the M Selection, the LoFt, FF versions of the S Selection, the X and the F-Limited. The 55 hp (41 kW) EPI version was also available in the 4WD M Selection. The SR-Turbo lost 2 valves /cylinder but gained an intercooler in the process, bringing claimed power up to the same 64 PS (47 kW) as in the more expensive SR-Four. Kei cars just so happen to be limited to 64 PS, but it was a badly kept secret that the 4-cylinder F6B developed considerably more than that. The X was alone in being offered with a 4-speed automatic.
By May 1997, as the Wagon R itself based on the Cervo Mode was stealing ever more of the Cervo’s sales, the turbocharged versions were discontinued as the lineup was shrunk to the S-Limited 42, 52 or 55 PS and the M Selection 52/55 hp. The 52 PS, 55 in the AT 4WD version 3-door SR joined in January 1998, attempting to fill the gap left by the Turbocharged models. By October 1998, with new regulations looming, the Cervo was once again discontinued.
Cervo C Classic (1996-1998)
In August 1996 the retro-look Cervo C ( C for Classic) appeared, following the success of Subaru’s Vivio Bistro and Mitsuoka’s Viewt. The Cervo C came as a well-equipped 5-door with the 52 PS (38 kW) F6A engine and 55 PS in the automatic 4WD version. A high-powered AM/FM cassette stereo was standard, as were power windows and locks as well as wooden details on the dash and steering wheel. Automatic transmission and or 4WD were optional. The metal bodywork was the same as on the Cervo Mode, but the front assembly was entirely different and chromed bumpers, mirrors and doorhandles added to the classic look. In May 1997 a 3-door version joined the lineup.
Production ended in October 1998, when the Cervo Mode sister model was discontinued. Also launched in India as the ‘Zen Classic‘ it was not well received, becoming a huge flop in the Indian market.
The 5th Generation (2006-2010)
2006 Cervo (G version)
In November 2006, Suzuki reintroduced the Cervo name. The modern, Alto-based Cervo is still a kei car but is much more luxurious than its predecessor. The Cervo originally came equipped with the 658cc K6A engine 54 hp in the normally aspirated VVT ‘G’ version, 60 hp in the turbo ‘T’ & ‘TX’ version. It is only available as a 5-door with a 4-speed automatic, with a manual mode in the turbo cars, and is marketed as a more masculine alternative to the MR Wagon. The nicer grade Cervos came with keyless entry and Bluetooth. In June 2007 a ‘G Limited‘ normally aspirated model was added, with the 14″ alloys and rear spoiler of the TX.
In October 2007, the Cervo received the Good Design Award, and the ‘SR’ version was introduced. This had a new, 64 hp direct injection turbo engine and a 7-step CVT transmission, the first time for such a combination to be available. With front-wheel drive, this car achieved a remarkable 23.0 km/l (54 mpg) on the test cycle. The Cervo also received some minor updates across the line, with new liquid seal engine mounts and suspension changes. In May 2008 the range received more minor updates, with new colours being added and a new limited edition model, the ‘G Limited II‘, which featured alcantara interior and a sporty exterior.
In May 2009, the Cervo received its most recent upgrade. The ‘T’ model was discontinued, the ‘TX’ received the ‘aero‘ front dam of the SR while the petrol consumption of the ‘G’ version was improved to meet the 15% petrol mileage improvement goals for Japanese fiscal year 2010. The very efficient SR is the only turbocharged kei car to qualify for the lower tax grades for especially environmentally friendly vehicles, combining this with being the most powerful version. The Cervo was discontinued by Suzuki during March 2010.
The “Suzuki Cervo” in Computer Games:
1990 Cervo in Gran Turismo 2 (1999): ’07 Cervo in Gran Turismo 5: Prologue (2007): ’07 Cervo in Gran Turismo 5 (2010):