Dave Whyte runs rings around Melbourne in the Suzuki APV
In the current automotive environment, where bigger is perceived as better, there are very few true small vehicles available on the new car market. This is also true in the light commercial market, with even the humble work van getting the up-size treatment in order to improve space and carrying capacity.
While this may be driven by practicality, there are still a few van buyers around who don’t necessarily need, or want, a big van for the work they do. The increase in size and features has also, in most cases, lead to an increase in the purchase price of most van models, making it hard for some operators to justify upgrading or renewing their current vehicle. With this in mind, the Suzuki APV comes as a breath of fresh air with its compact dimensions, basic specification, and, just as importantly for some, a budget conscious price.
The Suzuki APV is not a new model to our market, and has changed very little over the years. Having evolved from the earlier Carry models, it brings with it all the basic functionality that only a small van can offer. Powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, the little Suzuki also gives a good show on economy, returning 9.6 l/100 km over a week of driving that included highway and around-town conditions.
The APV’s size is probably its greatest asset, making for easy access to even the tightest of spaces. Being only 1655 mm wide, it will squeeze down the narrowest of alleyways with ease, while the short wheelbase (2625 mm) means a tight turning radius and easy manoeuvrability. But don’t be fooled into thinking it has no room for cargo. The load area offers 3.4 cubic metres of usable space, including a floor to roof clearance of 1140 mm. While the wheel arches do intrude into this space, they are quite small and easy to work around.
There are a few issues that may affect loading though, including the lack of tie down points and the standard opening side doors, as opposed to sliding doors. These are wide, but don’t quite open to ninety degrees, making it difficult to get larger items in and out. Loading through the rear is easy though, with a full-height rear door that lifts up well out of the way for easy clearance. All doors are operated by remote central locking, securing the whole vehicle with the press of a button.
Up front, the APV has seating for two, with the driver and passenger seats being very close together in order to fit into the narrow cabin. This doesn’t create any comfort issues, but is very noticeable. The driving positon is a comfortable one, though the tight confines mean taller drivers may have difficulty. Vision is excellent, with the driver being right up close to the windscreen, and large side mirrors to give a good view down each side of the van. A centre-mounted rear-view mirror is also fitted for a view through the rear window.
The dash layout is very simple, with only a speedo, temperature gauge and fuel gauge in the instrument cluster. A digital odometer and trip computer in the speedo offers the basic functions of tracking trip distances, but no information on fuel economy or the like. Storage is at a premium, with only a few small pockets in the console, though the glove compartment is about standard size.
A single-disc CD player/radio is the only other piece of technology in the cabin, making it a very simple driving environment. The trim is very basic, with vinyl seats and door trims making for easy cleaning and maintenance. Manually-operated windows and mirrors may seem a little old school, but should offer years of reliable service. In the case of the mirrors, it also reduces replacement cost should they cop a knock – a common event in the life of an urban delivery van.
The 1.6-litre engine does a good job of keeping the van motivated, though the noise levels leave no question as to how hard it is working. With the engine positioned directly below the seats and no solid wall behind the driving compartment, the noise is echoed throughout the load area, making highway driving a noisy affair. That said, around town the little engine is very responsive, and the five-speed transmission makes for light work, even in heavy traffic conditions. With no tacho to use as a guide, I found that top gear was generally in use at any speed over 60 km/h, though the engine was happy to perform at higher speeds.
While it may never take on the HiAce or Transit in the race for sales volume, there is definitely a place for such a van in the market. Even without all the latest gadgets and technology, it provides a good platform for those who need a simple, low-cost workhorse. In terms of practicality, this is a great little van, with many advantages over some larger models.
The APV is a van for those who want reliability, simplicity and functionality around town without breaking the bank. Also, for those who are carrying lighter loads over short distances or performing door-to-door deliveries in the local area as part of their business (florists and fruiterers and cleaners come to mind), the APV offers the perfect solution. Sometimes, as the saying goes, good things come in small packages!
At a Glance:
Overall length – 4155 mm
Overall width – 1655 mm
Overall height – 2625 mm
Turning circle – kerb to kerb – 9.8 m
Cargo volume – 3.4 cu.m
Load area – length – 2005 mm, width – 1380 mm, height – 1140 mm
Engine – 1,590 cc, four-cylinder, petrol engine with 16 valves
Maximum power – 68 kW at 5,750 rpm
Peak torque – 127 Nm at 4,5500 rpm
Fuel tank capacity – 46 litres
Fuel consumption – 8.2 l/100 km, C02 emissions – 190 g/km
Transmission – manual five-speed
Front suspension – MacPherson strut
Rear suspension – rigid axle and semi-elliptic leaf spring
Brakes – ventilated disc front, drum rear
Kerb weight – 1,140 kg GVM – 1,950 kg