IAIN ROBERTSON 

The long-term Suzuki was put to good use on Christmas Day recently, reports Iain Robertson, as he used his car for a very testing drive to and from the Welsh border country, on slippery, rain-lashed roads, with which he is mostly unfamiliar.

Harping-on about things is not a regular practice for me, because I really loathe repeating words in a single sentence, let alone for consecutive paragraphs of text, in subsequent months of reportage. However, I want to highlight a couple of aspects. The first is a need to be prepared for seasonal motoring.

Every winter, I prepare a small ‘box of necessities’ that is positioned in the boot of my car. I keep it in a box, so that I can transfer it from my Suzuki to other test cars, as appropriate. It contains a blanket, a pair of heavier shoes, a fold-up ex-Army shovel, a large bar of chocolate, a pair of gloves and an extra flagon of concentrated de-icer fluid.

While this might sound excessive, since I also carry a walking-stick umbrella, small fire extinguisher and First Aid Kit, coming across a recent incident, in which a car had skidded off a snow-covered roadway and rolled into a ditch, I was able to comfort and attend to an uninjured young chap and his girlfriend, before the emergency services arrived. Trust me, I am no local hero and certainly not an ‘ambulance-chaser’ but holding a Driver’s Licence does warrant a degree of responsibility, not just in respect of my own on-road activities but also those of others. The ‘kit’ served purpose.

Secondly, my occasionally tortuous drive to friends at Christmas was peppered with the knowledge that they had been snowed-in only a few hours earlier and weather conditions were, at best, testing and, at worst, tempestuous! As you may recall from previous long-term reports on my Baleno, I always fit what are known as ‘winter tyres’ to my cars. The set on the Suzuki are from Kumho, in WP51 guise, and are fitted to the car’s standard alloy wheels, the summer tyres being held by my local Suzuki dealership.

Most tyre firms refer to the temperature cut-off point for these covers as being a notional seven degrees Centigrade. Personally, I prefer to adhere to a plan of sub-10-degreesC, which provides me (and the tyres) with a bit of leeway, after all, while the air temperature might be ten degrees, the road could be anything between three and seven degrees, or even colder in shaded areas.

However, a popular misconception is that ‘winter’ tyres are related to ‘snow’ tyres, which is simply not the case. Market forces and consumer demands being what they are, have led to a largely fashionable raft of low-profile, super-sticky summer tyres being fitted as standard to more than 90% of all new cars sold. The problem lies in the fact that their flexible rubber compounds that provide such unerring traction in the height of summer are all but useless, when they harden (as natural rubber tends to) in the cold. Stiffer rubber equates to less grip, as a result of reduced tread-block flexibility.

The ’winter’, or low-temperature, alternatives replicate summer levels of grip in adverse conditions. However, different tread designs also factor in greater traction on ice-frozen and snow-bedecked surfaces, because the treads will not fill-up with ice and will also self-clear constantly. Even if ice is not present, the tread design cuts through standing water and puddles like a knife through butter, in the process aiding stability and safety. My progress to Ludlow and back home was made significantly easier, thanks to the Kumho WP51s, and I urge anybody remotely concerned about making headway during the winter months to consider carefully acquiring a set. Besides, there is no wear on the summer tyres, while they are stored at your local garage.

Incidentally, under zero time pressure, I averaged 48mph for the trip and an outstanding 62.4mpg, despite the torrential conditions. Life with Suzuki remains eminently joyful, even through this winter’s more severe weather conditions. More soon.

Costs incurred:

£193 month fourteen finance payment

7,983 miles on odometer

£21.60 in-car tidy

£112.60 door rubbing strips

£206.01 first service charge (£65 hourly labour rate)

(£316 for four x Kumho WP51 Winter tyres, now dealer refitted until March 2018 at a cost of £78, dealer is storing summer tyres)

(£200 for incident damage repair, front bumper, yet to be dealt with).