IAIN ROBERTSON 

Thanks to an extended cold snap, Iain Robertson is pleased that he kept the Kumho winter tyres on his Suzuki Baleno but making the Vernal time-change proved to be slightly more problematic as he looks forward to a new era on the tyre front.

Seasonal changes were in the air recently. However, I am really glad that I did not have my winter tyres swapped over to the summer covers a few weeks ago. Not one, but three separate ‘Beasts from the East’ assaulted our landscape making driving difficult, especially in the County of Lincolnshire, where I reside, were all of the TV news stories to be believed.

The Kumho Wintercraft WP51 tyres fitted to my Baleno’s alloy wheels have served faithfully for a second (extended) low temperature season. Their grip has remained undiminished on both dry and wet road surfaces, thanks to the flexibility and rubber compound of the tread blocks in the design that work so efficaciously at temperatures lower than 10-degreesC. Even on streaming wet roads, the sipes clear water most efficiently, in a manner of which summer tyres would be only partially able. Having tried various makes of winter tyres over the years, using the Kumho covers has convinced me that the South Korean manufacturer has made immense strides in its dynamic development programmes and the wear rates will give me at least another two winters’ worth of use, which more than justifies the £79 price per tyre.

Of course, driving on snow is the ultimate measure, even though the Kumhos are emphatically not M&S (mud and snow) patterned. Once again, thanks to thoughtful tread design, the blocks clear instantly any packed snow and ice that might otherwise turn the tyre into a ‘slick’. In addition, due to the greater flexibility of the rubber compound at lower temperatures, they find purchase even in very dicey conditions. Naturally, one’s driving style needs to address the weather status but Baleno was able to climb up the steep hill (in Lincoln City centre) that was stymieing 95% of the other traffic. They ought to fit Kumhos!

Spring heralds the arrival of daffodils and snowdrops, both of which received an unwelcome dose of extra ice and snow. Yet, while they survived, the need to change the time on the car’s dashboard was imminent. The exceedingly fiddly ‘toggle’ switch located in the bottom right-hand corner of the main instrument panel was the first issue to overcome. Unlike Ford and Vauxhall products that link their timepieces to both GPS and the Atomic Clock, Suzuki demands a manual time-change. I managed to do it, after spending 25 minutes flicking helplessly between the wrong settings for the main clock.

However, as the touch-screen in the centre of the dashboard is an ‘aftermarket’ device, it also demands a manual alteration and synchronising both the main clock face with the digital screen means that one, or the other, is always going to be several seconds out. Getting it as close as I could still took 15 minutes out of my day. Now, who can I bill for the 40 minutes of lost existence? I know I can do nothing about the ‘missing’ hour.

Anyway, with the Kumhos about to be removed, I am awaiting a set of the latest Bridgestone Turanza T005 tyres for use this summer. They are ‘on loan’ from Bridgestone and I have to say that I was delighted with their overall performance during a test session held at Donington Park Circuit recently. Despite applying ‘destruction’ forces to them, their damp surface grip was unrelenting. As we live in a maritime climate in the UK, where precipitation is seldom far away, I am keen to see how Baleno handles them.

While the Turanza tyre is intended to be an ‘everyman’ cover for the company, that a 185/55×16 size is unavailable is a mild disappointment. However, as a 195/55×16 alternative is available, I shall compensate for the 2-3mph under-reading of the car’s speedometer but, hopefully, benefit from a marginally wider footprint. As all four tyres are being replaced, there are unlikely to be additional wear issues with wheel bearings, suspension, differential, or other mechanical components. Regardless, it will be an excellent test opportunity.

As to the rest of the car, it remains a total delight to drive, regardless of conditions, and its annual spring-clean, complete with all-over polish in readiness for summer, will once more make the paintwork shine like a new pin. By the way, the odometer has finally broken the five-figures barrier. More soon!

Costs incurred:

£193 month seventeen finance payment

10,496 miles on odometer

£21.60 in-car tidy

£112.60 door rubbing strips

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

£200 for front bumper replacement (now completed)

(£316 for four x Kumho WP51 Winter tyres, to be replaced by a set of Bridgestone Turanza T005s for the next nine months)

 

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).