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Suzuki 660cc Turbo Fun

We check out the 'big block' 660cc turbocharged Suzuki Cervo Mode SR!

By Michael Knowling

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • 660cc SOHC turbo
  • Great mid-range grunt
  • Modern feel
  • Sports seats and body kit
  • Potential plus!
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Here at AutoSpeed we pride ourselves in presenting the often overlooked Kei-class performance cars from Japan. Well, this model – the 1990 Suzuki Cervo Mode SR – is far and away the gruntiest of all Keis we’ve pedalled.

This is the 660cc ‘big block’ version!

As you may be aware, the maximum allowed engine capacity for Japanese Kei-class vehicles was increased from 550 to 660cc in 1990. This seemingly minor 110cc increase enabled Japanese manufacturers to reach the existing 64ps (47kW) regulation output without the peaky engine characteristics associated with the 550cc engines. They could approach the regulation power output while providing meaty grunt all the way through the rev range.

And the 660cc Suzuki Cervo Mode proves it.

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The Cervo Mode SR is powered by a F6A 657cc three-pot breathing through a SOHC, 6-valve head. (A F6B 660cc 4-cylinder DOHC version was reserved for the top-line Cervo Mode SR-Four.) The F6A employs a MAP-sensed EFI system with a distributor, tiny RHB31 turbocharger, top-mount air-to-air intercooler and blow-off valve. It’s an engine that oozes mid-range torque - there’s a substantial peak of 90Nm at 3500 rpm, while maximum power (46kW) arrives at an accessible 6000 rpm.

Squeeze the accelerator while cruising at urban speed and the Cervo Mode reacts instantly - you can feel your head being pushed back as boost pressure builds and builds. The little IHI turbocharger is remarkably early to boost – a dashboard light indicates positive manifold pressure from around 1500 rpm...

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With the 5-speed manual fitted to our test vehicle, the Cervo Mode SR is great fun to wind out to its 7000 redline. Unfortunately, a worn set of 155/65 13 tyres meant we couldn’t get away cleanly from a standing start – we can only guess this is a 9 - 10 second 0 – 100 km/h machine.

But our whole time behind the wheel we kept dreaming how utterly devastating this car could be with some relatively minor mods. Give the 660cc turbo engine a 2¼ inch exhaust, free-flow air intake, upgrade intercooler and crank up the boost pressure and the Cervo Mode SR would make many ‘performance’ car owners hang their heads in shame. The ego-bashing ability of this Suzuki is immense.

And the rest of the car is pretty damn good as well.

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Despite having a relatively basic strut front-end and a trailing arm beam axle rear, the front-wheel-drive Cervo Mode delivers a surprisingly high level of handling, ride and rough road stability. So much so, we were sure it must have an independent rear-end...

Braking the 650kg beast are tiny front discs and a drum brake rear. There were no problems stopping during our test but the brake pedal had to be pushed close to the floor for any bite to occur.

Interestingly, the Cervo Mode SR comes fitted with power-assisted rack and pinion steering as standard. As you’d expect, steering effort is minimal but torque steer can be felt when blasting away from the line - unacceptable in a more expensive car, but all part of the charm of the cheap an’ cheery Cervo Mode...

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The technical advancement of Japanese Kei-class cars was full-steam ahead from the late ‘80s. The Cervo Mode SR shows the fruits of this advancement with its surprisingly tight body (only a couple of squeaks and rattles), generous front leg and head room and a relatively high trim level. Our test car was equipped with air conditioning (with an Economy setting), a modern dashboard, thick-rimmed steering wheel and tight-fitting sports seats. The 2-person rear seat also offers useable accommodation.

Click for larger image

Cruising in a Cervo Mode won’t do much to boost anyone’s credibility, but on the odd occasion you can expect an extended glance. Unfortunately, these are usually followed by a slightly puzzled expression... But get in and drive this thing and you’ll look on the Cervo Mode with new eyes. When you’ve experienced the fun that it delivers, it’s easier to admire the rear spoiler, bonnet scoop, fog light equipped front bumper and ‘big’ 13 inch alloys.

The 660cc Suzuki Cervo Mode is an impressive little car that is currently available in Australia in very limited numbers. Our test vehicle was supplied by and we believe a couple more examples are scheduled for importation later this year. This particular example, with less than 40,000km on the odometer and in excellent condition apart from a front-end clunk, is currently offered for AUD$4900 (non ADR’d). But be aware that you must act fast – once those next examples are imported from Japan there will be no more Cervo Modes available for purchase.

And what about parts back-up, you ask?

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Well, as far as we can determine, the 1990 Cervo Mode (chassis code E-CN21S) shares the same underpinnings as the Australian-spec Alto that was delivered from 1995. This means there should many parts available to suit, but note that not all parts are interchangeable – the Australian-spec Alto was available only as a 1.0 litre naturally aspirated 5-door version. Certainly, it’d be nice to have a replacement Japanese-import motor and gearbox sitting in the shed – just in case something went bang.

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In the face of increasing fuel prices and the proliferation of modified Nissans/Subies/Holdens, the 660cc Suzuki Cervo Mode SR makes a lot of sense. It’s cheap to buy, economical to run, relatively comfortable and practical and it offers real performance and potential.

Hmmm, maybe there’s some space that can be cleared in the garage...


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