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.
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...
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.
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
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.
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
Australia in very
limited numbers. Our test vehicle was supplied by www.yahoomotorsport.com.au 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
Japan there will
be no more Cervo Modes available for purchase.
And what about parts back-up, you ask?
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.
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...