REPRINT FROM #20 1981
REVIEW OF SUMA M313 SELECTA
POSITIVE SURPRISES - AND ONE NEGATIVE.
In the eyes of most people, the SUMA probably looks elegant and modern for a budget car, but how is it performing?
Every now and then, cars appear on the market that is real price fighters. Generally, we have rarely recommended them, because corners are usually cut in such a way that purchasing a better car that is a couple of years old is usually worth it. But without any prejudice, let’s take a look at the SUMA M313 Selecta to see how it stands up to the competition.
The SUMA could by no means be called an exciting car to drive. The RWD sedan has a rather ancient solid axle setup, albeit coil sprung, in the rear, and McPherson struts up front. It should be said that SUMA has managed to give it rather predictable handling, it is neutral up to the point where it understeers, but skid pad ratings on its narrow long life tyres are mediocre - 0.77 on the large one, 0.83 on the small one. We also noticed that the tyres gave only mediocre grip during acceleration.
Outdated is how we could describe the brakes - it is not even discs up front. Stopping distance from 100 is a fair 42.1 metres - with cold brakes. They will soon get worse during hard driving, and what is also disappointing is the brake balance, it is easy to lock up the rear wheels before the front.
Something positive - it has power steering, albeit with a very “dead” feeling to it, but it makes the small sedan very nimble in city traffic.
Due to the low weight, it is not too sluggish with its 75 hp. 0-100 is done in 13.7 seconds, the top speed is 167 km/h. The quartermile is done in 19.5 seconds and 80-120 in 12.9 seconds. Not very sporty, but acceptable for an economy car.
If you believe that a car in this class is a torture chamber, you’re wrong. Fact is that the SUMA offers acceptable levels of comfort. Spring rates seems to be relatively well chosen, it is reasonably quiet, seating comfort is acceptable. For its price, we are rather surprised, actually.
This trunk is best suited for small luggage.
ROOMINESS AND PRACTICALITY
Will it seat 5? Yes. Is that a pleasant experience? No, but that’s just expected for a car this size. The luggage compartment is small too, and being a sedan it does not offer much in the way of flexibility. Four doors is a detail not every car in this class will offer, which of course should be seen as a bonus when it comes to practicality. Overall, if one considers the small size of the car, it doesn’t do too bad, actually.
The interior is simple, but far from dated.
EQUIPMENT AND INTERIOR
Again, for its price we feel that it is a positive surprise. The interior might look simple, but it is functional, and sort of pleasant with things like a not too shabby cloth upholstery, cup holders, molded door cards and a soft grip steering wheel. All the controls are within ease of reach. Other standard equipment includes a tape player and power steering, which is more than some other cars in this class.
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
The engine is already 20 years old, but was fully modern when it came out, with things like an overhead camshaft layout. From 1.8 litres SUMA has managed to squeeze out 75 hp, which is a rather normal number. Absolutely not an impressive powerplant in any way, but adequate for normal driving. In our test car, it was mated to a 3 speed automatic that did its job well. Maybe the jumps between gears could feel a little bit big sometimes, but generally gearing could be classed as sane.
QUALITY AND RELIABILITY
We were not impressed by the build quality, but then, in this class we hardly are. With that said, it never felt like if it should fall apart, reliability would probably not be worse than average either, due to tried and true technology. Thanks to a galvanized structure, body rot should be kept to a minimum too.
It is hard to argue that the price is low for a new car at $11500 AMU. Service costs are also low at $540.2 AMU. However, we are disappointed with the fuel economy, 11 litres per 100 km is simply too much for such a small car, which is also why we feel that we can’t give it a top score here.
The car is too small and light to get any decent level of safety to talk about. But it should be stated that the bodyshell is at least robust and solid. It doesn’t offer more safety equipment than what should be considered standard today, however. A collapsible steering column, some safety padding on hard interior surfaces, 3-point inertia reel seatbelts on the outboard positions and front headrests. It fulfills all the legal requirements, but not much more than that.
FINAL VERDICT: 23/45
Fact is, that for its price, the Suma is among the better cars on the market. It is not exciting, not luxurious, not impressive in any way, but functional. However, it is let down by its ancient braking system, which is why we still are a little bit cautious with recommending it to anyone. We bet that for just a minor increase in price, SUMA could equip this with better brakes and make it a much better car overall.
Thanks to @Banana_Soule for the car!