The Southern Group of Motoring Writers’ pre-dinner gathering for SMMT Test Day South returned this year.

The SGMW was kindly hosted by Suzuki UK, with a large number of members making the trip south to Oakley Hall, near Basingstoke in Hampshire, for a pre-overnight stay and dinner.

Also invited were members of the SMMT, who joined the group for dinner in the stunning surroundings of the Library dining room at the hotel.

Alun Parry addresses SGMW members at dinner hosted by Suzuki.

Alongside Alun Parry and Jessica Grimditch from Suzuki UK, SGMW members included chairman Ian Roberson, Andy Russell, Natalie Middleton, Peter Nunn, Phill Tromans, Phil Huff, Martin Gurdon, Stuart Bird, Claire Evans, David Ward, Ben Griffin, Chris Rees, Chris Manning, Trinity Francis and Ben Hodges

Also joining the group for dinner were SMMT staff Claire Balch, Paul Mauerhoff, Rebecca Gibbs and Rebecca Lynn, along with Maxine Ashford from the Western Group of Motoring Writers.

Everyone enjoyed an excellent meal at which Alun Parry highlighted details of Suzuki’s service activated warranty for vehicles up to seven years old or 100,000 miles. He also announced Suzuki plans to launch a stream of electric cars over the coming years.

Lexus RZ 450e at SMMT Test Day South.

Ian thanked Suzuki for hosting the group and guest.

The following morning, Southern Group members had only a very short commute from the breakfast table to the SMMT venue at the hotel to commence with the day’s drives.

Ian provided a list of all of the new car contenders that have arrived in 2023, with the day giving SGMW members the chance to drive an array of new models in the run-up to our Car of the Year awards.

Manufacturers attending included brands such as BMW, Citroen, DS Automobiles, Ford, Fiat, Smart, Jeep, Peugeot, Suzuki, Toyota, Lexus, Vauxhall and MG, which holds the group’s current overall Car of the Year title with the MG4 EV.

Rugged Ford Ranger Raptor.

A large variety of models were tested on the roads surrounding Oakley Hall, from the likes of the rugged, and not exactly subtle, Ford Ranger Raptor, to the very quick BMW i7 limo and the new all-electric Lexus RZ 450e.

Ian said: “SMMT Test Day South is always well attended by members, as it’s right on our doorstop and a great way of getting behind the wheels of cars that we may have missed during the year.

“It was disappointing that some manufacturers chose not to be present at this year’s event but it was nice to see the many car-makers that continue to support the test day with a selection of their latest cars.”