Suzuki’s successful SX4 series has captured the attention of a wide range of buyers across the globe.
It has long filled the gap towards the sport utility vehicle market without taking the full step, the SX4 could well be regarded as the quintessential crossover vehicle.
In New Zealand it has appealed to buyers who also want something just a little bit bigger than the popular Swift; the SX4 offers more room inside, more boot space and the option of four-wheel-drive if you are tempted into the S-Cross.
The latter has just gone through a major generation change, the newcomer has sharper lines, a bolder grille and cosmetic changes to make it more functional, yet it is still the adaptable mid-size wagon which will tempt with its capability.
The four-wheel-drive variant gets the venerable 1.6-litre engine which has served Suzuki well, notably it is also shared with the Swift Sport. The 1.6-litre engine also comes with the option of front-wheel-drive only.
That aside, the most notable change with the S-Cross is that there is now a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine option and it is an absolutely honey in terms of refinement, performance and economy. Bear in mind, though, that the turbo model only comes in front-wheel-drive, there is no four-wheel-drive option – yet.
The new SX4 S-Cross lands here with a tempting price starting at $29,990 for a Limited specification 2WD (1.6-litre). Another $4000 will buy you All Grip, while the Prestige model with its 1.4-litre engine also lists at $33,990.
Suzuki New Zealand has done well to get the S-Cross here with such competitive pricing because it arrives here from a European manufacturing plant in Hungary. That being the case, you can rest assured it comes with a little bit of that European feel we expect in cars from the Northern Hemisphere, along with the stringent quality control aspects Japan car makers demand.
The SX4 S-Cross in Prestige form lands here with a reasonable level of specification. Sadly, though, the leather trimmed seats don’t get heaters which means a bit of an unwelcome start to a frosty Christchurch morning.
However, it does qualify for a five-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program safety rating.
Interestingly, the new model has lost the continuously variable transmission of its predecessor, both engines are now coupled to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission.
Interaction between the engine and gearbox is fluid, the combination works in harmony with smooth shifts and ratios which extract well low speed power from the engine.
The latter is significant, one of the major benefits from today’s turbocharging technology is the ability to produce maximum torque from low in the rev band. In the case of Suzuki’s 1373cc unit, peak power is developed at just 5300rpm while torque is maximised between 1500rpm and 4000rpm.
These figures mean the engine doesn’t need to work hard. In true Suzuki engine-building fashion, it will hum to the red line willingly, but it is a sweet wee engine that is amazingly honest at normal driving speeds.
Acceleration is ushered in willingly and swiftly when required (0-100km/h in 10sec), but such is the sultry way the turbo boost arrives it’s almost hard to tell there is forced induction.
The engine’s power management protocols also offer respectable fuel usage figures. Suzuki claims a 6.3-litre per 100km/h (45mpg) combined cycle average which was very close to the 6.8l/100km (41mpg) figure showing on the trip computer. At 100km/h the engine turns over slowly at 1500rpm in sixth gear, providing a 6l/100km/h (47mpg) instantaneous return.
Bear in mind that at 1500rpm the engine is at its point where maximum acceleration can be achieved, that being the case, it is ready for a quick highway overtake (5.8sec – 80km/h-120km/h).
As well as its entertaining engine behaviour, the S-Cross has also been engineered to handle well, it rides on eco-friendly Continental tyres (215/55 x 17in).
Their profile doesn’t compromise handling ability, there is sophistication built into the suspension, the fully independent system has spring and damper rates which easily contain gravitational force.
Suzuki is on a bit of roll, the last few years have seen an incredible amount of new product landing – Celerio, Baleno, Ignis, Vitara and S-Cross. All of it is high quality and will help maintain Suzuki’s respectable share of the small-to-medium car market.
The Swift, which is most popular in the Suzuki line-up, has also received a generation change. From all accounts it is also performing above expectation. I simply can’t wait to get behind the wheel of it.
Price – Suzuki SX4 S-Cross Prestige, $33,990
Dimensions – Length, 4300mm; width, 1785mm; height, 1585mm
Configuration – Four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, 1373cc, 68kW, 130Nm, six-speed automatic.
Fuel usage – 6.3l/100km