Suzuki's new SX4 is a solid contenderComment on this story
ROAD TEST: Suzuki SX4 1.6 GLX AllGrip
I must admit that it's not everyday that strangers make a point of admiring a test car that I'm driving and when they do it's almost always something very fast, bold or exotic.
In fact the last thing I was expecting was for the new Suzuki SX4 to garner any real public attention. Sure, it looks really nice and all that, but it doesn't exactly break any new ground in design terms.
Yet at least two strangers, on two separate occasions, gave a very enthusiastic thumbs up to the Suzuki SX4 that I drove recently, one lady even holding me captive for almost five minutes in one of those “I really love it, but should I really buy one” interrogations. Perhaps the bright Crystal Lime Metallic paint job played a part in making this particular unit stand out?
Now I realise that a sample of two people isn't exactly going to hold much water in quantitative research circles, but for the purposes of this review it should at least indicate that the SX4 has enough street presence to hold its head above the modern crossover tide.
Good thing, because this Suzuki is fighting for a slice of a really crowded market. Its other selling point is likely to be its price. Where most C-segment crossover start in the early 300 000s and creep towards the half-a-million mark, the SX4 range is priced between R265 900 and R341 900. Size-wise, the SX4 closely matches the Mitsubishi ASX and it's slightly smaller than a VW Tiguan.
Where's the catch, then?
Well, that you'll find under the bonnet, where the previous model's brawny 2-litre petrol motor has made way a 1.6-litre unit and without having gained a turbocharger. Nonetheless, the vehicle is relatively light for a crossover, with the all-wheel drive model featured here tipping the scales at 1240kg, or just 1175kg in the case of the front-wheel drive.
The 88kW/156Nm motor makes a decent enough case for itself around town and has no trouble keeping up with traffic but you might wish for a few extra ponies on the open road. While we're at it, a six-speed 'box would also be nice.
As mentioned, my test car was a range-topping all-wheel drive model, fitted with Suzuki's AllGrip system that features four driving modes: Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock. It's really not a necessity in a vehicle of this nature, but could be a nice addition if you're into mild off-roading or if you want an extra safety net for summer downpours and gravel road excursions.
Yet this is not to be confused with real off-roaders like the Suzuki Jimny and Grand Vitara and most SX4s will inevitably spend their lives darting through urban sprawl and navigating the occasional holiday in the countryside.
For life off the trail, the SX4 is naturally a far more civilised and comfortable proposition than its aforementioned siblings. It rides quietly and smoothly over most surfaces and it's really easy and painless to drive in practically every respect, from its light steering to its smooth-yet-solid gearshift and well-spaced pedals.
The interior feels like it was carved together by a stone-mason and it imparts a very solid and sturdy feel, and the surface materials are of a good quality.
You can also tick off the practicality box as there's enough headroom and leg-stretching space to put teens or adults in the back and the two-tier boot swallows a useful 430 litres when all the seats are in place.
Equipment in the range-topping GLX includes cruise control, dual-zone climate control, keyless start and a modern six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth connectivity.
For the modern family, the new SX4 will fill the role of a very solid, useful and likeable crossover. Its driver will also appreciate its solid feel and easy-operating nature, as long as there are no real performance ambitions here.
In its own right, the 1.6 GLX all-wheel drive model offers relatively good value at R319 900, but I feel the target market will get even better value from the front-wheel drive versions at the lower end of the range, which starts at R265 900.
Suzuki SX4 1.6 GLX AllGrip
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Gearbox: Five-speed manual/automatic
Power: 86kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 156Nm @ 4400rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 12.0 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 173km/h
Consumption (claimed): 6.2 litres per 100km
Price: R319 900
Warranty: Three-year/100 000km
Maintenance Plan: Three-year/90 000km
Ford Kuga 1.6T Ambiente (110kW/240Nm) - R310 900
Mitsubishi ASX 2.0 GL (110kW/197Nm) - R294 900
Nissan Qashqai 1.2T Visia (85kW/190Nm) - R281 900
Toyota RAV4 2.0 GX (107kW/187Nm) - R306 400
All wheel drive:
Kia Sportage 2.0 AWD (116kW/192Nm) - R383 995
Subaru Forester 2.0 X (110kW/198Nm) - R339 000