The next generation of Suzuki's SX4 crossover has arrived in South Africa, and we attended its launch in Johannesburg.
Crossover festivalCrossover is a hotly-contested segment of the car market, with many manufacturers all fighting for a slice of the pie. Nissan has its Juke and Qashqai, there's the decent Subaru XV and even Volvo is getting into the act with the V40 Cross Country. As I type this, a Ford EcoSport has just arrived for evaluation. I can understand the appeal. Crossovers are big, practical and aimed at the weekend outdoors enthusiasts. They're also aimed at the young families, as well as the... in fact they're marketed as a car for everyone.
The previous generation SX4 wasn't a bad car, and some additions like all-wheel drive at the end of its product cycle made it quite good. Fast forward 2014 and I'm behind the wheel of the next generation of Suzuki SX4 - a larger, more practical version and a completely different vehicle compared to its predecessor. It doesn't look half bad either and looks like a bigger and bolder Kizashi from the front. However those tail lights look a little generic. The 17-inch alloy wheels are also particularly striking.
PracticalitySuzuki claims class-leading practicality and has addressed the one main criticism of its outgoing SX4: rear legroom. The 2014 SX4 is substantially bigger as the wheelbase has grown by 100 mm, the overall length by 165 mm and finally the luggage space has grown from 270 litres, to 430 litres. If you fold the backrest all the way down, there's 1 269 litres of space to play with.
Standard specification for SX4So it's bigger, wider and more practical. Let's look at standard specification. In true Suzuki tradition, the product is well equipped. There are a few specification levels to choose from, but seeing as I spent most of my time in the GLX manual, I'll focus on that.
You get cruise control, 17-inch alloys, six speaker USB/Mp3/CD radio, Bluetooth connectivity with steering-wheel mounted controls, automatic HID headlights, daytime LED lights, comprehensive trip computer, keyless start, auto wipers, park distance control as well as a five-star safety rating. It's an impressive offering and yet this is the second cheapest version in the line up.
Suzuki SX4 enginePowering the Suzuki SX4 is the M16A engine. If M16A means anything, you'll know it's the same motor which does duty in the pocket rocket Suzuki Swift Sport. Sadly, this engine has been detuned in the Sx4 and focuses on being economical. This 1.6-litre four cylinder has a power and torque rating of 86 kW and 156 Nm respectively. Fuel economy is where the vehicle shines and Suzuki South Africa claims the new SX4 will sip just 5.8l/100km.
It's believable as I achieved around 6.2l/100km on the launch route in the North West province. As for power and delivery, the car is no hot performer and there's just enough grunt to get about. I'm keen to see how the Suzuki SX4 will perform at sea level, where it won't be suffering from a 17% power loss caused by altitude.
Gearbox choicesThings start to go awry when you consider the transmission options. There's nothing wrong with the tried-and-trusted five-speed manual gearbox, but the continuously variable transmission (CVT) doesn't make the most of a good engine. It's fine if you're happy to drive slowly and efficiently, but if you're in a rush the 'box just doesn't seem to put all the power to the wheels.
The engine's revs climb, the engine note increases, but you just don't seem to pick up speed even when using the well-designed paddles. I'd only advise the CVT if you're totally adverse to a manual gearbox. Otherwise, stick to the manual gearbox and you've got a winner, especially as the fuel consumption figure is better.
AllGrip and 4x4 abilityThe Suzuki SX4 comes with a four-wheel drive system called AllGrip, and while I didn't get to try it out, it seems capable on paper. There's between 175 and 180 mm worth of ground clearance and the automatic AllGrip system does most of the work for you. By using a dial located in the centre console, you can choose modes to tackle different terrain.
There's an auto mode, which will send torque and power to the back wheels if the fronts start to lose grip. Snow is ideal for unpaved surfaces and spreads the torque between the front and back wheels as you drive. In theory, this snow setting should work well on gravel and dirt. Sport will make things interesting and sharpens up the engine's response as well as sending more torque to the back wheels for better cornering. If you literally get stuck in the mud and want to get the car out, activate the lock mode and the car will dig itself out.
Ride and handlingThe Suzuki SX4 happens to ride well, and there's a nice feeling of solidity about the vehicle. It's well damped too and the car feels sure footed and stable on questionable tarmac. The roads of the North Western province really aren't that great. Part of the launch route included some serious gravel sections as we went up an old mountain pass.
Amazingly, I didn't need the all-wheel drive version as my launch unit was more than capable, and skipped up the pass without any problems. For gravel driving, it's pretty good and I was delighted to not hear a single rattle after rejoining the tarred road, underlining decent build quality.
Suzuki SX4 Price in South AfricaThe Suzuki SX4 is available in a number of derivatives which all share the same 1.6-litre engine.
|1.6 GL||R265 900||5.8||86 kW||156 Nm|
|1.6 GLX||R295 900||5.8||86 kW||156 Nm|
|1.6 GLX CVT||R318 900||5.8||86 kW||156 Nm|
|1.6 GLX AWD||R319 900||6.2||86 kW||156 Nm|
|1.6 GLX CVT AWD||R341 900||6.2||86 kW||156 Nm|