The all new SX4 S-Cross from Suzuki
The all new SX4 S-Cross from Suzuki
Suzuki's all new SX4 S-Cross goes on sale in the UK on 1st October, with prices starting from a competitive £14,999 for a SZ3 1.6 litre petrol with manual transmission.

This will be the company's first Crossover model and it will be available with 2WD and a new ALLGRIP 4WD. The trend for this type of model was started back in 2007 by Nissan with its Qashqai model. Since then manufacturers have been clamouring to get a piece of the pie, with Kia's Sportage and Ford's Kuga amongst the leading protagonists.

Clearly SX4 S-Cross will need to be good to steal a march on the established players. However, sometimes arriving late to the segment can be a positive, as clearly it will have allowed designers to analyse and scrutinise the competition and get it right.

This new Crossover is part of Suzuki's bold plans to launch a new model every year, with 2014 seeing a new A-segment contender to replace the aging Alto and an all-new SUV following the year after.

The Launch

The UK launch took place at historic Fawsley Hall, set in stunning Northamptonshire countryside. A quick dash down the ever-choked M1 and wonderful dinner, bed and breakfast was my reward, all in the good company of the convivial Suzuki Press Team.




As is usual at these events, a brief media presentation was the order of the day. Ed Norman, Product Placement Manager was at the mike and we were positively deluged with Suzuki positivity.

We learnt that Suzuki was now up to 20th place in the Top of the Automotive Pops in the UK and was the fastest growing of all of them (33% growth in the last year - they must be doing something right).
We also were informed that Suzuki were to focus much more on fleet buyers, an area they desperately need to crack in order to grow their business (currently 62% of sale are to private customers).

So has SX4 S-Cross got what it takes to move the brand forwards and will the necessary conquest sales be forthcoming? I took to the roads with fellow scribe and exiled Yorkshireman, Ollie Hammond, to find out.

The Cars


Unfortunately all the cars at the launch were in top SZ5 specification and were so hot off the production line that the paint was still drying! It is always helpful to try in different guises, as most often the top model in the range is not the best seller. No matter.

The first car I tried was had 4WD, a 1.6 litre petrol engine and CVT automatic gearbox. Priced at just under £22,500, this is unlikely to sell in huge numbers.


The CVT transmission allowed silky smooth (if rather vocal) acceleration, though best not to be in too much of a hurry (0-60mph in 13.5 seconds). Promised economy figures of up to 49.5 on the combined cycle are not to be sniffed at.

Ride quality was good and handling felt reassuring - class competitive in fact.

Interior fittings all felt very robust, if not especially tactile and a comfortable driving position was easily obtainable. Headroom was slightly lacking in SZ5, the result of the fitment of the innovative double sliding panoramic sunroof. Surely with standard air-conditioning across the range, the holey roof could be confined to the options list!

The driving position is pleasantly elevated, affording a good view out and four passengers would be able to travel with ease. Leather adorns the seats in SZ5 and whilst many see it as desirable, I'd rather see quality fabric in this class of car.

Next to get a blast through the countryside was a 2WD model with the diesel engine and this we had been told would most likely be the best selling combination. All diesel variants carry a £2,000 premium over the petrol engines, so maybe sums should be done before working out whether this extra outlay is worthwhile, especially as the petrol engine is fairly parsimonious.

What is not in doubt is the increased desirability of the diesel engine and slick six-speed manual gearbox. A lovely combination, with plenty of engine torque which allowed an easy-going, relaxed gait and the promise of up to 67.2mpg on the combined cycle.




The diesel engine was pleasantly subdued, though I suspect that the surfeit of road noise probably drowned it out...

For me, the best was saved until last - diesel engine, manual gearbox and 4WD (or ALLGRIP in Suzuki parlance). Clearly carrying a little extra weight, it felt a little slower than the 2WD version. A warm and sunny day did nothing to help the quest for some challenging, slippery terrain. I can report grass and a ploughed field (sorry Mr Farmer -we did stick to the edge) presented no challenge.

As Suzuki have a long history of producing 4WD vehicles (SJ, Vitara, SX4), I think it would be fair to say that the system will work well. It's a flexible system with 4 distinct modes; Auto, Sport, Lock and Snow.

Auto will do the job for you, engaging power to the rear wheels if it detects the fronts are losing grip.

Sport matches grip levels to throttle openings and Lock mode sends most power to the rear wheels for really sticky situations.

Sadly ALLGRIP is only available with the higher specification models (SZ5 in petrol and SZ-T and SZ5 in diesel) and a starting point of £21,459. Most rivals follow this particular path, with the possible exception of Dacia, whose bargain-priced Duster model allows 4WD to be paired with the most basic specification. Seems like a good idea to me and is especially helpful to the rural motorist.

Verdict

The SX4 S-Cross is a great new addition to the Crossover Class.

Attractively styled, competitively priced and no doubt to be aggressively marketed, it is bound to help Suzuki continue its excellent sales growth. Low running costs should help endear it to the much-valued Fleet sector.

Pick of the range for me would be a diesel model in SZ3 trim (£16,999), which is remarkably well equipped for the price. Much as I would love the ALLGRIP system, I would question whether I would want to pay another £4,500 for the privilege.

However, in all honesty, there is much to commend the idea of bucking the expected sales trend and buying the range opening petrol SZ3. Looks like £14,999 well spent to me!

Fast Facts

All new model and Suzuki's first Crossover
2WD and 4WD ALLGRIP models available
Diesel engine 2WD emits just 110g/km CO2 (up to 67.5mpg)
Four trim grades; SZ3, SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5
SZ-T targets Fleet buyers and includes Sat Nav
World's first double sliding sunroof (SZ5)
Luggage capacity of 430 litres
Servicing every 12,500 miles
All models well equipped

Pros

Stylish, well designed and class competitive
Low running costs - frugal engines and low CO2 emissions
Likeable, easy car to live with
A pleasurable drive

Cons

4WD ALLGRIP only available in top spec models
Headroom grabbing sunroof in SZ5

Thank you to the Suzuki team, Alun, Jade and the 'Backroom Boys' for their hospitality.

For more details, www.suzuki.co.uk/cars/sx4s-cross