To be labelled ‘quirky’ is either a blessing or a curse. Quirky people, for example, are often considered irritating but if a car is quirky then it suggests a more endearing type of oddball.
And for a good many years, the Suzuki SX4 has enjoyed that ‘quirky’ handle, with its slightly roguish style and mini-SUV pose. But this latest all new SX4 has grown up, and like a teenager ditching the tongue-stud and Henna tats for that important job interview, it’s leaving ‘quirky’ behind.
The SX4 S-Cross, to give it its full name, is wider and substantially longer than the outgoing model, but with a lower roofline to give it a more conventional crossover look. It is a well-proportioned body, inoffensive but distinctly unmemorable. And that extra length and increased wheelbase has allowed Suzuki to address two of the main criticisms of the old model. Namely, the boot is now much bigger, and rear legroom is far more generous.
Its arch rival will be the Nissan Qashqai, which Suzuki aims to undercut by about 10% on a like-for-like basis. Prices, which haven’t been confirmed yet, will likely start at £15,000 and rise to £23,500 for the flagship of the range. There are four trim levels, starting with the SZ3, which comes to the party with standard fit 16-inch alloys, aircon and cruise control. The top-whack SZ5 is, as you’d guess, extremely well equipped, with front and rear parking sensors, sat nav, a reversing camera, 17-inch alloys, leather seats and a simply enormous double-pane sunroof.
Suzuki is also finally getting serious about chasing fleet business. To that end, it is offering a fleet-only trim level – the SZT, which will cost about £17,700, comes with satnav, rear parking sensors, digital radio, and some sexy bits of chrome trim on the outside. So the real challenge here for Suzuki will be how well – or otherwise – the new car’s residual values fare. The current car has never done well on that front, and Suzuki is waiting with bated breath for the verdict to come in from car valuation experts at Glass’s and CAP.
Inside, the SX4 has been thoroughly updated – this is a spacious cabin that feels far more contemporary and offers plenty of space for four adults, five in a pinch. And as a six-foot-plus passenger, I did enjoy the extra rear space on offer in the back. I drove the top-spec model, which had the double-pane sunroof – both panes actually slide up and over the roof, giving a terrific open-air feel. The downside is that headroom in the back suffers, particularly if you’re my height.
Some of the plastics used in the interior do tend to remind you that you’re at the lower end of the price scale, but no more so than the direct competition.
There are two engines on offer, a 1.6-litre 118bhp petrol or an identically powered 1.6-litre diesel unit. The petrol, which can be mated to a CVT auto or manual five-speed transmission, needs to be worked hard for press-on progress and can sound a bit laboured in the process. The diesel, though, is a real peach – while it has the same power output as the petrol, it has far bigger wedge of torque, which means you can make relaxed and swift progress without having to wring the engine’s neck. And the six-speed manual gearbox has ratios that are well matched to the engine. So while you will pay a £2000 premium for the diesel, its well worth it.
Predictably, the dynamic experience errs on the side of ride comfort, which is the sensible course. Here, the SX4 does a good job of soaking up bigger potholes and broken pavement, but with the tradeoff being a bit more body roll through corners. It’s not a deal breaker, though. And likewise, the steering feedback is a little mute until the tyres load up through the corner, and then it improves.
LIkewise, you can have your SX4 with front or four-wheel drive. The latter will cost you £1750 extra, for which you get four different modes: there’s ‘Auto’, which leaves the car in front-drive only unless the system detects wheel slip, and ‘Snow’, which puts the system in four-wheel drive. ‘Lock’ divides torque equally between front and rear, while ‘Sport’ monitors how the car is being driven and sends more torque rearward if you’re pressing on hard.
Fans of the old SX4 – with added ‘quirk’ – might miss that car’s oddball character. But Suzuki says that there’s a fix in the pipeline, namely in the form of a smaller B-segment car that it’ll launch in the next couple of years. From what I’ve heard, it could be properly weird (in a good way), and we could see a concept as early as the Frankfurt motor show next September.
In the meantime, if you’ve outgrown the tongue-stud phase, the SX4 could be worth a look.
It might not be quite as funky as the car it replaces, but the new SX4 S-Cross is a much more rounded package.
Suzuki SX4 S-Cross SZ4
- 1598cc, four-cylinder turbodiesel
- 118bhp @ 3750rpm
- 236 lb ft @ 1750rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 13sec
- Top speed:
- Road tax band:
- L 4300mm, W 1765mm, H 1570mm
- Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi Visia, £18,590
For A comfortable and refined cruiser Against There will be an all new model at the end of the year, so might be worth waiting
- Skoda Yeti SE 1.6 TDI CR, £18,905
For Quite good fun to drive with a spacious cabin Against Removing the rear seats is a bit of a phaff