Suzuki's chunky hatchback

Suzuki is known in the UK for three things — motorcycles, small cars and small off-roaders.

Well, the Suzuki SX4 obviously has more than two wheels, so it doesn’t come into motorcycle category. But, it does combine some elements of Suzuki’s other two strengths — small cars and 4x4s.

Suzuki SX4

This is the latest version of the Suzuki SX4 a small hatchback/SUV/MPV crossover that was developed in partnership with Fiat and is manufactured in Hungary. Although it has been around for a number of years, this is the latest version with a number of revisions which make it much more appealing.

What’s the thinking behind it?

These days people don’t want to drive just an ordinary hatchback or saloon. The desire is to drive a car that reflects something of your lifestyle and your desire to stand out in a crowd. That’s why the recent growth sectors in the car market have been SUVs, MPVs and coupés.

Suzuki wants a slice of that action.

We have seen with cars like the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga, that there is a demand for cars that have an off-road image, but without the cost and the economy penalty of a full-time four-wheel-drive system.

Suzuki SX4

Like the Qashqai, the big sellers in the SX4 will be the front-wheel-drive models, but there will be a four wheel drive option.

Confusingly, Suzuki has chosen to differentiate the models within its SX4 range by using the letters SZ followed by a model number. Thus, the SZ4 I drove is the top two-wheel-drive, or in Suzuki parlance it is an SX4 SZ4... confused? I certainly was!

The top-of-the-range SZ5 four-wheel-drive model is due to be released this month.

Does it appeal?

The small hatchback market is very style conscious. This, after all, is the sector in which the Mini and the Fiat 500 are battling for buyer’s affections.

There’s no way that the SX4 can compete with such haut couture, but it’s a neat design. Sufficiently distinctive it has subtle good looks both outside and in and it projects enough hints of ruggedness to please urban road warriors.

What’s it like to drive?

Power comes from a choice of petrol or diesel engines, both 1.6 litres. For this latest model, the 1.6 petrol has been re-worked and now produces 10% more power (up to 120PS), but also 10% lower fuel consumption and a 13% reduction in emissions at 143g/km of CO2.

Suzuki SX4 interior

The performance is not sparkling, but, once you have signalled your wish to move up a gear the SX4 proves remarkably lively and willing. It is also notably economical. The combined fuel consumption is 45.6 mpg and, in the real world, I managed to record 38.9 mpg. Emissions are 165 g/km.

It is also an easy car to drive, either nipping around in traffic, or, out on the open road. The steering is light, but the grip is good. Despite this taller design, the SX4 doesn’t seem to suffer in the handling department. While no sports car, it keeps a notably even keel on the corners.

How easy is it to live with?

Where the SX4 also scores is practicality. This is a five-door car in a market sector where a number of its obvious competitors are three-door.

Also because of its SUV style, the seating position is more elevated than some obvious competitors. That makes getting in and out much easier — something that is important for a car that is likely to be used around town.

While visibility in most directions is good, I did feel that the front pillars produce rather large blind spots. I found myself having to crane my neck a few times to look round the pillars to check for traffic at roundabouts and junctions.

The SX4 also scored well in terms of refinement. It rides well on our increasingly cratered roads and is notably quiet when cruising.

How much does it cost?

Prices for the SX4 start at £11,640 , with the SZ4 version coming in at a competitive £12,255.

You can also get an automatic transmission version at £13,280. Prices of the SZ5 four-wheel-drive version are to be announced.
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