CHOICE … and lots of it. It’s one of the pillars of our burgeoning consumer society, and – if we’re in serious frame of mind – one of the underpinnings of the democracy we, pretty much unthinkingly, enjoy.
Hey, but let’s not get all frown-inducing and Newsnight-ish here. Let’s lighten up and talk about the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross, new kid on the ever-expanding SUV (sports utility vehicle) crossover block, bringing yet more (you guessed it) choice to that section of the market.
Suzuki have bags of street cred in the 4×4 stakes. Go back as far as the tough little SJ models – affordable, reliable, traditional off-roaders, which the Jimny now references, then the pioneering evergreen Vitara and the more car-like SX4.
Now the Japanese manufacturer has entered the motor industry’s fastest-growing sector with it’s S-Cross, driving into territory long dominated by the Nissan Qashqai.
Flush Magazine spent a week in the company of a two-wheel-drive 1.6 DDi SZ5 model. Two-wheel-drive? I hear you ask. Well, one of the attractions of the crossover world is that many models are offered in both four- and two-wheel-drive, the latter preferred by customers who want the looks, usability and higher driving position without the extra drive-train.
Suzuki’s designers certainly pressed the button marked ‘handsome’. The five-door car has a bold and sporty look, with appealing lines and a rounded bonnet giving an air of strength and solidity. There’s also some tasty detailing, including rear privacy glass, wheel arch extensions, side under protection mouldings, silver skid plates and roof rails.
Slip inside and the cabin is a pleasant, spacious and refined place to be, with soft-touch surfaces, and sporting a black and silver tonal combination. The seats are comfortable and supportive, plus our test car was upholstered in high quality leather and had a low/high heating switch which was well-used during a decidedly wintry seven days. Reach-and-rake adjustment for the chubbily-tactile, leather-covered steering wheel, and height adjustment for the seat, helps make finding your ideal driving position quick and easy.
Good ergonomics rule, with all controls falling easily to hand and the dashboard layout is clear and immediately comprehensible.
There’s equipment a-plenty, including keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, cruise control with speed limiter, dual zone automatic air conditioning, posh satnav, sound system with MP3/CD and DAB digital radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel-mounted controls, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, with auto-levelling and washers, plus LED daytime running lights, electrically heated and folding door mirrors, tyre pressure monitoring system, 12-volt accessory sockets for both cabin and luggage area, and two-position reclining rear seat.
On the practicality front, that back seat is 60/40 split-folding, while other features include four cup holders, door-mounted bottle holders, and a removable double floor for the luggage area, which also has a shopping bag hook, net and tie-down hooks. Safety features abound, with a liberal sprinkling of the usual initials, ABS, EBD, ESP and the rest, plus the extremely useful hill hold control.
Four-wheel- drive comes courtesy of an easily selectable, four-mode system (auto, sport, snow and lock) known as ALLGRIP.
Our car had a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-charged diesel engine well-mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, the pairing giving more than enough go (it felt like a two-litre) and crisp, positive changes. The power unit sounds a bit gruff at start-up and idle, but it is charmingly big-hearted, with usable low-down torque, and economical … I found it hard to shift the fuel gauge needle.
The driving experience is comprehensively positive, with smooth ride, responsive handling and progressive stopping power. On the twisty bits of my country lane/A-road commute the S-Cross was sure-footed and confidence-inspiring.
So, good looks, comfort, driver-appeal, family-friendliness, high on equipment and usability – the S-Cross ticks all the right boxes. Choice? It’s got to be a front-runner.
Make/model: Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.6 DDiS SZ5
Technical: 120bhp, 1598cc four-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo-charged diesel engine, with six-speed manual gearbox.
Performance: 0-62mph, 12 seconds; top speed, 111mph.
Fuel: 67mpg (combined).
Emissions: 110g/km (£20 road tax).
Price: £22,179 OTR (inc £430 for metallic paint)