Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “4×4”

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross DDiS ALLGRIP – Driven and Reviewed

There seems to be an overwhelming requirement to pigeonhole everything these days, and cars aren’t exempt. Every brand has an underlying reputation of one type or another – some of a positive nature, others – slightly less so.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross front and sideWhere do Suzuki stand?

But just where are Suzuki placed in the big, wide world of things; what direction would the stereotypical pub conversation turn towards if the subject was this slightly quirky Japanese marque? For years, my pub-bore fact about Suzuki has been that the Swift Gti of the ’90s was the quickest 1.3 on the market at the time, but anyone who has the slightest interest in off-roading will hold the extremely capable SJ410 and SJ413 models in very high regard as they were more than qualified to keep up with the likes of Land Rover and Jeep, despite their diminutive proportions. All of this brings us neatly round to what we have on test here; the difficult-to-put-in-a-niche SX4 S-Cross.

suzuki_s-cross_side_blueWhat exactly is an SX4 S-Cross, then?

It’s not an SUV in the truest sense of the word, it’s not even a small SUV like an EcoSport or similar, as the silhouette is more estate car than anything else. Estate car doesn’t quite cut the mustard either though – it’s more than that, thanks to an increased ride-height, some go-anywhere bits of chunky trim, and, in the case of our test car, the fact that all four wheels can aid propulsion (you’ll have to spec your SX4 S-Cross with ALLGRIP, though).


So, the SX4 S-Cross could be described as a slightly scaled-down Subaru Forester, and the obvious competitor in that particular little pigeonhole is the Peugeot 2008 – a car that we found to punch above its weight in most departments. suzuki_s-cross_noseYou’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’d describe the SX4 as beautiful, however much they like the car. The nose starts fairly close to the ground and then rises up over a slightly bulbous bonnet, with some cartoon-ish, oversized headlights dominating the rest of the front.

Practical enough inside – just think twice about that sunroof

Like the 2008, glazing is kept fairly sleek and minimalist with all five doors consisting of more metal, steering safely away from the ‘Popemobile’ look that does nothing to add appeal to any car. Thankfully, Suzuki have been sensible enough to raise the rear seating proportionately; there’s nothing worse than children getting bored or feeling sick because they can’t see out of the rear windows. If it’s fully sized humans that are going to be sat in the back seats, however, I’d make sure you stay well clear of the panoramic sun-roof. Pretty as it is, it eats into headroom too much and takes away from the SX4’s practical appeal. suzuki_s-cross_panoramic_sunroof


When it comes down to loadspace and headroom, pretty curves are the enemy and right angles are what’s required. The SX4 pulls off the clever trick of being conducive enough to fitting large objects in, without taking on the appearance of a Transit van. This basic shape, combined with a very useful dual-level boot floor and an 875 litre max capacity adds up to an eminently practical car that’ll fit in more than you’d probably warrant.


Inside the SX4, it’s a slightly less eye-catching affair than the exterior. There’s nothing wrong with what’s staring back at you from the dashboard per se and the materials used are of a high enough quality to not let the rest of the car down, there’s just a glaring lack of imagination and the whole thing’s a bit dull and uninspiring. That said, the standard Garmin infotainment system works a treat and does everything well, and the bright blue rings around the dials are a nice touch. Suzuki SX4 S-Cross interior


I doubt you’d have a problem getting comfortable whilst driving the SX4, whatever size or shape you come in; the seats are supportive and forgiving, and if you opt for a model with heated seats, you’ll be treated to the first ‘low’ heat setting I’ve found that genuinely means ‘low’ and won’t leave you wondering if your pants are about to combust.

Far more fun than you might expect

On the move is undoubtedly where the SX4 excels, and where Suzuki’s engineering prowess becomes apparent. The 1.6l Diesel unit in our test car may take an age to warm up (heated seats come into their own again here), but when it has, it’s responsive enough to the point of being really good fun – not something you’d automatically expect from this type of power plant. Throttle response from this Fiat-sourced engine is impressive and, although it may not be the most refined unit in the world, the handling is direct and honest. When combined, they have enough character to make the SX4 engaging and a bit of a hoot. Suzuki SX4 S-Cross rear light


This range-topping SZ5 model is absolutely packed to the rafters with standard kit including leather and auto lights and wipers, yet its £23,549 price tag may take some by surprise. I think this comes back to just where Suzuki stand in the market as, although they don’t have a reputation for building rubbish, £24K list prices aren’t necessarily what you’d associate with the brand either.


Suzuki SX4 S-Cross ALLGRIP system


The strange thing is, this still undercuts much of the competition, but Suzuki’s official figures state that the most popular spec is the SZ-T, which is priced at the £18 – £19.5K mark. It just doesn’t quite have the kerb appeal of the likes of the Qashqai or the Yeti, but when you’re paying under £20K for your S-Cross, I suppose it doesn’t need to. You still get one hell of a car at the mid-range level, especially if you can live without the ALLGRIP 4WD system; the snow mode may be reassuring for a week in January and it seems to work beautifully whilst being completely unobtrusive, but I think the majority of buyers would survive just fine without it.

Is it for me?

Overall, Suzuki’s SX4 continues the brand’s tradition of producing understated, quality items and you’d not find many faults with it at all. The 1.6 Diesel is a great engine and undoubtedly the one to go for, I’d just exercise a degree of caution with how much you spend on what should be a bit of a bargain.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Suzuki SX4 S-Cross, 1.6l DDiS, ALLGRIP SZ5, Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 120PS, Torque – 320Nm, Emissions – 114g/km CO2, Economy – 64.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 108mph, Acceleration – 13.0s 0-62mph, Price – £23,549 OTR, £23,979 as tested

For full details, go to: http://www.suzuki.co.uk/cars/cars/new/sx4-s-cross/sx4-s-cross 

Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC 2WD – Driven and Reviewed

Paris Motor Show

New Honda CR-V at Paris Motor ShowThese are certainly exciting times for Honda. The Paris motor show was something of a showcase for the Japanese goliaths as not only were new models and face-lifts presented to The World, but we saw the reemergence of what’s undoubtedly the most exciting letter in the Honda alphabet – ‘R‘.

Back to the slightly more humdrum aspects of the Honda range, the hugely popular CR-V was thrust back into the limelight with a subtle facelift and the industry standard light upgrade. Perhaps more importantly though, it was announced that the 2.2l Diesel engine is to be mothballed and the 4WD model will adopt a more powerful version (160PS, 350Nm) of Honda’s 1.6l unit.

Earth Dreams Technology

Honda_CRV_1.6_2WD_WhiteWhat we have on test here is the 2WD CR-V, equipped with the same Earth Dreams Technology 1.6l Diesel, producing 120PS and 300Nm. We’ve been big fans of the CR-V here at Driving Torque since it’s launch;  it just does everything well, without making a song and dance about it. We’ve also made no secret of the fact that their 1.6l Diesel unit is a fabulous piece of kit; when we tested a Civic with it under the bonnet, we harboured strong suspicions that it may be moonlighting as a Diesel production plant – the fuel gauge stubbornly refused to move.

So, what happens when you put the two elements together? Do they compliment each other and work in perfect harmony? Or is it the automotive equivalent of garnishing roast beef with custard – two perfectly good ingredients that should never, ever meet.

Well – it’s good news! I can’t comment on the gastronomical qualities of substituting mustard for custard, but Honda seem to have come across another winning combination with this engine in this SUV.

Anyone unfamiliar with the CR-V can read my full review here; http://wp.me/pVgih-pn. In a nutshell, it’s a practical, beautifully built, mid-sized SUV that feels a cut above the competition in terms of quality, even if it doesn’t set the world alight in terms of tyre-screeching, face-melding performance.

Does it work with smaller Diesel unit?

Honda_CRV_white_sideThe oil-burner under the bonnet really is something to write home about though. I was a little concerned that it may not have the low-down grunt to adapt to life in the CR-V, due to the car’s extra weight and loss of aerodynamics. There’s currently no auto ‘box option with this engine, and a lack of torque could easily have resulted in an over-worked clutch pedal – a tired left leg soon gets boring and that would really have put a blot on this CR-V’s copybook. These fears were thankfully completely unfounded though; yes, you can detect a slight lack of oomph compared to the outgoing 2.2l Diesel, to deny that would be folly, but it’s undoubtedly more refined than its big brother, and the drop in performance doesn’t detract from the whole experience enough to warrant a mention.

Another big plus with the 1.6l is the slight loss of weight in the nose department compared to the 2.2l. No, it doesn’t turn the CR-V into a Nurburgring attacking monster, but it is more keen to turn in when asked to, just don’t expect tons of feedback from the slightly over-assisted steering.

Honda_CRV_white_rearHonda are obviously quite proud of their Earth Dreams project, and with good reason. This 1.6l unit isn’t just pretty good, it’s genuinely one of the best Diesel engines available today. Next year it’ll be tuned up and asked to power the full-fat 4WD CR-V, but if you don’t want or need all of the wheels to be driven, this slightly milder version comes in 2WD already, and it’s more than up to the task.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda CR-V 1.6l i-DTEC SR, Transmission – Manual, Layout – Front engine, Fwd, Power – 120PS, Torque – 300Nm, Emissions – 124g/km CO2, Economy – 60.1 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 113mph, Acceleration – 11.2s 0-62mph, Price – £27,315 OTR

Peugeot 2008 1.6 e-HDi 115 Feline – Driven and Reviewed

Peugeot 2008 front 3/4The 208 signalled the start of a return to form for Peugeot upon its release in 2012. With uncluttered looks and pleasing dimensions, it’s proved a hit and Peugeot are understandably keen to cash in on this success. Previous incarnations of this range (207) have included an elongated ‘SW’ model – basically offering more room whilst avoiding the ‘estate’ moniker that every manufacturer seems chronically allergic to these days.

Not so the 208 though; for now at least, the SW has been dropped in favour of an extra zero – giving us the 2008 we have on test here. It’s the latest in a long line of ‘crossover SUVs’ to go on sale in the UK, so it’s in good company. With no lack of competition though, the 2008 is going to have to offer something a bit different to make a success of itself.

Peugeot 2008 sideThe 208 lineage is visually apparent from just a glance – everything from the nose to the B pillar is very similar, with a more utilitarian front apron added to compensate for the raised ride height – a compulsory feature on any self-respecting SUV. Things get a little different towards the rear of the 2008, with a bulge and rails having been added to the roof which culminates in a more vertical, practical rear hatch.

Aviation-style hand brake.......apparently

Aviation-style hand brake…….apparently

The overall look of the 2008 is attractive and offers more visual presence than the 208 it’s based on. It also cleverly avoids the rather awkward look of the SW model it succeeds and this theme continues on the inside. There are some styling cues added to set it apart from lesser models, not least of which is one of the most original hand brake levers I’ve ever encountered; no boring, long cylinder with a grab handle here – the 2008 sports a fist shaped ‘aviation’ device. What this achieves exactly, I’m not sure but it’s certainly a novelty that causes no offence. Elsewhere, the 2008’s cabin space is typically Peugeot – there’s the low-slung, undersized steering wheel that continues to cause debate, and some of the plastics used unfortunately hark back to the questionable QC days of the brand – a shame when they’ve proved what they can achieve in this department with the new 308.

Slide rails in cargo area - so simple yet so effective

Slide rails in cargo area – so simple yet so effective

There are other additions to the inside of the 2008 that are more function than form and add to the every-day usability of the car. Features such as cargo slide- rails on the boot carpet and wipe-clean plastics around the boot aperture are very welcome when the extra space is actually used for carrying loads – nothing worse than scuffs and marks on your new upholstery and trim!

'Cielo' glass roof option with ambient lighting

‘Cielo’ glass roof option with ambient lighting

Our range-topping Feline spec test car came equipped with the standard ‘Cielo’ glass roof and blind. If you’re markedly over 6′ tall, it might be wise to experience first-hand whether this option’s for you, as the headroom it takes up could make driving uncomfortable, even with the height-adjustable seats on their lowest setting.

Our test car came equipped with Peugeot’s 1.6l e-HDi Diesel unit in 115bhp guise – coincidentally, the same power as the legendary 1.6 205 Gti. Don’t expect similar performance to the Gti though, the 205 weighed roughly the same as your average paperclip, and the 2008…..doesn’t. Don’t expect silky-smooth levels of refinement, either – the HDi is loud and clattery in an old-school kind of way, and it takes an absolute age to get to optimum temperature. That shouldn’t necessarily sway anyone towards the petrol options either, though. What the Diesel lacks in subtlety, it more than makes up for in performance and economy. It’s one of those engines that belies its official 0-62mph time of 10.4s, feeling far more perky in the real world, and ultimately, SUVs and crossovers get away with a bit more noise as it goes hand-in-hand with the rugged image they offer. There is a 92hp derivative of the same engine available that returns slightly better economy and even dips below the magical 100g/km Co2 mark (98g/km), but I’m not sure that the money saved would compensate for the extra 3 seconds on the 0-62 dash.

The raised ride-height doesn't impact too negatively on road manners

The raised ride-height doesn’t impact too negatively on road manners

Adding ground clearance to a car, even if it’s just a few inches, can change its road manners beyond all recognition. Not so the 2008 – Peugeot have kept things stiff and responsive, avoiding the wallowing sensation that ‘proper’ off-roaders can be blighted with.The levels of grip provided are surprisingly good, you just need to watch out for torque-steer if things get over-zealous on the loud pedal. This obviously means that once the tarmac runs out though, the 2008 isn’t going to act like the proverbial mountain goat – it’s just not going to happen. What Peugeot have provided to add some 4×4-like credibility is a very Land-Roverish function called Grip Control (standard on VTi 120, e-HDi 92(manual) and e-HDi 115 models in Allure and Feline specs). What this function provides is fairly self-explanatory, but to see it in action – go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTVPxHX1jZo&feature=youtu.be

Peugeot's Grip Control system

Peugeot’s Grip Control system

This area of the market has grown substantially over the last few years and it shows no signs of abating. The moral backlash against 4x4s hasn’t decreased their popularity at all, but the inflated price of fuel and VED has resulted in the advent of ‘crossovers’ that combine the rugged looks with more reasonable running costs. This means that the 2008 has some pretty stiff competition, but with the right engine, it’s got the looks and quality that’ll certainly appeal.

By Ben Harrington


Specifications; Peugeot 2008 Feline, Engine – 1.6l e-HDi, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 115bhp, Torque – 270Nm @ 1750rpm, Emissions – 106g/km CO2, Economy – 70.6mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 117mph, Acceleration – 10.4s 0-60mph, Price – £19,445

Peugeot's 2008 - the first car to come complete with it's own Standard Lamp.........that's a lie.

Peugeot’s 2008 – the first car to come complete with it’s own Standard Lamp………that’s a lie.






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