Driving Torque

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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 

Mitsubishi ASX 4 2.2l Diesel 4WD – Driven and Reviewed

mitsubishi asx 4 sideIt took me a while to realise where I’d seen the basic shape of the ASX before, and then the Yen dropped. That prominent nose, disproportionately small rear end and minimal glass-housing aren’t a million miles away from the Range Rover Evoque – high praise indeed, also the Dodge Calibre – high praise……er……not-so-much. I can’t help but like the ASX’s gaping trapezoidal nose and I’m under no illusion as to why; in a range that offers the likes of the Outlander and the Mirage, the ASX (Active Sports Crossover……..erm – ASC?) is the only ‘car’ in Mitsubishi’s fleet that bears any resemblance at all to the sadly missed Lancer Evo – a car I always found appealing, even if it was in a brutish kind of way.

mitsubishi asx 4 frontThe ASX  is unashamedly a crossover, competing with the likes of the Qashqai and the Yeti, so it obviously comes complete with the compulsory elevated ride height and chunky wheels, and this only add to its appeal. Keeping glazing to a minimum also does a great job of keeping the whole look of the ASX compact – less like a minibus. It’s only really the rear-end of the ASX that lets the car down. Look on Mitsubishi’s own website and you’ll not find one picture of the ASX’s rump, and that’s because the car’s designers seem to have run out of either imagination or inclination when they got to this point. I appreciate that the slightly snubbed silhouette is due to Japan’s length based tax system, but they don’t tax pretty cars more than plain ones. It’s a shame really because the competition in this sector is fierce and I’m inclined to think that looks are a major deciding factor for crossover buyers. So to put such effort into 90% of the ASX and then leave the rear as some kind of afterthought doesn’t do it justice.

mitsubishi asx 4 rearIt’s a similar story inside the range-topping ASX 4; there’s many nice touches, with decent materials and some obvious thought put into the design, but they’re sadly let down by certain elements that are as confusing as they are annoying. Buttons and switch gear are haphazard in their placement, drinks are strictly forbidden in one of the cup-holders and the most tactile place in the whole car – the steering wheel, is made of a grade of plastic that develops a palpable tackiness after prolonged contact with human skin; If you’re going to use a pleasant, soft-touch material anywhere, it’s a good idea to start with the steering wheel. The theme continues throughout the ASX cabin; there’s a fashionable ‘Stop/Start’ button, but this means that you can’t wind down windows or listen to the Kenwood multi-media unit without the engine running, and even with it working, the Kenwood unit stubbornly refused to play music from my iPhone.

mitsubishi asx 4 boot

442 Litres of boot space

Room inside the ASX is more generous than you’d warrant, with plenty of space for five proper adults and a boot which I’m sure would suffice for anyone using it for the usual shopping/dog carrying trips. Visibility is excellent, thanks to the relatively short overhangs and lofty driving position, and parking is made even more simple thanks to the reversing camera which comes standard in the ASX 4. Another peculiarity within the whole ASX range though, is the unavailability of front or rear parking sensors which are glaringly absent on the options list. It may not be the most colossal car in the world, but parking any vehicle can only be aided by sensors – it may seem a small issue but it’s a strange omission that could ultimately sway potential buyers towards the opposition as they’ve grown accustomed to what is a commonly available feature these days, and they really don’t want to risk damaging their new pride and joy.

mitsubishi asx 4 badgeASX 4s all have selectable 4WD, ASX 2s are all driven by their front wheels, and in-between, there’s the ASX 3 – this might seem confusing but Mitsubishi always use numbers to identify their differently specced models. If  geography or lifestyle dictates that your ASX simply must be a 4×4, it’s Diesel only with a choice of a 1.8l 16V, or the 2.2l 16V unit we have on test here. The differences in performance between the two are negligible (118mph vs 115mph, 10.8s vs 10.6s 0-62mph in 2.2l and 1.8l respectively), where the 2.2l comes into its own is in terms of torque available (360Nm vs 300Nm), so if your ASX would be used as a towing vehicle, or if you must have an auto ‘box, I’d be tempted to plump for the larger engine. On the other hand, if you’re just after something with 4WD capabilities to guarantee that you’ll get to the top of the hill you live on in mid-January, I’d go for the 1.8 – it’s cheaper to run, cheaper to buy and is possibly a little more refined than this slightly gruff 2.2l.

mitsubishi asx 4 dialsOf course, if it’s just the looks and safety aspects of a crossover that floats your boat, there’s plenty of 2WD models available in both petrol and Diesel guises – they might not get you up the Eiger but they represent a big financial saving and are still generous in terms of standard kit.

mitsubishi asx 4 noseThis 2.2l Diesel might not be the most cutting edge power-plant in the world, a fact highlighted by its lack of stop-start technology, but the automatic gearbox that it’s mated to is fairly sweet around town, and shifts through its ratios with the minimum of fuss. Considering it’s relatively small wheelbase, it’s odd that the ASX possibly feels most settled when it’s eating up motorway miles. The ride that can feel a little firm over our typically scarred roads just seems to iron out any imperfections on the motorway, and you’d be surprised at how relaxing a long distance trip can be.

mitsubishi asx 4 rear and sideThe ASX is a slightly strange fish that should be given merit for standing out from the crowd. It does many things well, but unfortunately seems to do almost as many things wrong, and with no apparent reason. The problem with this is – the crossover sector is one of the most competitive in today’s market, and there’s plenty of alternatives that either look, or drive better than the ASX, and a few that do both.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Mitsubishi ASX 4, Engine – 2.2l DOHC Diesel, Transmission  6 speed Auto, Layout – Front Engine, 4WD, Power – 147bhp, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 10.8s, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Torque – 360Nm, Economy – 48.7mpg combined, Emissions – 153g/km CO2, Price – £24,649

For full details, go to: http://www.mitsubishi-cars.co.uk

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