Suzuki is something of a plucky little underdog on the car scene, with its chiselled S badge and its loyal band of converts. It is a brand with an awareness issue, as Suzuki’s UK spokesman Alun Parry candidly admits: “The biggest challenge for Suzuki is just to get on people’s shopping list.”
Last year poor little Suzuki had a short-lived crisis with its new Celerio supermini, when a brake pedal fault almost scuppered the car’s UK launch. To the company’s credit, it reacted with decisive action and lightning speed, flew in an expert overnight from Japan, sorted a solution within days, recalled the few cars affected, and successfully buffed away any potential longer-term tarnish to the brand’s image.
Suzuki has recently been revamping its car range, shedding some of the old models such as the Alto, Splash and Grand Vitara, and adding new ones. One of the most recent additions is the SX4 S-Cross, a chunky little crossover that rivals better known models like the Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008.
Diesel auto popularity
The S-Cross of particular interest is the diesel automatic with a twin clutch auto transmission. One in six crossover cars sold in the UK is a diesel auto, and Suzuki is keen to muscle in on the action. So this Japanese-designed, Hungary-built car with an Italian sourced Fiat 1.6 litre engine and Allgrip four-wheel-drive, now also has a Fiat six-speed auto gearbox. Such is the international nature of today’s motor industry.
Choosing the auto box adds £1,350 to the car’s price compared with the manual version, but adds a lot to the versatility. You can choose between the relaxed mode of letting the transmission choose the appropriate gear ratio for speed and conditions, or opt to shift gears manually via steering column paddles. Drive it as the mood takes you.
Frankly, it isn’t the smoothest transmission of its type, and tends to snatch a bit at times, but you get the sophistication of an automatic with manual-shift option, and very little penalty in fuel economy.
Not too thirsty
The car’s combined fuel economy figure is 62.8 mpg, with a CO2 output of 119 g/km. That is only 1.4 mpg and 4 g/km thirstier than the manual version of the car. They are pretty good figures for a winter-savvy four-wheel-drive car with grippy benefit when the going is slippery.
There’s a chummy feel to the S-Cross, it’s a very agreeable car to drive if not exactly scintillating. There’s a bit of a gruff note to the engine, and performance is more family-friendly than sporty, but the car has a brisk enthusiasm for a bendy road, tidy handling with good grip and nicely weighted steering.
Priced from a quid short of £14,000, but with best-kitted versions topping £25,000, it’s a car that could well win Suzuki a few more converts. Finding its way on to more buyers’ what-to-choose shopping lists would be a start.
All images: Sue Baker