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Suzuki SX4 X-EC

Click to view picture gallery“No doubt because British drivers
  have taken them so much to heart,
  crossovers feel as though they
  been around as long as Mick Jagger.
  The only trouble is, there are now
  so many to choose from — but a
  good place to start (and finish) is
  with Suzuki
s SX4...”

'X4' IN THE NAME it would be easy to assume that four-wheel drive is a core feature. Actually it's not, although you can buy a 4WD SX4 with either a 1.6 petrol or 2.0-litre diesel engine. These 4WD versions are only available in top-spec SZ5 guise: the 1.6 petrol costs £14,900, the 2.0 diesel 16,700. However, while still getting the popular 4x4-ish looks, you can pay less by choosing a 2WD SX4. These only come with 1.6 petrol power and cost from 11,995 to 13,710 depending on trim grade (SZ3, SZ4, and X-EC).

Tested here is the new SX4 X-EC Special Edition that costs 13,430. Based on the popular SZ4 trim grade, it has metallic paint as standard (Galactic Grey, Cosmic Black Pearl or Cool White Pearl), a 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine with a manual gearbox and 2WD.

“Make good use of the
manual five-speed ’box
and the engine’s
willingness to be revved
and you’ll find this
SX4 can whiz along
with brio.
At 70mph the engine is
turning over at
2,800rpm, at which
speed it feels unruffled
and has an easy-going
motorway pace
Standard equipment on the X-EC should satisfy most drivers colour SatNav with Bluetooth connectivity, USB port, on demand powerfold door mirrors (heated and electrically-adjustable) with built-in turn signal lamps, rear privacy glass, four electric windows, automatic AirCon, MP3/WMA-compatible CD/radio with eight speakers, fog lamps, front, side and curtain airbags, remote central locking with deadlocks, roof rails, 16-inch alloy wheels and side body protection as well as keyless entry and start.

Externally, the SX4 is a sporty-looking number. And the higher ground clearance, pronounced wheel arch extensions, front and rear skid plates, wide front and rear tracks and distinctive boomerang-shape headlights all add extra interest. There's also a restyled front bumper and a new design for the 10-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels.

The Euro 5 emissions-compliant 1,586cc petrol engine has been comprehensively improved, including a new cylinder head and block and new variable timing and variable intake system it's also more powerful and 10% more economical. Its 118bhp gets it off the line and to 62mph in a brisk enough 10.7 seconds and the top speed is a more than ample 115mph. Torque of 115lb ft provides lively and flexible performance more so if you don't spare the revs as the 1.6-litre unit doesn't seem to mind how heavy you are with the throttle.

Make good use of the manual five-speed 'box and the engine's willingness to be revved and you'll find this SX4 can whiz along with brio. At 70mph the engine is turning over at 2,800rpm, at which speed it feels unruffled and has an easy-going motorway pace.

From the foregoing you might expect the four-cylinder petrol engine to be a hard drinker but actually it's far from it officially the combined cycle figure is 45.6mpg (urban 35.8; extra-urban 55.4mpg), and during our week's hard testing the 1.6 returned a very honest 43.4mpg. From this it's obvious that many owners should able to be match or even better the official figures.

Settle behind the leather-rimmed wheel you could be sitting in a compact family hatchback, albeit much more elevated and the SX4 has another surprise in store. Move off and the well-weighted electric power steering is accurate, notably so cornering and threading through traffic. Body control is good, it handles nimbly and predictably and the ride is composed and compliant the suspension and chassis, incidentally, have been extensively fine-tuned on European roads and the SX4 copes well on British roads.

“The four-cylinder petrol
engine was far more
economical than we
expected — officially the
combined cycle figure
is 45.6mpg and during
our week’s hard
testing it returned a very
honest 43.4mpg
The brakes discs all-round also do a good job without drawing attention to themselves. Adding to the driving pleasure are light controls and a short-throw gear lever with a precise shift action made better by a leather gearknob.

The SX4's compact size (4.15 metres) makes it manoeuvrable in town and a cinch to park. Cabin refinement is good and road noise well contained at higher speeds, making for relaxing journeys on longer trips. In fact, both out on the open road and in town, the SX4 is an enjoyable drive.

The two-tone, predominantly black, interior is straightforward and we mean that in a complimentary way. Switchgear and controls are easy to use, and the set of four grey-and-blue-faced dials are clearly marked and neatly laid-out around a digital driver's display that shows range, average and instant mpg and the outside temperature. A really useful parking ticket holder is provided on the driver's side.

Trim materials and fit and finish are all up to scratch. The satin chrome-framed centre stack houses the central pair of air vents, SatNav (with an excellent crystal clear 3D display), hi-fi and automatic AirCon (now, helpfully, with ring lights on the rotary knobs).

The driving position is high-set and commanding and getting it all just right is easy thanks to the height-adjustable seat, height-adjustable seatbelt and a steering column that adjusts for rake/height. Long seat bases provide good under-knee support whilst equally welcome are the easy-sliding headrests and roomy footwells.

The grainy leather-rim of the chunky three-spoke wheel is pleasant to hold and 'work' areas are perforated for extra comfort and grip. The remote audio buttons on the wheel are now illuminated: good news in the daytime and even better at night. A large open bin with convenient 12-volt power and a USB point sits at the base of the centre stack.

Wide, cushioned armrests on the front doors make up for there being no centre front armrest, and the cabin holds a number of storage compartments including a good-sized glovebox, a sliding tray beneath the front passenger seat and large door pockets with bottle holders.

“The SX4’s compact
size makes it
manoeuvrable in town
and a cinch to park.
At higher speeds, it’s a
relaxing car for making
long journeys
Deep windows make for an airy cabin and excellent visibility to the front, side, and even rearwards. Rear quarter-lights let in more light and improve visibility even further, as do the large front triangular quarter-lights in the forked windscreen pillars and the large door mirrors.

The five-door SX4 offers decent room and will accommodate up to five people. Headroom and knee room is good (even for near-six-footers in the back) and the big, comfy, and supportive seats are upholstered in a smart black fabric with patterned black-and-grey centre panels. They're also set well off the floor, which contributes to long-distance leg comfort.

Rear passengers enjoy a good backrest angle and sit slightly higher so consequently enjoy good views out all-round. A third adult in the back's centre seat is doable. All doors are big and wide-opening, and exit and entry easy.

Loading and unloading the usefully deep 270-litre boot is pretty effortless in spite of the 7-inch drop over the mid-thigh level load sill. Whenever you need a larger cargo bay, simply fold and tumble the 60:40 split rear seats (complete with headrests) to create a flat load floor.

So, lots of practicality and a maximum 1,045 litres of space for cargo-carrying duties. And, should you need to mix 'n' match people and packages, longer items can easily be transported while still carrying one or two passengers in the back. Just so you know a space-saver spare lives under the boot floor.

The SX4 will be an easy choice for many drivers because it's fun to drive around in, versatile and won't cost the Earth (or destroy it!) to run; and you can put one on your drive for a very nice price indeed MotorBar

Suzuki SX4 X-EC | 13,340
Maximum speed: 115mph | 0-62mph: 10.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 43.4mpg
Power: 118bhp | Torque: 115lb ft | CO2 141g/km