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Suzuki SX4 2.0 DDiS SZ5 4WD 5-dr

Click to view picture gallery“Now’s a very good time to recall the
  last few bad winters and think about
  owning a 4x4. A lot of people are —
  sales of new SUV/4x4s are one of
  only two new car segments in the UK
  that are growing
...”


LIKE EVERY OTHER CAR, there are expensive 4x4s and affordable 4x4s that won't destroy the Earth or cost the earth to buy or run. Take Suzuki's SX4 crossover — available in SZ3, SZ4 and X-EC specifications with a 118bhp 1.6-litre VVT petrol engine and 2WD or, better still, the SZ5 4WD with either the 1.6-litre VVT petrol engine or the more suitable 133bhp 2.0-litre DDiS diesel.

The 1.6 petrol-powered 2WD models start from a very affordable 11,995, rising to 13,430. As for 4WD versions, the 1.6 petrol costs 14,895 and the stronger-performing 2.0-litre diesel-powered model costs 16,695. Responding to the tough sales market, Suzuki has just added the even better specced X-EC variant in time for the September new plate 'surge' and this comes with their 1.6 petrol 2WD drivetrain for just 13,430.

“I prefer to choose what
traction mode my vehicle
is in but the Suzuki
system offers the best of
both worlds as it still
uses intelligent all-wheel
drive technology
with three modes: 2WD,
4WD Auto and
4WD Lock — all easily
selected by a simple
switch
...”
Given the fast approach of the winter months, my attention is focussed on their 4x4 models. The SX4's 4WD system is really easy to use and, importantly, gives the driver a choice of options rather than it being fully electronically controlled, sometimes two-, sometimes four-wheel drive.

I prefer to choose what traction mode my vehicle is in but the Suzuki system offers the best of both worlds as it uses intelligent all-wheel drive technology but with three modes: 2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock all easily selected by a simple switch.

Suzuki's SX4 is a 'boxy' but still distinctive five-door, five-seater supermini-sized hatch, 4.1-metres long, and 4x4 versions blend the characteristics of a sporty but practical hatch with a tall stance (due to the extra ground clearance) similar to Suzuki's own well respected Grand Vitara SUV.

The latest SX4 models feature a redesigned front bumper and grille together with new-design 16-inch alloy wheels for SZ4 and SZ5 models. A low but rising waistline creates a strong, sporty wedge shape appearance. Pronounced wheelarches and wide front and rear tracks imply stability and good traction, suggesting a potential that is not found in conventional hatchbacks. All 4WD models still have a bold SUV appearance because of the wheelarch extensions, but out of sight are protective side under-mouldings and front and rear skid plates.

The SX4's cabin is well equipped as standard 'entry-level' SZ3 versions come with six airbags, remote central locking with deadlocks, AirCon, MP3/WMA-compatible CD tuner with eight speakers, four power windows (1.6-litre petrol only), driver information display and illuminated steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Move up to the SZ4 and, additionally, you'll find fog lamps, 16-inch alloy wheels, side body protection and heated door mirrors as well as keyless entry and start, dashboard centre speaker and automatic air conditioning.

“Despite its compact size
— which makes it easy
to drive around town
and even easier
to park than larger SUVs
— the SX4 can still
accommodate
up to five people along
with some luggage.
..”
Range-topping SZ5 models have more: i-AWD (intelligent-All Wheel Drive) and rear privacy glass with the 2.0 DDiS model having cruise control and a six-speed manual transmission.

Predominantly black, the two-tone interior is highlighted with metallic-coloured accents and wedge-shaped motifs. The instrument panel's ergonomic design ensures that key instruments and controls are intuitive and simple to use.

Important driver information (average and instantaneous fuel consumption as well as driving fuel range and outside temperature) have been relocated from the top centre of the dashboard to directly ahead of the driver in the instrument cluster. The lower centre dash panel incorporates a new display housing the audio, A/C and other controls. For added convenience, the steering wheel audio controls are now illuminated.

Despite its compact size which makes it easy to drive around town and even easier to park than larger SUVs the SX4 can still accommodate up to five people along with some luggage. Some hatchbacks are smarter with their variable seating and load carrying options, but the SX4 scores better with me when the 4x4 model option is chosen.

The SX4's rear seats are split 60:40, which means long items can be carried while still seating either one or two rear passengers. They can also be tumbled forward to create an almost fully flat load floor, increasing boot capacity from 270 to a maximum of 1,045 litres.

My test drive Suzuki SX4 (SZ5 4x4 specification) was fitted with the recently introduced 133bhp 2.0-litre DDiS turbodiesel unit that offers good refinement and strong torque (236lb ft) from just 1,500rpm. It's a good engine; relatively refined and quiet, it performs well enough. Top speed is 112mph and the zero to 62mph figure is 11.2 seconds, which is more than adequate.

“This Euro 5-compliant
engine officially offers
51.4mpg in the
combined fuel
consumption cycle
and returned 47.4mpg on
test — close enough!
This Euro 5-compliant engine officially offers 51.4mpg in the combined cycle and returned 47.4mpg on test close enough! Tailpipe emissions of 141g/km mean road tax is 130 and for company car users the Benefit-in-Kind tax bill is 21%.

The signature feature, and for me the main selling point of the SX4 4x4, is the i-AWD facility with switchable three-mode all-wheel drive system that makes it suitable for all weather conditions.

In normal driving conditions in 4WD-Auto mode there's no torque transfer to the rear wheels, so the SX4 effectively operates as a front-wheel drive vehicle. However, the moment any pronounced front wheel slip is detected, torque is automatically apportioned to the rear wheels to give all-wheel traction and improve vehicle stability.

4WD-Lock mode maintains full traction up to around 40mph before automatically switching to 4WD-Auto mode for smooth cruising. Selecting the 2WD mode optimises fuel economy.

Simple but very effective, which is why I like this particular SX4 model. With one of these in my garage, it would be comforting to know that I'd got the right 'tool' to cope with most winter road conditions. Apart from a small boot (for a five-seater) and the fact that some other diesels have lower CO2 emissions, the SX4 impresses with its compact size and on-demand four-wheel drive. It's also easy to drive; a useful and fun versatile hatchback-cum-crossover for all seasons and most reasons. David Miles

Suzuki SX4 2.0 DDiS SZ5 4WD 5-Dr | 16,695
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-62mph: 11.2 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 47.4mpg
Power: 133bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 141g/km