Suzuki takes on Qashqai in battle of the crossovers
First drive: Suzuki SX4-Cross
Suzuki has just begun a five-vehicle push on the market here over the next five years.
With the introduction of its new SX4 S-Cross it takes a big step into the burgeoning, larger SUV segment where, it believes, it will provide a serious challenge to the class leader Nissan Qashqai.
The move is a response to what it sees as a sea-change in consumer demand – from the pursuit of "badges and prestige", to the need for practicality and reliability.
The SX4 S-Cross is a family-size crossover and goes on sale here on October 14.
While existing Swift and Grand Vitara owners will be tempted, they are confident of taking 'conquest' business from hatchback drivers of other brands looking to upgrade to roomier, better equipped motor.
There will be an entry-level 1.6-litre petrol (127g/km, 5spd manual), at €19,995 – €2,000 cheaper than the equivalent Qashqai and a new 1.6 diesel in 2WD (110g/km) and 4WD 'All Grip' (114g/km).
There are three grades – GL, GL-Plus and GLX. Expect the 1.6 GL and GL-Plus diesels to be the biggest sellers here.
Standard equipment includes seven airbags, ESP, tyre pressure monitoring and daytime running lights. Every GL will have Bluetooth, cruise control and speed limiter, air con and heated door mirrors. GL diesel adds 6spd gearbox and alloys, with stop-start and hill hold as options.
GL-Plus adds fog lamps, silver roof rails and stop-start as an option while the GLX will have parking sensors, All Grip, leather seats, heated and retractable mirrors, headlamp washers and privacy glass.
The main feature of the crossover is its all-new four-wheel drive 'All Grip' system, with four modes selectable from a centre console to adjust traction and control to suit differing driving environments, from Auto or normal, to Sport, and Snow for coping with slippery or muddy roads.
A 'Lock' mode creates permanent four-wheel drive for negotiating deep snow, sand and other more challenging conditions.
They claim the cabin is the most spacious in its class while the boot has 20 litres more room than the Qashqai and substantially more than the Opel Mokka. Again, Suzuki claim that S-Cross emissions are the lowest in the segment.
All cars have a unique panoramic double-sliding sunroof, affording a terrific amount of clear air space.
Its styling lines give it a more sporty and rugged appearance than the class-leading Qashqai.
On a series of short test runs over motorway and rural roads, the car impressed with solid and responsive handling, ample agility on narrow country byways, hard-wearing interior finish, ease of access to controls and ample space back and front.
Clearly, rejuvenated Suzuki's brash claim that the Qashqai is about to come under serious attack doesn't appear to be misplaced.