AT A time when the bosses of the leading car companies are predicting that the European sales slump may be bottoming out, Suzuki's timing seems impeccable. A new model every year for the next five years is on the cards.
The Japanese car maker is big with small car sales on the home market and in India but still a minnow in Europe. But that does not deter Suzuki from taking the fight to big-hitting rivals with a stylish and bigger SX4 S-Cross which just has had its European launch and will be on sale here in October.
Top of the list is the ageing Nissan Qashqai, the long term leader of the pack in this segment of SUV sales. On price alone Suzuki believes it will win sales as marketing people boast that their 1.6 litre equivalent petrol and diesel models are €2,000 cheaper. Also on the list for conquest are the Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi ASX, Peugeot 3008 and Opel Mokka as well as hatchbacks like Ford Focus and VW Golf.
"There is a big expansion in the compact Crossover market where families are going for more exciting vehicles that drive like a car and are roomy and versatile. The SX4 S-Cross fits the bill on all fronts," says Suzuki Ireland marketing manager Declan Maguire.
A colleague has coined a phrase for this type of vehicle, the "schportiness" class – a dual function school-run/ sporty weekend transporter.
As sales in Ireland are expected to increase next year Suzuki is anxious to bang the drum to increase its one per cent market share. There is more knee and leg room in the rear, up 44mm, and the boot still has 20 litres more space in the boot than the Qashqai. Unlike the outgoing model, which was a collaboration with Fiat, this is a Suzuki design from its Hungarian factory which has gained a reputation for quality.
The exterior shows big headlights and a configuration not unlike the Qashqai, while inside there is a big improvement in the cabin. More comfortable seats, greater rear headroom and the dash is laid out better but is let down by lots of grey plastic. Centrally mounted is a colour screen for the SatNav.
Top seller will be the 1.6 litre diesel with two-wheel-drive, (a Fiat sourced engine), and 4.4 litre/100km fuel economy (63mpg) in mixed driving according to Suzuki. This version will account for 80 per cent of sales, and is priced at €23,645. The 1.6 litre petrol two-wheel-drive version is priced at €23,995. Suzuki says it will sell 350 units next year and the introductory prices will hold until next May.