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Suzuki has answer to all-weather driving



We have been experiencing a mild winter so far, but if the climate changes, Martin Brennan has the perfect car for it

There was much discussion in the run-up to Christmas about the need for winter tyres, bearing in mind the snow-clad landscape of 12 months ago. The cost of extra wheels, and widely varying opinions on whether a change would lead to under-performance in dry, less cold conditions or, if your vehicle was front-wheel drive and needed winter tyres, confused most drivers who decided to stick with the status quo.

Suzuki, however, has the answer. It is their car for all seasons -- the SX4i-AWD. This is a vehicle that will make travel safer, winter or summer, sun, rain, frost or snow, and without any major penalty on cost. It is all due to the intelligent all-wheel-drive technology which gives front- wheel drive for normal conditions, will automatically switch to 4-wheel-drive for the unexpected difficult conditions or be locked into 4-wheel-drive for off-road terrain or when treacherous weather is encountered.

These are the exciting prospects offered with this compact sports crossover which comes with a powerful 135 bhp 2-litre diesel engine with Band B road tax of €255 and a high level of specification all for €21,365. Before the new VAT charges it was the cheapest selectable 4x4 in the country at €21,000. (Fiat is now offering a 1.2 litre petrol Panda 4x4 for €15,000 in the baby league).

The Suzuki SX4 competes in the family car Ford Focus segment and is a very versatile vehicle as it crosses over into the compact SUV segment. Along with the impressive new driving technology there has been minor exterior styling and interior changes to give it a more upmarket feel. Cruise control, rear disc brakes, keyless entry and start, automatic air conditioning, 16" alloy wheels, heated foldable door mirrors, front fog lamps and privacy rear glass are all standard specification. Considering the price tag this is an excellent package and must be considered good value for money even if the model has been around for a few years.

There is one major omission from the otherwise impressive package. No ESP to compliment the ABS, EBD and Brake Assist programmes on the vehicle was a disappointment. Suzuki plan to make the stability programme, a standard piece of kit from now on. Euro legislators plan to have it in all cars in the future.

Behind the wheel, electric steering is light and the DDiS diesel engine gives a lively performance with good torque of 320Nm at just 1500rpm. There are no complaints on corners and on a few occasions the 4x4 drive did slip in seamlessly when needed during some sharp cornering. Flick a switch and you have permanent 4x4. Economy can be reasonable at 5.0L/100km (47mpg) in mixed driving with light-footed acceleration. Expect 34 mpg in urban driving. The 0-100km sprint takes just over 11 seconds and the top speed is 180 km/h. Co2 emissions are 139 g/km.

Passengers get reasonable head and legroom and seats are supportive. Luggage capacity can vary between 270 litres which is small enough with rear seats raised to a huge 1,045 litres.

A true all-weather offering worth a test drive at this money.

Sunday Independent