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Sx-y in the city

OKAY, petrol heads, welcome to 2014 and the year that the Irish car-buyer returned to the showroom.

The signs and forecasts for the months ahead are already bristling with an enthusiasm not seen since the boom days of the mid-Noughties.

The US auto industry, a fair barometer to future global trends, predicts that sales will hit 16.4 million in 2014, up almost one million on last year.

New car sales in the States last year represent a massive 50pc increase from the worst depths of the recession, with that figure to rise by 6pc year-on-year.

So what does that mean for the Irish buyer?

Well, whatever it means for the so-called coping classes, it certainly spells good news for the luxury market.

Recent reports have estimated that the top-of-the-range models will sell like hot cakes, especially the Audis, BMWs and Mercedes of this world.

 

BOOMING

 

X5, RANGE ROVER VOGUE AND S-CLASS MODELS WILL POUR FROM THE DISTRIBUTORS INTO THE GRATEFUL PRIVILEGED HANDS OF THE WEALTHY.

As I sat in the Audi showrooms on Monday awaiting my latest test drive, two high-spec Audis worth more than €200,000 were driven away by a pair of satisfied customers.

And it's not only the big boys who are looking forward to the year ahead – some of the more realistic brands including Hyundai, SEAT and Skoda have reported their order books booming by more than 30pc on last year, according to a recent report in the Sunday Independent.

So, all in all things are looking up for the much-battered and bruised Irish car industry, which finally looks to be getting over six years of misery.

For those thinking of going for a modest but all-action type of car for the year ahead, this week's pick might just be the one for you.

Suzuki – not a brand most people consider when looking at new car options – has come up with a winner when price and ability come into the game.

The SX4 S-Cross is an all-singing, all-dancing kind of car which belies its otherwise average looks.

It is of course a four-wheel-drive, but is something that can accommodate driver and passengers very comfortably.

This is a car that represents value for money, and while it has been compared to a Qashqai, it doesn't quite have the same good looks.

It comes in 1.6 litre petrol and diesel. I had the latter, and it enjoys plenty of pace and power with oceans of ability on the open road, popping out around 120bhp.

There are two-wheel-drive versions too, but I opted for the AllDrive model, which handled excell-ently off-road as I put it through its paces over the Christmas period.

There are several 4x4 options, including 'Snow' and 'Muck', both of which seemed to handle more than capably when hopping it around the dirt.

Looks-wise, the interior is quietly attractive without being particularly stunning, but it's from the outside that this looks better. It has a nicely poised rear and a sleekish front, which meet in a perfectly formed middle bit, to grow together into a vaguely sophisticated-looking car.

It's big too, with a massive 430 litres of boot space and a load capacity of 864mm – even with the rear seats in the upright position.

The SX4 is pretty frugal on fuel. Thanks to the car's low weight and stop/start technology, the 1.6 litre diesel is returning a mega 67mpg, and because the emissions are a lean 110g/km it costs €190 a year in tax (the AllDrive version will be more expensive).

I had this car for two weeks over the holidays, mainly in anticipation of snow that never came, but on one frosty morning in particular it handled brilliantly on the ice.

The SX4 S-Cross is perfectly capable, perfectly good-looking and perfectly priced from €19,999.


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