CHUNKY CHARM: What a difference some tough winter weeks can make
A sudden hush has fallen over any grumbling about planetkilling 4x4s. When the landscape turns white, power to all four wheels is suddenly a very desirable asset. The white stuff had only just disappeared from sight at the launch of Suzuki’s revamped SX4, which left the terrain around the New Forest venue awash with melt water. This made the SX4 extra relevant as a reasonably priced, small and practical off-roader. The car has undergone a very modest facelift, comprising a restyled front bumper, new mesh grille and sharper alloy wheels. There are a few more changes inside too, such as clearer dials, illuminated audio switches on the steering wheel, and small, soft elbow pads on the armrests. There’s also a new centre speaker mounted at the top of the dash. It’s designed to bounce musical noise off the windscreen and create a surround sound effect. More significant are all the changes you can’t see, that improve performance, lower emissions and reduce road noise. Suzuki’s engineers have tweaked the transmission, upgraded the prop-shaft damping and used thicker insulation to deaden noise from under the bonnet.
The previous 1.6-litre DDiS diesel engine continues unchanged in the facelifted SX4, but the big news is the latest 2.0-litre DDiS that now replaces the previous 1.9-litre diesel unit. The 2.0 DDiS is a Fiat engine (it’s also found in the Sedici) and is Euro 5 compliant. It has an extra 15bhp and 29lb ft more torque than the 1.9-litre unit but fuel consumption is now an impressive 51.4mpg (up from 42.8mpg) and the CO2 output has dropped significantly to 143g/km (down from 174g/km). Inside, the SX4 is roomy, with a light and airy cabin, good headroom as a result of the tall body, and pretty good all round visibility. Disappointingly, all the plastic surfaces are still hard to the touch, but they’re good quality.
It’s a likeable drive, with tidy handling and a firm ride that rumbles across cats’ eyes – but it’s reasonably effective at sopping up bumps. The new engine has enough power to haul around the car’s modest bulk at an impressive pace. For a car with such a boxy body, the SX4 doesn’t generate much in the way of wind noise, so you can’t help being slightly aware of the engine’s hum. There’s no mistaking that it’s a diesel at tickover, but the engine is smooth at low speeds. It becomes a little raucous when you accelerate hard, mid-range. The Suzuki is a pretty quiet cruiser, though. At 70mph in sixth gear, the needle sits at precisely 2,000rpm and the engine is relatively hushed.
The four-wheel drive switch, which is rather inconveniently located low down to the rear of the gear lever, gives the driver a choice of three modes. There’s 2WD for normal driving, 4WD Auto to allow the car to shift power to the rear wheels as conditions demand, or 4WD Lock to deliver power to both axles for driving off-road or in tricky winter conditions. What a boon that would have been a few weeks ago.
RIVALS: HYUNDAI TUCSON, KIA SPORTAGE, MINI COUNTRYMAN, NISSAN QASHQAI, TOYOTA URBAN CRUISER
- Engine: 1956cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max power: 133bhp at 3,500rpm
- Max torque: 236lb ft at 1,500rpm
- Max towing weight: 1,200kg
- Max speed: 112mph
- 0-62mph: 10.8secs
- Combined consumption: 51.4mpg
- CO2 emissions (taxband): 143g/km (F)
- Boot space: 270/625litres
- Insurance group: 20