There are a few cars that owners will say they will never get rid of. Often they are sports cars, such as the Mazda MX-5 or the Honda S2000, both hidden gems of the genre. Finding a car that people are so passionate about in the family hatchback sector is not always as easy, but there is one – the Suzuki SX4. Anyone I have ever spoken to who owns a previous generation version talks affectionately about it as though it is a close family member.
I was also a fan of the original so when the time came to test the latest generation I had great expectations. It is, of course, much more than just a family hatchback. It was one of the founders of the crossover segment in its true sense of being like a regular car but with added ground clearance and a bit of adventure attitude. The new one adds to this with the availability of an all-wheel drive version, or AllGrip in Suzuki speak. Ours was the two-wheel drive GLX.
The new model has gone upmarket with more angles, more chrome, bigger headlights and a bit more attitude. The last one was a little dumpy in its looks, but that has all changed with the new generation. It has style. It is trying to be a little more edgy and the designers have done a great job of achieving this, creating an overall exterior package that will fit in just as well outside the school as it will outside a trendy urban restaurant.
It also has more interior space and, frankly, a more refined interior. The designers have gone a little overboard when it comes to black upholstery and black plastics, with the whole ambience broken only by a few pieces of aluminium-look plastic but it is more grown up than the last model. It is also more spacious with plenty of room front and rear and a decent size boot, too. It has a great deal more competition these days and it had to grow a little. It might look like a hatchback in the style of the Volkswagen Polo Cross but it is much bigger than the Polo and takes on the Nissan Qashqai and Ford EcoSport. I haven’t driven the new Qashqai yet but, judging by remarks from colleagues, the SX4 has its work cut out for it – especially at the price.
Equipment levels on the GLX are good with a multifunction steering wheel, climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and auxiliary inputs for your iPod. There is not a huge amount of creativity when it comes to the layout of all these items and the interior lacks some of the style of the exterior, but everything is in the right place. The manual gearbox on our test model was great, providing solid gear changes that allowed maximum response from the 1.6 petrol powerplant. It even had reasonable get up and go but I suspect at reef altitudes it might battle a little when fully loaded.
The suspension soaked up most of Joburg’s many ruts and bumps well and an early morning cruise to the airport was remarkably relaxed. I did not get the opportunity to venture out of town to put it through its paces on gravel roads where it could prove its adventurous side, unfortunately, but its general level of comfort makes me optimistic as to its ability in this regard. Overall Suzuki has done a great job in packaging the new SX4. It looks stylish and has a good level of specification.
The interior might not be the funkiest in the game but this is not a Mini or a Fiat 500 and, instead, the designers have opted to create the appearance of refinement. Pricing is going to be a little tricky for it, though. At R295 900 for the GLX it really is competing with some strong rivals. It might be bigger and more upmarket, but it is more expensive than the likes of the Ford EcoSport, Nissan Qashqai and the Peugeot 2008.
All three of those should be on your shopping list in this market. Personal preference is obviously a major factor and the new SX4 has plenty of endearing qualities but whether it will continue to be the underrated star that the previous generation was, I am not so sure.
The Facts: 2014 Suzuki SX4 GLX
Engine: 1586cc, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 86kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 156Nm at 4000rpm
Top speed: N/A
Fuel consumption: 5.8l/100km
Price: R295 900