If you're hoping for a Suzuki entry on the local rallying scene, the SX4 could be the model to watch.
Suzuki's local assault on the passenger car market is reinforced with the SX4 crossover SUV, and if you're hoping for a Suzuki entry on the local rallying scene, this could be the model to watch.
The second model offered by Suzuki is a hatchback-slash-SUV produced in five facilities around the world. More than 140 000 units were sold in 2007.
The rather stylish SX4 - it was, after all, styled as a first draft by Italian design ace Giorgetto Giugiaro - is functional too, merging the best on offer from both the hatchback and SUV worlds.
Driving it feels as though you've been left to steer a slightly larger hatchback with a lot of interior space and generous elbow room, but it also has a very useful 175 mm ground clearance.
Line-up will be expanded
And while a three-mode all-wheel drive version will only be available from the middle of next year (where it will also be joined by a sedan version of the SX4) the current model should make for entertaining driving anyway.
Powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, power output is quoted as 107 kW at 5 800 r/min and peak torque of 184 Nm at 3 500 r/min. As with the Swift, this motor is also mated to a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmission.
According to Suzuki, in creating SX4, the idea was to have a flat torque curve in the low- to mid-rev range to make the engine more tractable and to increase efficiency in everyday driving conditions.
Gear shifts through the short-throw 'box were trouble-free and the manual SX4 driven displayed a delicate but decisive clutch action.
On our 100-km Reef altitude launch route, it did appear to not be the most sprightly 2.0-litre powerplant around, but once up to speed was more than happy to thunder about in sixth for most of the time. Top speed is a claimed 184 km/h, while combined fuel consumption for the manual version is 8.4 l/100 km.
SX4 was extremely comfortable on the road through, thanks to the McPherson front strut and torsion beam rear suspension. Although the body was visibly rigid, displaying superb control through faster sweeps, barely a bump was allowed to reverberate into the cabin.
Good news all round
Inside the cabin, fit and finish appeared more than fair for this segment and the neat and orderly arrangement of the dials, buttons and switches were noted.
As far as stopping the vehicle goes, disc brakes are provided all round and are linked to ABS with EBD and brake assist.
And since there is but one equipment level for SX4, the features list is appreciably long, considering the price tag.
It includes keyless entry and go, cruise control, automatic air conditioning, power windows and side mirrors, fog lamps, an audio system, 16-inch alloy wheels and roof rails.
The luggage area can be expanded by tumbling the 60/40 split rear bench, which is positioned higher to give rear passengers a more commanding view of the road, forward.
Six airbags are offered as standard, too and SX4 achieved a four star rating for adult occupant safety, and three stars each of child occupant and pedestrian safety in its Euro NCAP assessment.
SX4 is sold with a comprehensive six-year/90 000 km service plan and a three-year/100 000 km factory warranty and also comes ready for activation of the Netstar Sleuth satellite tracking system.
- SX4 2.0: R163 900
- SX4 2.0 Auto: R176 900
And for those keen on seeing a Suzuki contender in the local national rally series, it's a possibility, but only in the medium term.
"It's definitely something we (Suzuki Auto SA) are considering, but our first priority is to create a brand identity in South Africa," Charl Timms, divisional manager for sales and marketing told Wheels24.
"Once we've achieved that, we will definitely think of expanding that identity with a rally presence.
"It will probably be the 2.0-litre (SX4)."
Suzuki currently campaigns its SX4 WRC in the World Rally Championships.