PIETERMARITZBURG, KwaZulu-Natal - So there I was in the banana, avo and pineapple republic, basking in the warmth after the relentless cold fronts which fast-froze Cape Town. A balmy 23 degrees, a frock and sandals and a great test drive from Umdloti to Pietermaritzburg.
Let it be said that it was the first time I’d driven in Durban and finding Pietermaritzburg was a little like pinning a tail on the donkey. With myopia. I swore though on about the 10th re-route that I heard ‘the navigator’ say éejit.’ Very clearly. I mention this feat only because it proves my belief that you don’t need satnav in a car.
My iPhone did a perfect job – and is easier on the pocket.
SMOOTH, COMFORTABLE RIDE
That aside, the road is perfect for on-road testing of the SX4 new generation 1.6 engine.
Sweeping, nicely cambered, corners were an ideal warm-up for testing this all-wheel drive off-road.
Once you’re on the road the sporty GL is smooth, grips well and is a comfortable ride. The four-cylinder unit, its spec lists says, had a light design with extremely low levels of friction in the interests of performance and fuel efficiency.
Despite my rather peripatetic journey to Pietermaritzburg the fuel gauge hardly registered. Don’t tell anybody but my sense of achievement in reaching The Cascades shopping centre was somewhat watered down when I had a refreshment break in the mall and couldn’t find my way out of the complex for 15 minutes.
The original Suzuki SX4 was a pioneer of the C-segment crossover market. Now the latest iteration of this distinctive trendsetter claims to have established new standards that propel the attractive, sporty and inherently versatile SUV to even greater heights.
EVOLVED ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
Francois van Eeden, national marketing manager of Suzuki Auto South Africa, told me: “The SX4 is a crossover that brings together Suzuki’s compact-car know-how with technologies honed for sport utility vehicles. What has happened is that for the new SX4, Suzuki has evolved its renowned all-wheel drive technologies.”
After using my faithful iPhone to get out of the shopping mall, Natal Witness motoring editor Alwyn Viljoen joined me and we were on our way to the Cascades Mountain Bike Park – a downhill course in Pietermaritzburg designed for the 2014 ICU MB World championships.
Of course it wasn’t all downhill...
On the steep inclines the new flexible AllGrip all-wheel drive system in the SX4 performed respectably. The Suzy has four modes, selected via a dial on the centre console with your choice also displayed on the instrument panel. Auto is self-explanatory, ‘Sport’ is for more er, ‘spirited driving.’ Something I enjoyed in abundance.
‘ALL GUTS AND CONFIDENCE’
We used the ‘snow’ setting (designed for slippery surfaces) for the course while ‘Lock’ is used for extricating the car from snow, mud or sand and allocates more torque to the rear wheels. With these extras little Suzy was wide awake and game for anything.
She is surprisingly spunky off-road and there was no question of “I think I can”. It was all guts and confidence over the course (excluding the jumps, though I’m sure she would have managed).
Suzy is cute, stylish and needed a rather special photo opportunity so it was to Viljoen’s special boulder we headed. After sliding down to the rock pool to check the aesthetics of the pic, the spot was pronounced perfect. Who said girls can’t park? Especially on the equivalent of Ayer’s Rock?
A silent prayer of thanks to the deities, the 180mm ground clearance and for the front and rear sensors. The result, I say rather humbly, was “a damn good photo”.
For those with the vaguest interest, the reason I am not wearing shoes in the picture is because they are at the bottom of the ravine – lost in my rapid and uncontrolled descent to check the aesthetics of the picture setting.
Oh well, I didn’t like them much anyway.
Suzuki describes the car as “combining bold, contemporary styling with high levels of comfort, practicality, efficiency and dynamics” and adds: “The new-generation SX4 represents the optimal choice for families with an active lifestyle.”
It just needs nimble down-changes up steep hills – if you want to keep above the speed limit.
INSIDE THE NEW SX4
For the techies, she’s not short of bells and whistles. The standard four-speaker MP3-compatible CD receiver is linked to a USB slot located in the centre console to accommodate a flash drive and has Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free telephony and audio streaming, each controlled by switches on the steering-wheel.
It’s equipped with cruise control, power windows (front and rear), remote central locking, immobiliser and alarm, multi-function trip data computer and manual aircon.
And, of course, it’s safe.
There’s an arsenal of safety features: stability control, seven airbags and IsoFix child-seat anchor points/tethers. In an emergency the five-star Euro NCAP-rated SX4 is equally well-equipped to help avoid a collision and to protect the occupants during an impact.
Along with its advanced stability system are anti-lock brakes with electronic fluid-pressure distribution.
But how does she make you feel?
Emotion is highly overrated but if a car doesn’t touch you emotionally then it also doesn’t touch your soul and leaves you cold. People like the versatility of a car which can feel just as home in a shopping-mall car park or off-road track. It’s spacious - front and rear – and rides far enough above -ground to feel superior.
They say you judge a car in the first two seconds by the exterior and the Suzy doesn’t disappoint. She cuts a sleek profile by virtue of a roof line that slopes gently.
The metallic silver finish, the front, rear and side protective panels, front fog lights, roof rails with a metallic finish, and a chrome-accented grille make it easy on the eye as well as the spunky headlights.
Not to mention the eye-catching 17” polished alloys.
In two seconds you are indeed curious about the interior whose features list on this the GLX are similarly impressive.
It really is spacious, the steering wheel is leather-trimmed and tilt-adjustable and if coffee-on-the-go is your or your passenger’s thing there’s a central armrest with built-in cup holders. So whether driving riding you can sit back and, well, enjoy the ride.
‘UP TO THE CHALLENGE FROM THE GET-GO’
Or flight, in my case; in my haste to get to Pietermaritzburg - by error on the circuitous route. Despite my haste I managed 6.7-litres/100km.
So, without hyperbole, the Suzy proved wide awake; like a morning person, up to the challenge from the get-go.
The range comprises of five models offering two trims levels (GL and GLX), manual or constantly variable transmissions (CVT) and either two or all-wheel drive.
The cars are sold with a three-year or 100 000km warranty, a three-year or 90 000km service plan and a three-year roadside assistance package.
Services intervals 15 000km and the Suzy I drove costs R319 900.