Crossovers, lifestyle SUV look-alikes, fuel efficient, tax friendly, compact and roomy, but not all with four wheel drive, are hugely popular and there has been a boom in new model introductions. The latest model range is the Suzuki SX S-Cross five door with two and four wheel drive, petrol and diesel models.
They will be in UK showrooms this month with sales starting from 1 October with prices starting from £14,999 and rising to £23,549.
Dale Wyatt, Suzuki GB’s sales and marketing director said at the UK media launch this week that in 2007, when the crossover sector really got going with the introduction of the Nissan Qashqai, UK sales for the whole sector were just 22,000 units. Last year UK crossover sales had risen to 105,000 units and this year it is expected to be over 150,000 registrations with continuing growth expected for the next few years. These crossover sales are in addition to the 201,000 UK registrations in 2012 of dual-purpose vehicles or 4x4s.
Wyatt said, Suzuki is well known for producing A/B sector small cars, some with 4x4 capabilities, and the larger Grand Vitara 4x4 but we have had limited offerings between these types of vehicles. The SX S-Cross is vitally important for us; it’s a trigger car that supports further growth allowing us a presence in the fast growing crossover segment which appeals to retail and fleet customers. We expect to sell around 6,000 S-Cross vehicles in its first full year of UK sales with a third of them going to fleet and Motability customers.
Looking at Suzuki’s growing sales performance overall, Wyatt said that in 2012 they had a record year for UK sales of 24,893 units, up by 22.6% over 2011. For the first seven months of this year sales are up again by33% to 18,859 units putting them into the UK’s top 20 car brands as well as becoming the fastest growing brand in the top 20. He added, “With the introduction of the S-Cross I expect Suzuki to achieve 33,000 UK sales this year and we are already the biggest Suzuki market in Europe so far this year.”
Wyatt continued by saying that Suzuki will be introducing five new or replacement models in the next five years starting with the S-Cross. Next year comes a new A sector city car, in 2015 a small SUV will be introduced as a competitor to the Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008 and the IV-4 concept of this vehicle will be shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show this month. In 2016 there will be a new B segment car and a new Swift range will also be introduced at the end of the five year expansion plan.
Ed Norman, Suzuki GB’s product planning manager expanded on the S-Cross sales potential. He said they expected a 50-50 sales split between the 1.6-litre Suzuki petrol engine and new 1.6-litre Fiat supplied turbodiesel unit. In line with the crossover sector he thinks around 20% of UK customers will choose 4x4 models with their new ALLGRIP drivetrain but admits they have probably under-called that figure as they are new to this sector and some traditional Suzuki customers are avid 4x4 buyers. With a CVT automatic transmission only available for the top specification SZ5 petrol powered two and four wheel drive versions, around 5% of total S-Cross UK sales will be for the auto model.
With 13 derivatives in the range Norman expects the single best selling version to be the 1.6 DDiS diesel SZ4 two wheel drive priced at £18,249. With CO2 emissions of just 110g/km this means VED road tax is £0 for the First Year rate and then only £20 per annum for the second year onwards. He said the range, depending on the engine chosen, consisted of SZ3, SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5 levels of specification. The SZ-T is specifically aimed at fleet and company car buyers and equipped accordingly. This version is available only with manual transmissions with the choice of the 1.6-litre, 127g/km, petrol engine with 2WD priced at £17,746 or the 1.6 DDiS, 110gkm diesel 2WD at £19,749, or the 1.6 diesel ALLGRIP 4WD version at £21,549.
Ed Norman added that although Suzuki was well known for its VAT free pricing on their models, the S-Cross was not included as the prices already reflect the equivalent cost saving. Shortly before the on-sale date they will introduce a monthly PCP purchase/rental offering for retail customers which will be very competitive as it is recognised that up to 80% of new car buyers use PCP or HP finance offerings when choosing a new car. For fleet buyers a three year/ 30,000 miles contract hire charge for the S-Cross petrol entry model is available from £149 a month and the diesel from £205. Suzuki says these rates are both significantly less than comparable Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai ix35 and Kia Sportage models. The retail PCP/HP offerings will be just as competitive he said.
Prior to the UK press launch for the new Suzuki SX S-Cross I was confused with the name as Suzuki already have the popular SX range of two and four wheel drive, petrol/diesel five door hatchbacks but these are B-segment ‘supermini’ sized cars.
But it turned out the new five door, five seater S-Cross is not an ‘up-sized’ version of the current SX, it is totally new with a new platform and a new 1.6-litre diesel engine from Fiat which replaces the old 1.9-litre diesel unit. It also sells in the C-segment against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage, Peugeot 3008, Mitsubishi ASX and probably the Ford Kuga, BMW X1 and Audi Q3 could be included as well.
The small SX is now in its final 12 months of sales and will be replaced in due course by a compact version of the larger S-Cross.
With prices starting from a very competitive £14,999, with 1.6 petrol and diesel engines, 2WD and ALLGRIP 4WD versions and four levels of specification with a CVT auto option for petrol versions, the S-Cross is a serious competitor in the fast growing crossover segment. Not only will it attract loyal Suzuki owners it will open doors to Suzuki in the fleet and business sector and conquest customers changing from family hatchbacks to the more fashionable SUV styled models.
Even the starter SZ3 spec level is comprehensive, it ticks all the boxes as far as must-have specification and is generally higher than comparable other starter models. Standard spec includes anti-lock braking, stability control, a full array of safety equipment, an expected 5-star safety rating, ISOFIX child seat anchorage points, folding rear seats, tyre pressure monitoring, temporary spare wheel, remote central locking, auto engine stop/start for diesel models, cruise control electric front/rear windows, air conditioning, headlamp levelling, electric door mirrors, alloy wheels, radio/CD system, steering wheel controls, wheelarch extensions and front, side and rear underbody skid plates. The best selling SZ4 additions include roof rails, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth, front fog lights, reclining rear seat, extra interior lighting, keyless entry and start button. The business-user SZ-T version additions include sat/nav, DAB radio, rear parking sensors. The SZ5 has those additions plus front parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, projector headlights and washers, auto levelling headlights, auto lights/wipers plus a huge panoramic glass sunroof. Prices go up to £23,549 with the 1.6 DDiS turbodiesel engine with SZ5 spec with ALLGRIP traction. The main selling single version will be the 1.6 DDiS two wheel drive version with SZ4 spec and carrying a price-tag of £18,249.
Not much of this is new to customers in the expanding crossover segment but it will all be new to Suzuki customers. The brand is playing catch-up in many ways but the S-Cross does hit the target especially for pricing bearing in mind the high specification.
The looks and styling are conventional, the interior space in keeping with the competition, the driveability capable without being outstanding. The 1.6-litre, 118bhp four cylinder petrol engine is well known in the Suzuki range in other models but it has been updated to improve emissions to a Euro 6 level. Unlike more modern direct injection turbocharged units this Suzuki engine is not that lively, more workmanlike than a game-changer but it remains capable. Mated with the CVT auto transmission the performance is less appealing with a top speed of 105mph against 111mph of the 5-speed manual version and zero to 62mph takes 12.4 seconds against 11.0 seconds for the manual. CO2 emissions are 127g/km for the manual, 125g/km for the auto, the Combined Cycle is 51.3mpg for both. These figures are for the 2WD model, with ALLGRIP 4WD the figures are slightly lower in each case. On test the 2WD petrol manual returned 44.7mpg driving on A/B country roads but with the ALLGRIP and CVT autobox the figure over the same route was 38.1mpg.
The most popular model is expected to be the 1.6-litre diesel engine sourced from Fiat, also with a 118bhp power output but most importantly 236lb ft of torque from only 1,750rpm. This is a far more responsive and user-friendly power source, a little harsh when pushed hard and a little ‘clattery’ at tickover when cold, but it felt strong and workmanlike. It also comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox. On test over the same driving route it returned 53.8mpg in 2WD form against the official 67.2mpg Combined Cycle figure. With CO2 emissions of just 110g/km VED road tax is £0 First Year rating and then just £20 year two onwards. Top speed is 111mph, zero to 62mph takes 12.0 seconds.
If the ALLGRIP 4WD option is chosen with this engine top speed is 108mph and zero to 62mph takes 13.0 seconds. As for fuel economy officially 64.2mpg in the Combined Cycle is the figure but in real life over the same driving route and conditions as my other test drives it was 50.9mpg, just 2.9mpg less than the 2WD system but I think worth it just having that all- conditions, all wheel drive facility when needed and the S-Cross felt more controlled and the suspension more compliant with it, even on-road in the dry. A big down-side is that customers have to choose the higher SZ-T and SZ5 levels of spec to get it. ALLGRIP also adds £1,800 to the price over 2WD models.
On the subject of the new and lightweight ALLGRIP system, it has four driver selectable modes; Auto which distributes driving torque to the front and rear wheels as required, Lock which is self explanatory for snow, mud and sand, Snow for a softer application of power on slippery surfaces on roads or tracks and Sport which sharpens up engine response and automatically diverts 20% more torque to the rear wheels for improved handling and cornering performance. It’s clever and it works.
Better late than never in arriving at a boom time for crossover sales, the S-Cross doesn’t set many new standards in the market but it will have a significant impact for Suzuki and their fast increasing sales performance.
MILESTONES. Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.6 DDiS diesel SZ4 manual 2WD, 5-door crossover. (Best selling version). Price: £18,249. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, four cylinder, direct injection turbodiesel sourced from Fiat, 118bhp, 236lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual, front wheel drive. Performance: 111mph, 0-62mph 12.0 seconds, 67.2mpg, (53.8mpg on test), CO2 110g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £20 second year onwards, BIK company car tax 17%. Insurance group: 20A. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,300mm, W 1,765mm, H 1,575mm, boot/load space 430 to 875-litres. For: Competitive pricing and specification, low running costs and taxes, comfortable ride, important new addition to the Suzuki range. Against: Sets no new standards in terms of performance in the crossover sector, ALLGRIP 4WD only available on top two spec versions, no auto diesel option, road and wind noise intrusion. Miles Better News Agency