In general, my material possessions can broadly speaking be split into two distinct categories. There are emotional possessions and rational possessions. Or, to give it a more contemporary feel, possessions that make me go hmmm and possessions that make me go meh. Bear with me on this, OK.
Let’s start with the things that make me go hmmm. My wood burning stove is one such example. I enjoy chopping and stacking the logs. I relish in the art of preparing the stove for burning and of course, I delight in the art of sitting back and enjoying the evocative fire and the heat it generates. So yes, the wood burning stove is one thing that makes me go hmmm. As does my collection of books or old car magazines. My television is another example. On the rare occasions that I switch the thing on, I invariably do so to be entertained or informed. Unless of course it is ITV2, in which case I do so to slip into a self-imposed coma. The Land Rover, S6 and AX GT are further examples of thing that make me go hmmm, as is my mountain bike and PlayStation 3. You get the picture.
But what of the things that make me go meh? Truth be told, there are probably more things in my life that fall under this category. Take my electric toothbrush for example. It serves a good purpose and as long as it is charged up in the morning and charged up at night, I’m happy. I don’t look forward to using it and I don’t look back at it in a longing way having spent two minutes with the vibrating bristles. Then there’s the Brabantia bin. As bins go, it looks good and the opening and closing mechanism is one of the wonders of the modern kitchen. I also admire the way the company supply it with a ten year guarantee. But I don’t talk about it over a pint with my friends and I haven’t got a set of refuse-related Top Trumps cards. And when I’ve filled it up, I don’t give it an admiring glance under the kitchen lights. The same is true of my Hunter wellies. They get muddy, they get wet. They allow me to reach the far side of the paddocks without getting my socks dirty and when I get to the back door, I remove them and think no more of them until the next time I call upon their rubber skills. So the electric toothbrush, the Brabantia bin and my Hunter wellies. All worthy and all very much part of my everyday life. I respect them all for what they do, but I don’t crunch my toes and wave my hands in a childlike manner at the mere thought of them.
Which brings me nicely on to the Suzuki SX4, a car which sits neatly between the Suzuki Swift supermini and the Grand Vitara. I’ve made no secret of my admiration of the Swift in Sport guise, so much so that I named it PetrolBlog Car of the Year 2010. I was therefore keen to test the SX4 to see if any of the Swift’s qualities are carried over to the bigger, more practical relation. Some 18,000 SX4s have been sold since the launch in 2006 so it clearly won a few fans over the years. You may recognise it as the Fiat Sedici as the Giuagiaro-designed crossover is the result of a collaboration between the two firms. But then again, you may not recognise it at all as the styling is somewhat anonymous. Not distasteful, but not attractive. Just somewhere in the middle.
And in truth, this is largely how I’d summarise the Suzuki SX4. It doesn’t do anything particularly well, but then it doesn’t do anything particularly badly. If it was a weather condition, it would be overcast with sunny spells. If it was a colour, it would be magnolia. Not that any of this is a particular problem you understand. As hard to believe as this is, for some a car is simply a means of travelling from A to B. They’re not interested in a quick post-work detour via E. Or an early morning blast via N. Nope, for some people a car just needs to be reliable, good value and easy to drive.
For these people, the SX4 is a very good way of getting from A to B. The car tested by PetrolBlog was the special edition SZ-L model which for £13,145 adds a number of cosmetic upgrades to the SZ4 version of the SX4. Confused by the letters yet? If this was a game of Countdown we’d be pleading with Rachel to give us a vowel please. By cosmetics I mean gunmetal coloured roof fails, front grille, alloy wheels and front and rear skid plates. Inside, the SZ-L gets a light grey Alcantara trim plus three-spoke leather steering wheel. To top it all, it comes with a six disc in-dash CD player.
Not that the SX4 is short of toys. Indeed, in SZ4 spec, the car has a whole host of standard equipment. Highlights include fully automatic air conditioning, electric front and rear windows, heated door mirrors, audio controls on the steering wheel and ISOFIX anchorages for child seats. But my favourite toy is the Suzuki keyless start. In short, so long as you have the key on your person, you can open the doors via a switch on the door handles. A rather simple touch that you really do miss on cars that don’t have it fitted.
Inside, the SX4 is well screwed together and all the controls and switches are clear and easy to use. In fact, the SX4’s simplicity is a refreshing change in a sector where manufacturers are all too keen to overcomplicate things with an array of bells and whistles. I never once managed to find a perfect seating position which probably wasn’t helped by the lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel. In the back, Suzuki claims that you can sit three adults, but you’d have to be pretty friendly with your fellow passengers. In fact, with two child seats in the back, the middle seat would probably be fit for only Richard Hammond. Or Iggle Piggle.
On the road, the SX4’s performance could never be described as exciting, but then it never set its stall out as an exciting car. The ride is a little on the harsh side, but it corners relatively well. Sadly, despite the SX4’s 1.6 litre engine supposedly being 10% more powerful than the previous edition, I often found myself changing down a gear to ascend a slight hill. But more relevant for the SX-4 is the fact that the new 1.6 litre lump is 10% more fuel efficient and has 13% fewer emissions than the last one, with figures of 45.6 mpg and 143 g/km respectively. Economy and efficiency are arguably more important than performance for buyers of the SX-4.
The boot size is a disappointing 270 litres, but it somehow managed to swallow the contents of a weekly shop at Waitrose. If you’re not carrying passengers, you can fold down the 60/40 split folding rear seats, then the boot space can be expanded to a more than adequate 625 litres. So in summary, the Suzuki SX4 SZ-L is an economical and practical purchase. And being Suzuki, you know that it will be utterly reliable and giving you years of service long after more expensive and more glamorous models have had you reaching for the cheque book. For me though, this isn’t enough. I want more from my cars than reliability and efficiency. I don’t buy cars like I buy a kitchen bin or pair of wellies. I want an emotional attachment and a sense of anticipation whenever I reach for the keys. The Suzuki SX4 never got under my skin and therefore isn’t something that would ever make me go hmmm.
But there’s only final factor that really does give the Suzuki SX4 a trump card. You can order it as a 4×4. For just a little over £1,000 more than the SZ-L, you can drive away in the SZ5 4×4 with a rather nifty i-AWD intelligent all wheel drive system. In short, the SZ5 gives you three modes of driving, 4WD auto, 4WD lock and 2WD. In auto mode, the SX4 acts like a front wheel drive car, but as soon as it detects a loss of traction at the front, torque is apportioned to the back wheels to tidy things up. In lock mode, it maintains all wheel drive until 40mph, whilst 2WD does exactly what it says in the manual. This all adds up to the SX4 becoming something of a miniature hero.
Put it this way, if the last three winters are anything to go by, Britain has got to get used to regular dumpings of snow and freezing weather. In such weather the 4×4 transforms from being a national hate figure to the nation’s sweetheart. As the country grounds to a halt it is only the brave and those with a 4×4 who make it off the driveway. But as this winter has highlighted, big isn’t necessarily better when it comes to choosing a 4×4. In fact, hit the brakes on an icy road and your two-tonne chariot simply becomes an out-of-control chest freezer on ice. No, small is most definitely better. Pay a visit to the Alps and you’ll see a veritable feast of Fiat Panda 4x4s parked alongside the chalets. They’re small, lightweight, easy to control and have the ability to fit through gaps that would defeat anything bigger. In my book, the Suzuki SX4 SZ5 fits the same mould. Fit a set of winter tyres and you’ll still be mobile long after your neighbours have given up.
So whilst I’d didn’t exactly warm to the SX4 SZ-L, I can present a solid case for the SZ5 4×4. Come the next snowstorm, it might just be the only thing that gets you to work or your mother-in-law’s house for Sunday lunch. If you’d rather stay indoors, get yourself a secondhand M3.