Suzuki SX4 S-Cross

1.6 DDiS ALLGRIP SZ5

Suzuki SX4, water splash
Suzuki SX4, side static
Suzuki SX4, front action
Suzuki SX4, rear action
Suzuki SX4, rear seats
Suzuki SX4, boot
Suzuki SX4, dashboard
Suzuki SX4, sunroof

THE next time someone in the pub tells you his car is costing him a fortune in fuel find out how fast he drives - and tell him to calm down.

Especially with a diesel doing the work, you'd be amazed at how far the fuel bill plummets with a little right leg restraint.

Take this car for example, the poshest version of Suzuki's mid-size SUV that continues the company's reputation for unflashy cars that do the job - and will keep on doing it for years.

It's a modestly sized machine, for starters, which is going to be good for economy. That diesel engine will help too, but the automatic gearbox it's bolted to may take the edge of economy, you'd think.

Except that the automatic gearbox is a six-speed affair with a couple of clutches to do the donkey work and promising better economy than a more old fashionied system that stirs a lot of oil around.

And so it proved, with an impressive 61.5mpg on the trip computer after more than 400 testing miles. I'd put a lot of that down to the car - but driving it without feeling my trousers were on fire helped too.

Theautomatic gearboxmakes this SX4 £1,350 more costly than a DIY six-speed manual version and, on paper, does dent the economy a bit. You'd never believe that, though, with such a fine result.

Indeed, an earlier drive in the manual SX4 diesel showed 54mpg - still a decent return but down on the current car because I was driving faster. A 1.6 petrol SX4 gave me 42mpg, so the message is clear; go diesel and slow down a bit to save significant amounts of cash.

Slowing down (not to a snail's pace, but with the speedo on 60mph where safe and legal) also let the relaxed nature of Suzuki's rival to the all conquering Qashqai from Nissan come to the fore.

It's engine gets noisy if pushed, not helped by a gearchange keen to change down without a smooth approach the to throttle pedal. Better by far to ease back and enjoy the sight of the dash readout steadily improving the economy figure.

You can buy a petrol powered SX4 for £13,999 but it would be tempting to move up a grade from SZ3 to SZ-T and enjoy climate control in place of manual air conditioning, a DAB radio, navigation system (which does the job but has a small and hard to read screen) and rear parking camera (not very clear).

Right at the pinnacle of the SX4 range sits the test car, in SZ5 trim and adding all-wheel drive, controlled from a rotary switch between the front seats. That's on top of the diesel engine and automatic gears and a welter of other goodies.

These range from a huge glass sunroof, leather trim and keyless entry and start to cruise control, 17 inch alloy wheels and Bluetooth integration.

What you don't get is much feeling of plushness inside. This is an obviously well built car (in Hungary, as it happens) that experience of the brand tells you will last for ever, but fancy it is not.

FAST FACTS

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.6 DDiS ALLGRIP SZ5

Price: £25,149

Mechanical: 118bhp, 1,598cc, 5cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 108mph

0-62mph: 13.0 seconds

Combined MPG: 62.8

Insurance Group: 18

C02 emissions: 119 g/km

Bik rating: 20%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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