SUZUKI has hit the ground running with its first collaboration model with Toyota - it's called the Across and it's a dynamic and stylish SUV.
Admittedly, a first glance in its direction and the car bears quite a resemblance to the Toyota RAV4, which is the model it shares much of its DNA with. But the Suzuki designers have been clever to stamp their own identity on the car too.
The front end is Suzuki through and through with a recognisable grille, bumper and badging. The Across has a robust appearance with strong SUV lines, protective wheel arch mouldings, tinted windows, twin tailpipes, a rear upper spoiler, smart LED headlights with daytime running lights and 19-inch alloy wheels with a gloss black coating.
Move inside and the upmarket interior features lots of soft touch surfaces, high quality leather upholstery, cushioned padding in the door panels and some snazzy eye-catching seat trim.
Creature comforts are plentiful and include the likes of a nine-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink smartphone connectivity. There are heated front and rear leather seats, a heated steering wheel, dual zone air conditioning, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and lots more besides.
To keep things simple, the Across, which offers all-wheel drive, is available in just one trim level with one engine. It's a plug-in hybrid model that mates a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with an 18.1kWh battery. The electric motor on the front axle develops 180bhp while the rear axle motor delivers 54bhp.
When it comes to performance, the Across can reach 62mph from a standing start in a rapid 6.0 seconds and tops out at 112mph.
The carbon emissions figure of 22g/km will be attractive to business drivers as will the claimed WLTP figure of 282mpg - realistically this would only be achievable if the car was driven for the majority of the time in electric mode.
The Across is a step up for Suzuki in its pricing too. It costs Â£45,599 - that's quite a leap for the Japanese car maker. But it's a high-end model that will compete against classy rivals such as the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4, MG HS and Ford Kuga PHEV.
The car has a CVT automatic gearbox. These can be a little hit and miss at times, but it seems spot on in the Across. There is minimal noise when the vehicle is driven under heavy acceleration and even steep hill climbs are completed without too much protest.
There are four driving modes called EV, Automatic EV/HV mode, HV mode and Battery Charge. When in EV-only mode the car can be driven for 46 miles on a full battery charge depending, of course, on the style of driving and terrain. Automatic EV/HV and HV modes see the most efficient use of battery and petrol power in combination. And finally, the Battery Charge mode can be selected to re-charge the battery on the move via the petrol engine.
There is also a separate Trail mode for extra grip that introduces the clever 4x4 technology, along with a dial to switch from Eco to Normal to Sport that alters the vehicle's reactions. In addition, there are steering wheel-mounted paddles for added driver engagement.
Out on the open road, the Across handles beautifully. It's not the powerhouse of some plug-in hybrid SUVs but it's a comfortable ride with impressive handling. The acceleration is smooth with ample power at your disposal for instant bursts of pace and it's a car that effortlessly eats up the motorway miles but is agile enough to weave through the congested town centre crowds.
The steering is nicely weighted and on faster country lanes, the car feels well balanced with minimal sign of body sway, unless tighter bends are attacked a little too eagerly.
There is a little door mirror noise inside the cabin at higher speeds and the engine can also get quite vocal when pushed particularly hard, but if driven in a sensible manner, the driving experience is quite refined with an effective, although fairly firm suspension set-up cushioning the ride.
The Across is also well geared up to cope with poorer weather too with its E-Four electronic 4x4 system to offer extra grip in adverse driving conditions.
My only slight gripe was the infotainment screen. I found I had to lean across to reach some of the icons which isn't ideal and had to tap quite hard on the screen at times to get a response.
But that aside, comfort levels within the car are high with a power adjustable driver's seat to find the perfect position. The elevated seating, which is typical of any SUV, results in excellent all-round visibility which is vital for a car with duties that will probably include the school run.
Four adults can travel in comfort inside the Across or three youngsters could fit snuggly in the back with rear seats that recline. The boot, accessed via a powered tailgate, is well sized with a capacity of 490 litres, which is increased to 1,168 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
Elsewhere, there are a number of handy storage options throughout the car, including a practically-sized glovebox, door pockets, a centre tray with two USB ports, a console box, front cup holders, a sunglasses compartment and shelves beneath the main dashboard. There are pockets in the front seat backs and rear passengers have a pull-down armrest with two cup holders. They also have two additional USB ports.
Safety features on the Across are comprehensive with a pre-collision system, lane tracing assist, dynamic radar cruise control, road sign assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a full suite of airbags and eCall - a system that automatically calls the emergency services if the vehicle is involved in an accident.
All in all, the Suzuki Across is yet another high quality vehicle to join the ever-growing ranks in SUV sector. But it's a segment that's in great demand and the Across is likely to make quite an impact.