WHEN the Japanese car industry was embryonic, it kept itself busy manufacturing designs from the west.
Datson (as it then was, literally son of Dat) started with a remanufactured Austin 7. But there’s no shame in that, for BMW did exactly the same in Germany.
Sadly, these car makes kept on developing while those in England stagnated to such an extent they all-but disappeared, at least from British ownership. Some blame the unions but the principal culprit was chronic underinvestment.
Either way, Datsun, now Nissan, owns Europe’s most efficient car plant right here in the UK while the biggest British motoring icon ever, Mini, belongs to BMW. Ironic, really, but Mini is the modern successor to the Austin 7.
The Japanese engineers were hard at work while we basked in our shrinking glory. They had already created some impressive motorbikes and then Daihatsu (actually the first Japanese brand imported into the UK, most people think it was Toyota) hit us in the ’80s with the one-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine in its Gt ti supermini hatchback.
British reviewers, and a smallish number of buyers, were fascinated by its lion-hearted roar, the decibel-laced indication that here was something a bit special. By the standard of the day it flew.
That three-cylinder format has stood the test of time, probably far better than the car that brought it to us. Major manufacturers are keen to use it and so, too, is Suzuki. But when we first saw the size of the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross, which we tested in its original format with a much beefier motor, we thought its one-litre three-cylinder might be overwhelmed by the combination of the physical size of the car.
However, this game crossover SUV proved us wrong. Not only did it perform well but also it showed that the power to weight ratio must have been about right as it averaged 48.6mpg on a diet of unleaded.
In a world where diesel cars are being ostracised and their drivers quite possibly face being hit with punitive taxes later this year the antipathy to diesel is palpable.
Maybe the secret of the SX4 S-Cross is revealed in the engine’s name – Boosterjet. It churns out 111bhp at 5,500rpm and only 113g/km of CO2 pops from the end of the exhaust.
Perhaps its 48.6mpg achievable in real world motoring will cheer up drivers who, instead of getting zero road tax in the first year and £30 a year bills thereafter, will now face a first year tax bill of £160 and ongoing renewals at £140.
The new on the road list price is £19,749 after the changes – but Suzuki’s cunning plan is to offer three years’ extra tax back as an upfront discount which the buyer can then use to fund the higher VED.
The SX4 S-Cross is quite a large car that has just undergone a facelift. It’s difficult to tell if that’s a good thing or not. Certainly the toothy-looking chromed front grille could do with some revision already. It just looks too much but in this Suzuki is no more guilty than many other makers who all seem to want to adorn their cars with massive grilles when a little more discretion would be nice. It’s a cyclical thing and as soon as one maker is brave enough to shrink a grille all the others will follow.
With its equipment list and price, it would appear that the SX4 S-Cross is a range-topping model but in fact it’s only the second up from the bottom. If you really want to splash the cash at your local Suzuki dealership you could hand over more than £25,000 and get a diesel-powered model with even higher trim standards and all-wheel drive, too.
Most buyers will be content to go no further than the SZ-T trim of the text car as it brought more than enough to the party to keep everyone entertained. More importantly, it brought sufficient space to give its occupants lounging room while the ride quality and seating, while not magic carpet quality, ironed out the bumps far more efficiently than might be expected of a smallish car.
There was also more headroom than most people need, too, giving the lie to the theory that smaller cars are cramped.
The SUV styling also delivered usable boot space, an impressive 430 litres with the seats in place and 875 litres with them folded, the latter figure maybe not as good as some rivals but it was at least sensibly shaped.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.0 Boosterjet SZ-T
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 11.0 secs
Top speed: 112 mph
Bhp: 111 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 125 lb ft @ 2,000 – 3,500 rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 56.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 113 g/km
Best bits: sensible small SUV from Suzuki