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Japanese brand tiptoes into expensive, electrified SUV territory, with Toyota’s help

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The new Suzuki Across looks an awful lot like another mid-sized, electrified SUV you might have seen on the road already: the current Toyota RAV4 PHEV. However, what we’re dealing with here is not a worrying case of design plagiarism. The reason the new Across looks like the RAV4 is because it is a RAV4, only badge-engineered.

You might have noticed that smaller Japanese marques such as Suzuki are currently having a torrid time in Europe, mostly because emissions legislation demands that their smaller models are equipped with expensive emissions-cutting technologies, which eat into already- slim profit margins. Daihatsu left Europe in 2013, Subaru is teetering on the brink, and the exciting news that Mitsubishi UK is to auction off its wonderful heritage f leet comes only because, at least in the short term, it too is leaving.

This feels like a thoroughly well-conceived, unashamedly middle- market, easy-to-use family car, and its freedom from compromise may be the most impressive thing about it. It’s expensive, sure; but it’d work well for almost anyone.

But Suzuki remains, after the world’s most prolific car maker took a 5% stake in the business in 2019, which paved the way for model sharing. Along with the plug-in hybrid Across, you can also now buy a Suzuki version of the hybrid Toyota Corolla estate known as the Swace, although a smattering of the firm’s old in-house names are still offered.

The Vitara, S-Cross, Swift and Ignis march on, albeit solely now with hybrid powertrains. Notable by its absence is the standard Jimny, which has been culled on account of CO2 figures that had actually become an embarrassment to company execs.

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With this road test, then, you’re getting two for the price of one: an appraisal of the surprisingly rugged, part-electric crossover that is the new Toyota RAV4 PHEV, as well as an early verdict on this new direction that Suzuki has, more out of necessity than anything else, chosen to take.

The Suzuki Across line-up at a glance

Suzuki tends to go for a cut-down range and a no-nonsense equipment offering with its cars, but with the Across – perhaps because it isn’t used to selling cars at a £40,000-plus price point – it has surpassed even its own standards for simplicity.

The car comes in one trim and equipment level only; there are just six colours to choose from; and only dealer-fit options are available, one of which was the seven-pin charging cable that our test car came with.

Other accessories include a cargo partition grid, rubber floor mats and slightly flashier than standard door sill trim finishers.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Suzuki Across


2 Suzuki Across 2021 road test review hero side

Curiously, the Across was permitted to beat the RAV4 into European showrooms, offering Toyota’s new- generation 302bhp four-wheel-drive PHEV powertrain several months before its doppelganger went on sale with precisely the same set-up.

That set-up consists of a 182bhp front-mounted 2.5-litre Atkinson- cycle engine and two electric drive motors: one of 180bhp for the front axle and a more compact, 54bhp unit for the rear. What makes the system unusual, in traditional SUV engineering terms at least, is that thanks to the electric element, there is no physical connection between the axles for the transfer of drive – but plenty of plug-in SUVs now deliver four-wheel drive in the same way.

Hexagonal radiator grille that dominates the Across’s front end, and the bodywork around it, is different from the RAV4’s and makes for a slightly less serious, angular look, which some testers preferred

The efforts of the car’s combustion engine and front electric motor are combined via the planetary gears of Toyota’s unique transaxle. The set-up includes a clutch pack that allows the engine to be disengaged and shut off either intermittently in Hybrid mode or for pure electric running in EV mode. Equally, when the motor and engine are operational together, the epicyclic e-CVT transmission modulates the speed of the crankshaft to keep the car running at its most efficient.

The important point is that there is no output shaft to the rear, and so when the car is in soft-roading Trail mode, for example, the four-wheel drive system and the efforts of the rear motor are wholly dependent on the sensors that inform the ESP and traction control.

The set-up is similar to that found in the existing RAV4 Hybrid (the plugless one), though at 18.1kWh, the liquid-cooled drive battery in the plug-in Across is considerably larger, and the front drive motor more than half as powerful again. The consequences of these changes are twofold.

First, the kerb weight of the passively suspended Across is some 280kg greater than that of the regular RAV4 Hybrid (and yet remains almost 200kg lighter than the Range Rover Evoque P300e we tested a couple of months ago). And second, at 6.0sec, the 0-62mph acceleration of the Across is similar to that of a DSG- equipped Volkswagen Golf GTI. Lab-test emissions for the car, meanwhile, are less than 25g/km, and the electric range is a very impressive 46.6 miles. Whether the credit should go to Suzuki or Toyota, that all amounts to quite the technical achievement.

In terms of the exterior design, there isn’t an awful lot to say. The Across is identical in footprint and silhouette to the Toyota, though the face of the car has been restyled to some degree and appears softer and less pugnacious than that of the RAV4. The car’s 19in wheels are standard fit as part of a simplified, one-tier, kit-rich showroom offering.


10 Suzuki Across 2021 road test review cabin

Just about our only serious criticism of the cabin concerns how inviting and classy it is. It is lacking somewhat in the material richness and lustre, as well as the tactile appeal and outright material quality, you might expect for a car closing in on £50,000.

The black synthetic leather upholstery on the instrument cluster, doors and seats looks and feels just that – a bit shiny and synthetic – while some of the switchgear (notably the indicator and wiper stalks) is a little lightweight and cheap to the touch. Considering you could get a Land Rover Discovery Sport PHEV for similar money, or a posher plug-in Range Rover Evoque for not much more, that might disappoint some.

Adaptive cruise control is standard and operated via controls on the steering wheel. It works well and isn’t overly sensitive or hesitant in its adjustments.

But the Suzuki’s cabin is certainly comfortable, robust and impressively functional, which should be of no surprise to those familiar with the current RAV4. In fact, with its large, rubber-framed ventilation controls and equally chunky, grabbable designs for the drive- and EV-mode selectors, you could say this car does rugged ease of use even better than the Land Rover. There are numerous slots and cubbies dotted about the cabin, and plenty of storage space for wallets, phones, gloves, keys, drink bottles… practically any odds and ends you may wish to bring with you.

Passenger space is very respectable. With a whole metre between the seat base and the roof, there’s plenty of second-row head room, and 720mm of typical rear leg room (that is with the front seat set to give the driver a metre of leg room) isn’t bad either. Thanks to its sliding bench, a Discovery Sport can offer more (up to 780mm), but two taller adults should still sit comfortably in the back of the Across on longer journeys.

Compared with the standard RAV4 Hybrid, boot space does take a hit, dropping from 580 to 490 litres in the plug-in Suzuki. Still, that load space is large enough to accommodate a couple of bigger suitcases, and the floor is flush with the opening to help make loading and unloading smooth. There’s no useful storage space beneath the floor, but there is a spacesaver spare tyre; and, in an SUV, we know which we would rather have.

Suzuki Across infotainment and sat-nav

Unlike the equivalent Toyota RAV4 PHEV, and possibly uniquely among comparable cars of its price, the Across does not feature built-in sat-nav. The 9.0in touchscreen infotainment is only really used to tune the DAB radio or activate Bluetooth pairing.

The operating system will be recognisable to anyone who has driven a recent Toyota, to whom the slightly below-par graphical sophistication won’t come as a surprise. Somewhat annoyingly, the physical ‘Nav’ shortcut button hasn’t been removed from the screen’s border. Press it and you’ll simply see a ‘function not available’ message.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included as standard, though, so provided you’ve got a compatible smartphone with a generous enough data package, you may never really notice what the car is lacking.

The sound system is pretty decent, too. You’ll hardly be blown away by its clarity but it’s certainly powerful, remaining free of distortion even at high volumes.


20 Suzuki Across 2021 road test review charging port

The Across (and the RAV4 PHEV by association) is a rare breed of plug-in hybrid in that it does what it says on the tin regarding electric range. With its 18.1kWh battery topped up, Suzuki claims it can travel nearly 47 miles on the combined WLTP cycle.

On a test route that incorporated an even mixture of A-road, motorway and stop-start urban driving, our testers were able to extract 48 miles of electric range from the Across before its hybrid petrol powertrain sparked into life. Given that some PHEVs undershoot on their advertised EV range by up to 40%, that should be considered a real selling point.

The Suzuki’s dual power sources combine to impressive effect, delivering a 0-60mph time of 6.4sec on the one hand and a real-world EV range of 48 miles on the other.

Driven in pure EV mode, performance is more than swift enough. Throttle response is spot on, and acceleration potent enough to easily keep pace with traffic. Interestingly, in this mode, the petrol engine will only step in when the battery is totally flat; even if you hit the kickdown switch, it won’t be roused – and nor would you be likely to need it to be. However, for those who would prefer to know the petrol engine will step in if they suddenly need a larger wave of acceleration, in Auto EV/HV mode it will do just that.

In standard HV mode (where the petrol-hybrid system takes priority), performance is even punchier. On Millbrook’s mile straight, the Across was able to hit 60mph from a standstill in just 6.4sec, while the run from 30-70mph was accomplished in 5.8sec. That’s quick no matter how you look at it.

With instant torque fill provided by the Suzuki’s electric motors, roll-on acceleration feels effortless, even if the influence of the e-CVT and the piston engine’s propensity to rev means it doesn’t always sound that way. Keep your foot down and the petrol motor does make itself heard, delivering a not especially pleasant, slightly thrashy soundtrack. It is efficient, though. Even with a flat battery, you can still expect to see a fuel consumption figure in the mid-40s.

Jump on the brakes and the Across will haul itself to a stop fairly quickly, but you really get a sense of its weight in the process. Our car required 51.2m to pull up from 70mph in damp conditions, three metres fewer than a 2.0-litre diesel BMW X3 needed in the dry.

Its friction and regenerative braking systems could be blended slightly more intuitively, and the brake pedal could do with a dash more consistency. Generally, though, the Across is an easy-driving and quietly satisfying machine that needs little in the way of setting up, fiddling with or customising to your taste.


20 Suzuki Across 2021 road test review on road nose

There’s an agreeable honesty and simplicity about the way the Across mooches down the road. Unlike so many taller crossover-type vehicles, it’s not an SUV that’s out to work dynamic miracles or to conceal its true size, heft or brief. Instead, it feels comfortable and at ease in its bulkier, 4x4-shaped skin – much like a Land Rover Discovery Sport does.

With 2.6 turns between locks, its steering rack is even more leisurely than that of its new-found British rival, but no less accurate in its responses or consistent in its pleasant, slick medium weighting. This is a fairly thickset helm, and it doesn’t communicate much contact patch feel; but you turn the Across into a corner, feel the resistance build as you wind on lock, feel the car’s body roll in gathering but controlled fashion, and know instinctively that the chassis will retain enough stability, and will comfortably develop enough mechanical grip, to keep you on your chosen line.

Interesting that Suzuki hasn’t even bothered with its own alloy wheel design (an easy, cheap route to differentiation, if it had wanted one). Two-tone 19in rims are identical to those of the RAV4, save for the logos in the centre.

Of course, this feels like quite a heavy car; the body roll is a tell-tale sign, as are some incidences of vertical heave over more rolling stretches of roads taken at ambitious speed. There are limits, also, to the front end’s ability to keep its mass from pushing forwards once you’ve turned the wheel.

Pleasingly, however, these are set high enough that you really have to be pushing the Across hard to get close to them; and given the car’s overridingly simple, utilitarian sense of character, it seems unlikely that you would feel inclined to regularly find those limits, let alone probe them. The car keeps just about enough suspension travel up its sleeve to convincingly absorb the vast majority of mid-corner impacts, although these bumps aren’t always dealt with in the quietest fashion.

So the Across won’t win any awards for driver engagement or super-sensitive adjustability. But for the way it responds to your inputs, behaves exactly as you expect it to, and with controls that feel oily slick and intuitively tuned, it’s a likeably balanced car to drive and is very easy indeed to rub along with.

The Across, like the RAV4, is very much intended for occasional – and fairly light – off-road forays only. In PHEV form, the car has the same wading capability as any other RAV4 and almost identical clearance angles and measurements – enough for a muddy or slightly rutted track, but not perhaps for a great deal more.

The Across PHEV’s particular specification both helps and hinders it off road: the car’s electric motor torque does make for good low-speed control and drivability, but its ‘eco’ tyre specification certainly doesn’t allow it to create the last word in mechanical grip on any surface.

That would, of course, make for an easy fix for owners who wanted to add a little extra capability on dirt and grass: just fit a set of ‘M+S’ tyres like those that an equivalent Land Rover gets. But if you do, you should also expect the car’s everyday fuel economy and electric range to suffer a little.


While the range of electric adjustability that the driver’s seat affords is generally pretty good, some of our testers found that the chair itself was a touch short on under-thigh support. It seats you in a perched position with a commanding view of the road ahead and decent rearwards visibility, though, and in just the right kind of proximity to the car’s large, easy-to-find primary controls and switchgear.

In pure electric mode, the cabin is suitably hushed on the move, and similar is true when the petrol engine is active and turning over at low revs. At 70mph, the 2.5-litre powerplant is barely audible, although road roar and wind noise are more prominent. In these conditions, our microphone measured cabin noise at 67dB; 1dB louder than the diesel Discovery Sport we road tested last year, and comparable to the hybrid Hyundai Tucson from a few weeks ago.

The Across’s ride is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s far from unpleasant. At town speeds, it can thump and bump its way fussily over any ruts or cracks that pass under its wheels, although you wouldn’t accuse it of feeling harsh or wooden. Then, at greater speed, you notice a bit more vertical movement, and become more aware of the car’s mass in its occasionally wavering primary ride.

However, this occasional heaving is tempered by a pliancy that ultimately makes the Across a comfortable car to pilot on faster, undulating A-roads and smoother motorways – albeit one that lacks some of the closely cradled, finely damped sophistication that characterises the very best dynamic operators at its price point.


1 Suzuki Across 2021 road test review hero front

The Across is, quite plainly, a car for people who won’t blink at the idea of driving a Suzuki SUV – or even a Toyota – when their monthly budget might have bought them an Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus or any number of other more ‘premium’ options.

There may not be many customers like that; but those there are will surely be motivated by the car’s 6% benefit-in-kind tax qualification (so you could tax it as a fleet option for less than half the equivalent cost of a Volvo XC60 T6 Recharge PHEV). Rational company car drivers with growing families certainly won’t struggle to see the appeal of the Across, then.

I’m sceptical about the worthiness of plug-in hybrids, but this one really seems to work. Provided you actually charge it and have a short-range commute, you might very rarely need to visit a petrol station in it at all.

Private buyers might need a little more convincing, but even for them, a modern mid-sized, petrol-fuelled hybrid SUV capable of returning fuel economy in the mid-40s without being plugged in can be considered reasonably efficient. For those who can charge it regularly, given that substantial electric range, everyday fuel economy stretching close to three figures may well be possible depending on your particular pattern of usage.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that while the RAV4 PHEV’s on-board charger can take up to 6.6kW, the Suzuki’s is limited to 3.3kW. That means it will take at least five and a half hours to top its battery up, where the Toyota’s can be replenished in two and a half hours.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Suzuki Across


22 Suzuki Across 2021 road test review static

The Across may be no more or less than a rebadged, lightly restyled RAV4 PHEV, but its foundation is impressively strong. Not only does Suzuki’s first plug-in hybrid arrive with a class-leading claimed range, but it’s also capable of making good on its claims for electric autonomy, which makes it something of a collector’s item.

It has rounded, predictable, reassuring handling; quietly potent real-world performance, in whichever mode you happen to be driving it; and a plug-in petrol powertrain that continues to offer commendable efficiency even when the drive battery has been depleted. In the measurable, objective terms in which this test chiefly deals, it would be flat wrong to label the Across as anything other than a standout car.

Excellent hybrid powertrain makes it one of the best PHEVs around

For some private buyers, this Suzuki’s £45,599 list price will be a tricky, if not impossible, pill to swallow. Plug-in versions of the Land Rover Discovery Sport and BMW X3 aren’t much more money, will hold their value better and outclass the Across for desirability.

But if you care less about how your car makes you feel than what it’s capable of in daily use, know this: the Across is a better electrified SUV than the vast majority we’ve tested.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Suzuki Across

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes.