What is it?
A new Suzuki SX4 that's nothing like the old one. Not just in the usual claims of improved performance and reduced CO2 from new engines, better dynamics from a new chassis, and improved quality and equipment levels for the interior, but in the class it sits in.
For this new SX4 is a much bigger car than the one it replaces, shifting up a class in size to become a Nissan Qashqai fighter, and gaining a new S-Cross suffix to its name in the process following inspiration from a concept car of the same name.
Indeed, Suzuki doesn't really want you to think of it as an SX4 at all so has put that part of its name in lowercase and made the badge on the boot tiny. You can still buy the current SX4 until around this time next year, before a new small SUV replaces it in 2015. Expect the sx4 part of the S-Cross's name to disappear around the same time once it's established itself.
Back to the new car, buyers can choose from 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic transmission and front- and all-wheel drive. Standard equipment levels are good - 16in alloys, air-con and cruise control are all in the standard armoury, although it's a top-spec test car tested here that comes fully loaded with such goodies as the world's first double-opening panoramic roof.
The really good news should come from the fact that the engineering team for the S-Cross boasts the Swift among its back catalogue, one of the best-driving superminis out there. And some development even took place on UK roads.
What's it like?
Quite decent, the kind of solid-enough car that doesn't excel in any single department but neither does it let itself substantially down anywhere, either.
On first acquaintance, it's a much sharper looker than the current SX4; the nose is a bit low, but it's smart enough. Suzuki has fairly obviously looked to the Qashqai for its side profile and overall proportions. Which is no bad thing when you look at the UK new car sales charts.
The best-seller in the UK is tipped to be the 1.6-litre turbodiesel with a six-speed manual gearbox sending drive through the front wheels only, and it's the model we've tested here. It's a solid engine, not the briskest but neither does it sound like it's ever being worked too hard.
The torque band is quite narrow and it's not particularly tractable as a result; you'll be reaching for the gear lever to change down if the engine speed drops below 2000rpm and for it to change up only 1500rpm or so later. Still, it's a nice slick shift.
That slick feeling continues throughout much of rest of the car's controls. The steering is nicely weighted for its intended purpose as well, and has that nice habit of pointing where you want it; too often in this class the steering is too light.
The body control is better than a Qashqai's, as is the handling. Predictably, there is some body roll, but it's well controlled and the S-Cross never has you lurching all over the road no matter how hard you push it. It's here where a bit of the Swift magic begins to shine through, although the smile it raises never develops into a big grin.