From £11,921
Promising and practical soft-roader with potential to improve Suzuki’s style and image.

If early build versions of Suzuki’s forthcoming SX4 are anything to go by, the oft-derided Japanese marque is well on the way to recovery.In an unusual move that underlines its determination to succeed in Europe, Suzuki recently allowed British journalists to sample prototypes of its forthcoming Ford Fusion-sized soft-roader, even before home-market testers had been allowed near the car.Suzuki will build the Giugiaro-designed SX4 – and a similar Fiat-badged model – for launch next spring. There will be three- and five-door versions, with prices ranging from about £10,000 to £14,000. An entry-level 1.5-litre 100bhp petrol model will have front-wheel drive, while a more powerful 1.6-litre petrol and a 120bhp turbodiesel (using Fiat’s 1.9-litre JTD engine) will have a four-wheel-drive system. All but the basic car have six-speed gearboxes, and there will eventually be a four-speed automatic petrol version.Though quite short, the SX4 is high and relatively wide so the cabin feels roomier than you’d expect. Suzuki intends to stress the utility-car credentials of the new machine, and its decent rear room and surprising boot space will back up the message. The interior layout contains few surprises, but feels pleasant, comprehensive and comfortable.On the road, the car impresses with its easy steering, supple ride, decent cornering balance and high-speed stability. The torque of the diesel version we drove was well up to coping with the kerbweight of around 1300kg, giving effortless progress.These prototypes show plenty of promise, though we’ll need to assess full production cars to give a proper verdict. But the likelihood that this SX4 can start casting off Suzuki’s ‘funny’ image seems strong indeed.Steve Cropley

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