You can play ‘Spot The Difference’ with Suzuki’s A-Cross hybrid SUV
Let’s play, suggests Iain Robertson, as he notes the more smiley front grille, slimmer headlamps and the ‘S’ logo, while revealing a £2,106 saving off the list price of what is the A-Cross’s closest rival, the PHEV version of the Toyota RAV4.
Such are the immense costs associated with producing entirely new cars from scratch, aided and abetted by a brand positing itself in a sector, where it possesses zero history, Suzuki Cars may have done one of two things: 1. Reached a disagreeable arrangement with its enormous Japanese competitor, Toyota, or 2. Pulled off a master-stroke that provides its first ever British-made plug-in hybrid that might enable its burgeoning ‘fleet department’ to grab a few goals in home matches.
Naturally, there is a tale behind most collaborations and much of this one lies in the immense success that Suzuki has built in the Indian sub-continent. Indian car buyers, many experiencing increased wealth in their fast-growing domestic scene, decided a few years ago that a diet of new but 1950s Morris Oxfords and the newer but equally ancient Fiat 1100 was not just limited but was limiting sorely the development of its transport sector.
Suzuki, already one of the largest motorbike, moped and scooter manufacturers represented in India, started to sell its range of small but eminently well-formed motorcars to the local market. More recently, in cahoots with its Indian partner, Maruti, vehicle production added to the wealth of the country. In fact, Suzuki commands currently well over half of the new cars sold in India and there is scarcely a village that does not have at least one Suzuki Service signage on its main street.
Of course, this situation poses a few problems to acquisitive rivals seeking ‘new’ markets, in which to sell their wares. Among them, VW Group and Toyota have long desired a stake. For the Teutonic internationalist, it has tried (so far without much success). However, Toyota wants to play a smarter game and collaborating with Suzuki is it. This begs a question about Toyota’s relationship with Daihatsu, up to fairly recently, its favoured and fully owned small car producer. However, I shall leave that tale for a future story. As part of the ‘deal’, Suzuki has taken up some of Toyota’s production ‘slack’ at its Derbyshire plant for the Station Wagon Ace (Swace, based on the hybrid version of the Corolla), while the A-Cross is built in Japan but both are the badge-engineered results that expand the brand’s European offering. Toyota benefits from two Maruti-Suzuki models (badged Toyota) being produced for Indian and African markets.
Having played ‘Spot The Difference’, now I’m going to name the Suzuki in one note. Suzuki already produces the excellent but underrated S-Cross model. Were I to introduce a larger alternative, I would feel inclined to name it ‘A-Cross’, which is essentially what I am doing here…except that Suzuki, for whatever feeble marketing reason, has determined that a capitalised ACROSS, albeit pronounced in a lower-case form, ‘across’, is more suitable. It is another case of pathetic carmaker marketing, of much the same order as Omega for Vauxhall a few years ago, on which a disgruntled Vauxhall spent over £1m on a model pronunciation exercise to emphasis the ‘O’ but not the ‘e’ in its model line. It did not work either.
Yet, away from this nit-picking, just as the RAV4 is a truly excellent machine in its latest PHEV form, so too and inevitably is the Across and, thanks to its first-rate talents, ignoring the badge but not the more than £2k savings is not such a bad idea. Across boasts a CO2 rating of just 22g/km, which company car users will adore, as it carries a BIK band of just 6% (£91/month, as opposed to almost twice the tax demanded from rivals). It features an electronic 4×4 system, an EV range of 46mls and a 0-60mph dash in a rapid 5.7s, all of which shame its competitors from Land Rover, Ford, Peugeot and Vauxhall. Job done!
While the (sharp intake of breath) £45,599 list price is a whopping jump upwards to make it the most expensive car ever in Suzuki’s UK model range, it is for just a solitary, high-spec, everything included version that Suzuki assures us is in strictly limited supply anyway. Thanks to its squared-off wheelarches, finished in shiny black trim, riding on 19.0-inch alloy wheels, it is a handsome buggy possessing more of an exterior nod towards Jeep than either Vitara, or the ill-fated Jimny models.
However, Suzuki is now able to sell you a full hybrid, as opposed to a 48V mild alternative, which helps it to achieve an interim aim. The petrol-electric system is well-proven and develops a combined 301bhp, which also makes it Suzuki’s swiftest car ever. Powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine hooked up to a hybrid drive system, for which the default setting is always EV, it can be toggled between it, automatic EV/HV mode, HV mode only and battery charger function, by which the 50.9Ah battery pack can be fully recharged on-the-move. Naturally, it can be plugged into a domestic three-point socket, a wallbox, or a publicly accessible charger too. It is a very flexible system.
However, there is more to Across than on-paper niceties. Its pitch-free ride quality is fluent and quiet. Its dynamic balance is well-judged, with pleasant steering weight and fine accuracy. Okay, its top speed is restricted to 112mph but, as we seldom need much more than an indicated 80mph in the UK, it is a moderate turn of speed. It returns a consistent 47.7mpg…more in strictly EV mode. Mind you, it can tow around 1.5-tonnes, which makes it pretty handy for an electrified SUV. Across is also very wieldy and spacious, with around 500-litres of boot capacity, before rolling forwards the rear seats.
Let’s make no pretence, Across is a Toyota RAV4 but, as RAV4 is currently one of the best of the medium size SUV breed, at least it offers Toyota dependability and engineering integrity that is at very least equal to that of Suzuki. It ain’t going to sell like hotcakes but, then, it does not need to.