Steering Column 04.09.09

More SX appeal

Suzuki has unveiled a new version of its small family car, the SX4.

It’s based on the familiar hatchback, but it’s a saloon car with a boot.

It comes with a wide range of just one 1.6-litre petrol engine, one five-speed manual gear box and one package of standard equipment. Want to guess how many colours there are? Yep . . . seven.

The price is £11,895 and for that you get a 106bhp engine that will haul the little car up to 62mph in 10.7 seconds and give the owner an official average fuel consumption of 41.5mpg.

Trim level is similar to the hatchback GLX version so there are electric windows all round, six airbags, a CD/MP3/radio sound sys­tem, air conditioning, keyless entry and start and 15-inch alloy wheels.

Some SX4s come with four-wheel drive. Not this one, however.

So what of the styling? Well Suzuki says it’s stylish and sleek. I say it’s the hatchback that’s the true beauty of the range and sticking a boot on it has been as successful as an ill advised extension on a classic home.

I’ll reserve final judgement until I’ve seen it in the flesh, but first pictures suggest it’s an anonymous little car with wheels that are too small for it and a swept up tail that looks like it came down off a step too hard and bent the back end up. Sorry. To my eye it’s sad and characterless.

The stars come out

There’s a rake of locally available cars have just been awarded top star ratings in the Euro NCAP crash safety testing.

The trendy looking new Volks­wagen Polo got the full five stars and is now being described by the maker as, “the safest compact car in the world”. A rigid body with strategically placed high-strength steel bits make a robust cage for the driver and passengers, but the Polo also has pedestrian protecting features including a deforming area just behind the front bumper.

Toyota’s hybrid fuel car for the masses, the new Prius, has also got five stars, something the old Prius also achieved. The way it’s achieved this is pretty well the same as VW has done it – good passenger cells and crumple-zones for pedestrians. It’s the third Toyota to get the coveted accolade this year.

Kia’s sexy new look Sorento 4×4, due to arrive here early next year, has also got five stars and the company is claiming that “places the Sorento amongst the safest SUVs on the road”. It scored highly on the scales for protecting adults and children inside the vehicle, but it got less than half the maximum score for pedestrian protection. No surprises for such a big car.

Sports green

Vauxhall’s award-winning large family car, the Insignia, has a new model added to the line-up.

It’s a sports tourer (an estate car to you and me) with the ecoFLEX environmentally sensitive package of engine and mechanical set up.

The company says it will do up to 53.7 miles on a gallon of fuel yet sprint to 60mph in 9.3 seconds. The two-litre petrol engine has 160bhp on tap and 380Nm of torque to draw on, and we’re told has a range-between-fuel-stops of 826 miles.

The new economy drive has been brought about by changes to the gearing, aerodynamics and the tyres. Prices begin at £21,515 for the base model, the perhaps ill-named Exclusiv. Higher levels of trim will take it up through the S and SE models to the Elite which, when equipped with satnav, will set you back £27,750.

Mike Grundon


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