Suzuki isn’t the first of the so-called ‘budget brands’ to move upmarket, and as night follows day, it will not be the last. To fast track the journey to previously unvisited higher echelons, it has cosied up with Toyota to offer customers the Across which, it just so happens, it also its first ever plug-in hybrid car.
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IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK IT IS
Boil it down and the Across SUV is, in fact, a Toyota RAV4. Parked side-by-side, their badges masked over, even experts in this field would be hard pushed to tell them apart. It should be pointed out that this agreement is no bad thing. Quite the opposite, in fact. Toyota is known to build notoriously reliable cars that guarantee owners many (many) miles of happy motoring. The company is also streets ahead with the development of cutting-edge safety tech, the latest in-car convenience features and plug-in hybrid powertrains. This know-how comes at a cost, however. At a snip under £46,000, this is one Suzuki that is sure to raise a few eyebrows – but the marque has played an ace to win over sceptics. The mid-sized electrified SUV is built in one spec and it comes loaded with every single desirable feature.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
One of the reasons Suzuki settled on a model line-up of just one was dictated by volume. In its press material, it admits there was “very limited supply availability” in the car’s first year. You can blame the emergence of COVID and the knock-on semi-conductor shortage for that. That theme has continued in to 2022 but the upshot is a refreshingly simple buying process. LED headlamps, a nicely sculped faux front skid plate, 19-inch bi-tone alloy wheels and gloss black trim pieces, roof rails and squircle-shaped wheel arch mouldings are all here. The only decision Across customers need to make is what metallic body colour they would like and of the handful that exist, what dealer fit accessories they want. These include rubber floor mats, a partition grid for the boot for your furry friend, and flashier trim finishers for the door sills.
THE GOOD NEWS CONTINUES INSIDE
Suzuki has made significant gains on the interior construction front in the past three years but it still lags in areas such as perceived quality, attention to detail, and the Pac-man graphics that appear on the driver’s TFT information display and multimedia systems. Happily, there are no such worries with Toyota on board. It isn’t the most lavish or eye-catching place, and even here some of the surfaces are questionable for a SUV that is rubbing wheels with Land Rover and Audi given the price tag but, overall, the cabin is functional, robust and comfortable. Acres of synthetic black leather upholstery, contrast stitching and silver trim are welcome much like the abundance of storage options. A centre tray for mobile phones, decent-sized door bins for the driver and passenger, front cup holders and a deep centre arm rest box are all here.
PHEV: A FIRST FOR SUZUKI
Prior to this working arrangement with Toyota, Suzuki had the grand sum of zero plug-in hybrids. So, the need to add one in the face of increasingly strict EU emission laws was a no-brainer. Performance from the 2.5-litre petrol engine would suffice for most but this is boosted by Suzuki’s dual e-motors, therefore 182bhp is elevated to a hot hatch rivalling 302bhp. When the two systems join forces in ‘HV’ (hybrid) mode, acceleration is every bit as fast as the 6 seconds Suzuki says you need to hit 62mph. Even in pure-electric driving, initial pick up in and around town when traffic starts to move freely again is spot on. With an out-of-juice battery the engine can turn thrashy if you want to get a shift on and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) certainly does no favours in this respect.
OUT ON THE ROAD
Suzuki is no stranger to four-wheel-drive systems. Save for Jeep and Land Rover, they rank among the best in the business. On the Across, however, the ‘E Four’ all-wheel-drive is Toyota’s work. It’s a pretty straightforward system in that power is sent to each corner all of the time for grippy and sure-footed handling in wet or dry conditions. And although it is named ‘Trail’ – presumably for genteel drives along country lanes or down forest tracks – it works well in frosty conditions, too. So, if a wheel is slipping the brake is applied and the spare torque is redirected to those tyres with positive contact. As far as steering feel, body roll and all-round road manners go, the Across is a high achiever – but the 300kg introduced by the battery pack does come at a cost in terms of overall ride refinement. In town the Across has a particular tendency to thump and bump as it encounters cracks and crevices that pass under it. That said, it is far from uncomfortable and comes highly recommended as your next family car.
PROS AND CONS
+ Smooth drive, strong performance
+ Practical and well-made cabin
+ Incredible electric-only range
– It’s expensive for a Suzuki
– Only one model, few options
– The ride is on the firm side
CHARGING: 46-miles of zero emission driving for a SUV is seriously impressive and is sure to be enough for most owners to complete their daily commute on battery power alone. Regenerative braking keeps the system topped up on journeys but when the pack is low or completely depleted, around six hours is required for a full charge using a 7.4kW wallbox, either at home or your place of work if one exists.
STYLING: The Across is a doubleganger of Toyota’s RAV4 with badging the standout difference. Suzuki has given the look of its latest SUV some thought, though, so it wears attractive 19-inch alloys and all-round protective trim moulded from piano black plastic. Roof rails, twin exhausts and privacy glass are bundled into the price and there is no cost for whichever of the six body colours customers eventually settle on.
INTERIOR: There is a noticeable step up in quality inside the Across, again, due to the Toyota connection. What the cabin misses out on in flair it makes up in as far as equipment is concerned, although the 9-inch touchscreen can frustrate as the interface is a tad clunky. A 7-inch driver display, dual zone climate control, keyless start, a rear parking camera, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert all feature.
PRACTICALITY: Head, leg and shoulder room in the back for two, six-foot adults is spot on and access is easy thanks to wide opening doors. There is also lots of storage options for bits and bobs. Raised, the powered tail-gate reveals a 490-litre cargo area and when it comes to loading items in, a flat floor helps. With the second row of seats folded forward, the boot’s volume mushrooms to an even more useful 1,198-litres.
Price: £45,599 (as tested)
Engine: 2.5-litre, 4cyl petrol plus 2 e-motors
Power/torque: 302bhp/270lb ft
Transmission: eCVT, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 6 seconds
Top speed: 112mph