The keenly priced (but strangely named) Suzuki Fronx small crossover has touched down in South Africa. We briefly drove the newcomer in the Western Cape.
What is it?
The Fronx is the latest addition to Suzuki’s small crossover line-up. It’s essentially a raised-body variant of the Baleno hatchback (from which the Toyota Starlet is cloned) and incorporates offroader-inspired elements such as extra ground clearance, high-profile tyres, wheel-arch cladding and chunky bumpers.
Under the sheet metal is HEARTECT – a modular platform that serves as the foundation for a number of modern Suzuki products. You’d think that Suzuki has the so-called “baby SUV” market covered with the likes of the Grand Vitara, Vitara, (the outgoing) Vitara Brezza and the pint-sized Ignis, but the brand reckons there’s a small gap between the Baleno hatchback and the entry-level Grand Vitara.
Suzuki is pitching its newcomer into hotly-contested territory; the Fronx goes up against models such as the Hyundai Venue, Kia Sonet, Nissan Magnite and Renault Kiger (they’re all around the R300k-R400k mark). You should also consider something like the Chery Tiggo 4 Pro, which costs about R310 000.
What’s on offer?
There are 4 derivatives in the Fronx lineup, each of which is powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine – it’s a familiar powerplant that does duty in a number of the Japanese brand’s products. In this application, it develops 77 kW and 138 Nm of torque; customers can choose between 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic derivatives and there are two trim levels available: GL and GLX.
The GL grade covers the basics nicely with a smartphone-compatible infotainment screen, a reverse-view camera and climate control, but if you have the additional cash to splash on the higher-spec GLX, then go for it… You’ll get a raft of additional comfort-, convenience-, as well as safety features.
What’s the Suzuki Fronx like to drive?
Our test route took us deep into the Western Cape’s Swartland region and we drove the Fronx through quaint towns such as Wolseley, Tulbagh and Riebeek Kasteel. The journey incorporated a great blend of open-road, freeway and urban driving so that we could give the model a thorough first assessment.
While outputs of 77 kW and 138 Nm aren’t significant, the Fronx has the advantage of a relatively low kerb weight (of 1 015 kg). With not much mass to propel, there’s no need for a punchy motor, so the Fronx doesn’t feel short of overtaking urge. The K15C engine also has a free-revving nature and doesn’t mind being “spun” through the range, especially if you’re overtaking trucks on the open road.
Our test unit was an entry-level, manual-equipped 1.5 GL and we were impressed with its levels of ride refinement, noise-, vibration and harshness suppression in the cabin, as well as eager performance. The 5-speed manual gearbox is a great example of why self-shifting should never go completely extinct; its shift action is wonderfully light and precise. Perhaps the model would benefit from having a 6th gear to keep the revs down – and improve fuel consumption – while cruising on a freeway or open road.
Speaking of which, Suzuki says the 5-speed manual Fronx has an average fuel consumption figure of 5.5 L/100 km and, despite our enthusiastic driving on the route, the test unit indicated a stable 6.1 L/100 km and we’d bet that most customers would be able to achieve under 6.0 L/100 km without too much effort.
As far as ride quality is concerned, the Fronx’s suspension is pliant – it feels planted on the road – and those 195/60 R16 tyres help to soak up road imperfections. Given the Fronx’s higher centre of gravity, it exhibits a degree of body roll when you corner enthusiastically, but it’s not a dealbreaker at this price point. The steering is light and easy to use, plus you get a fair degree of feedback and engagement.
Given its generous ground clearance (170 mm) and chunkier tyres, we reckon the Fronx should be a great gravel travel companion; we look forward to test-driving it on some farm roads in the near future!
How much does the Suzuki Fronx cost in South Africa?
The Suzuki Fronx is sold with a 5-year/200 000 km warranty and a 4-year/60 000 km service plan as standard.
|Suzuki Fronx 1.5 GL 5MT||R279 900|
|Suzuki Fronx 1.5 GL 4AT||R299 900|
|Suzuki Fronx 1.5 GLX 5MT||R315 900|
|Suzuki Fronx 1.5 GLX 4AT||R335 900|
What makes the Fronx stand out? The dilemma is that Suzuki offers prospective small crossover buyers a plethora of options. If you’re shopping between R250 000 and R400 000, there are no fewer than 5 commendable models that perform (just about) the same function – there’s a lot of overlap. And, if you don’t need the extra ground clearance and faux off-roader look, you may as well stick with the Baleno.
The model’s name may be quirky – it does not roll off the tongue as easily as Suzuki’s other offerings, such as the Swift and Baleno – but there’s no denying this is another enticing good-value vehicle. With well-thought-out trim levels and an aggressive pricing strategy, there is much to like about the Fronx. Yet again, Suzuki has introduced a great-value offering for SA consumers… and there’s more to come.
Original Story by www.cars.co.za