Acumen's motoring maestro reviews the new BMW X4 and the Suzuki Dzire

Senior Management: BMW X4

WHAT IS IT?

The X4 is almost an SUV, but not quite. BMW calls it a SAC (Sport Activity Coupé), and this makes sense when you look at it, and even more sense when you drive it. It’s an X3 that is less practical, more stylish and exclusive, and somehow a whole lot more fun to drive.

WHY THIS?

If you’re spending R843 000 (for the ‘entry-level’ xDrive 2.0i) you want it to look a million bucks, and every model in the X4 range manages to do exactly that. Buying a car like the X4 is also a statement that you want a high, big vehicle with all the attributes of an SUV, but you’re not pretending that you are going to take it off-road, or even off the tar. The X4 is a luxury, sporty sedan with a coupé profile – it just happens to be higher off the ground.

OUTSIDE

As we’ve said, the X4 is all about its looks, that svelte coupé roofline perched atop the sporty chassis of an athletic SUV. This is by no means a subtle car, so if projecting the image of success is important to you or your profession, this could be right on the money. The front is all about intent, the huge family grille dominating everything, but complemented by rakish lights and accentuating body lines running from the lights and grille across the bonnet. But so far this could be any handsome BMW SUV. From the side it is another story – the normal high roofline of an SUV replaced by the sloping rear of a coupé, all of it rounded off by large, sporty wheels.

INSIDE

BMWs generally feel very similar from the driver’s seat, but that’s because the company has spent decades perfecting its own special blend of usability and appearance. The cabin is very driver-focused, everything canted inward to them, while a new 10.25-inch interface with touch facilities and gesture control dominates the scenery. Our test unit also featured a full-colour Head-Up display, which is such a boon when you’re driving to a meeting and at the same time making an important call on the Bluetooth system – safety first, you know. The interior does impart a very business-like impression, with black and silver tones dominating, although you can always assert your individuality by opting for red leather upholstery.

THE DRIVE

The X4 is a driver’s car, as is just about every BMW ever made. From the way the leather steering wheel feels under your grip, to the way the 8-speed Steptronic gearbox shifts, to the way every X4 hugs the tar around corners, this is a car that can be enjoyed. Even the driver assistance systems, like Driving Assist Plus, make the experience better, not being intrusive at all.

A lowered overall height and wider track make the new X4 even more agile than the previous generation, and it is lighter too (by 50kg), culminating in a car that is fun to drive no matter which engine you opt for. Speaking of engines, there are four options: a 2-litre petrol in the 2.0i (135kW/290Nm), a 3-litre petrol in the M40i (265kW/500Nm), a 2-litre turbodiesel in the 2.0d (140kW/400Nm) and a 3-litre turbodiesel (240kW/680Nm) in the M40d, all with the same 8-speed automatic transmission.

FINAL WORD

The X4 is a vehicle that doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t, despite being a blend of sporty coupé and SUV styling. It is a car for the bold, the dominant and the assertive.

GO GET IT

Prices start at R843 000 for the xDrive 2.0i, and all new BMWs sold in South Africa include a 5-year/100 000km Motorplan maintenance contract. Visit www.bmw.com for more information.

Office runaround: Suzuki Dzire

WHAT IS IT?

Most of you will know the Suzuki Swift – the great little hatchback that is fun to drive and good to look at. Well, the Suzuki Dzire is almost a Swift with a boot, although Suzuki claims it’s more than that. No matter its origins, the Dzire is a lovely little sedan that makes great sense for young families or, more relevantly, businesses that need a city runaround.

WHY THIS?

Firstly the brand. Suzuki is doing brilliantly well at the moment, globally and within our borders, and the reason is that they’re making great cars. They’re extremely reliable, and hard-wearing too.

The Dzire, in particular, makes sense (to me) as an office runaround. It is spacious for four adults (maybe five, if Terence from accounting still has his boyish hips) and comfortable without you spending money on things you don’t need.

Also, it’s not a Toyota or VW, which means that it’s less likely to be stolen, and therefore is cheaper to insure. And I still maintain that sedans make more practical sense than hatchbacks. Just think – there are four employees in a car, and they stop to have a cup of coffee on their way back to the office – they can lock their laptops in the lockable boot, and they’re safe and out of sight. Again with the insurance benefits.

OUTSIDE

It may not be flash, but the Dzire almost lives up to its name. It’s cute and peppy, and even with a boot manages to be appealing. The boot is also useful, the capacity a decent 378 litres (26% bigger than the previous model). LED lights front and rear add some pizazz to the fun design, while the Swift DNA is obvious in the design of the front end.

INSIDE

Yes, there are some hard plastics in the cabin and it isn’t the most exciting place to spend your commute, but it is well put together and it should last a long time. The seats are comfy and supportive and the steering wheel is adjustable for height.

As far as comfort features go, the entry-level model has been fitted with air conditioning, power steering and remote entry. It also has electric windows all round, a trip computer and an alarm/immobiliser. But it doesn’t have a radio! The GL models have an MP3 player with Bluetooth and steering wheel controls.

You need to keep employees safe, and all Dzires have two airbags up front as well as the all-important ABS braking system with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution. They also have Isofix fittings for baby seats, but your business probably doesn’t need those!

THE DRIVE

Suzuki hasn’t wasted time or money in supplying a wide range of engine options – there’s a 1.2-litre petrol engine that produces 61kW of power and 113Nm of torque, and it punches well above its capacity while using a claimed 4.9L/100km. You can have either a five-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed auto. These are the same mechanicals that are used in the Swift, and they do the job really well, although without mountain-shifting power or time-warping speed.

The drive itself is comfortable with good ride quality and decent ground clearance, which is a help with potholes and the like, as are the 80-profile tyres. The Dzire isn’t swift and it isn’t a particularly engaging drive, but that isn’t what you’d buy it for – play to its strengths and ask it to do what it’s designed to do and it will do it very competently.

FINAL WORD

Little sedans make such sense for an office car, and there are few better in this affordable segment than the Suzuki Dzire – Suzuki just make great small cars!

GO GET IT

Prices are excellent, starting from R161 900 for the 1.2 GA manual and going up to R177 900 and R189 900 for the GL manual and GL auto respectively. All models are sold with Suzuki’s acclaimed 5-year/200 000km mechanical warranty and a 2-year/30 000km service plan. Visit www.suzukiauto.co.za for more information.

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