Small car specialist, Suzuki, is thinking big with the launch of the XL6, which is aimed at a sector of the market where family and leisure are prime considerations – as is the budget available to own an upscale people mover.

The XL6 is a six-seater with the centre row housing individual ‘captain’s’ chairs – keeps the kids out of each other’s space – and which have a range of fore and aft movement that will establish satisfactory legroom both in front and behind them.

A bonus is when they are fully forward and the rear row folded flat, the luggage space available increases significantly, adding an additional dimension to the utility options for this vehicle that fits in below the flagship Grand Vitara in terms of specifications but will offer the largest number of seats of the Suzuki SUVs.

The XL6 has a total length of 4,445 metres and a stretched wheelbase of 2,74 metres – think Ertiga on steroids but without the attitude.

Coping With Altitude

The launch took place in Johannesburg, which was ideal as it would reveal just how the 1,5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine would cope with the energy-sapping altitude, especially the four-speed automatic version.

Using a mix of roads through the Cradle of Humankind and on to Hartbeestpoort Dam, there was enough of a mix that included straights, corners, bends and inclines with an equal mix of traffic and open road.

Driving the GL specification automatic which, I venture to suggest, will be the most popular choice over time, the engine – that also sees duty in the likes of the Fronx – performed well and with less gasping for breath than expected.

Keeping things in perspective and remembering this is a mid-segment vehicle that is not competing against uber luxury monster-engined royalty at the top of the SUV tree, its pace is that much more sedate and thought has to be given to overtaking adventures and the like.

More Than Enough

That said, the 1,5-litre petrol engine with 16 valves, multipoint fuel injection and variable valve-timing delivers 77 kilowatts at 6 000 r/min and 138 Nm of torque at 4 400 r/min, and this is more than enough to duty as designed even on the Highveld.

Pressed hard, the engine does become a tad noisy at the upper end of the rev range but, for the most part of the drive, a gentle nudge to kick down to third was more than enough to take on the various inclines encountered on the route.

The additional length and wheelbase also gave the XL6 a welcoming solid feel on the road, both in terms of keeping the bumps out of the cabin as well as cornering confidence.

This drive did not include a close watch on the fuel gauge, but Suzuki claims 6,1 l/100 km as an average and, judging by how little that gauge actually moved over the distance, that seems to be achievable.

Ventilated Discs

The XL6 rides on a combination of MacPherson front struts with coil springs and a Torsion beam and coil spring rear suspension set-up and all versions have ventilated disc brakes in front, fitted with anti-lock brakes and rear drum brakes.

“The design of the XL6 uses longer horizontal lines, for instance in the integrated roof rails and on the long shoulder line, to emphasise its larger size. It also has some historic Suzuki SUV design cues in the clamshell bonnet and the bonnet hinge insert that hark back to some of the most iconic Suzuki SUVs of the past,” says Brendon Carpenter, Brand Marketing Manager for Suzuki Auto SA.

7-inch Touchscreen

Inside it has a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system with six speakers and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The large screen is also used to display the image from the in-built rear-view camera.

Power windows are standard, as are power steering, front climate control, rear manual air-conditioning, three 12V power sockets and a USB port, Bluetooth phone connectivity, remote central locking, a keyless entry with push-button start and ventilated cupholders in the front console.

Colin Windell – proudly CHANGECARS