Suzuki Across PHEV Review
Suzuki has made forays into the hybrid market before, putting mild-hybrid technology in its smaller hatchbacks and SUVs. But the Across is a proper, full-blown plug-in hybrid with a long electric range and a powerful petrol engine.
It’s the product of a tie-up with Toyota that sees the RAV4 don a cunning disguise comprising some Suzuki badges, a lightly revamped grille and a little Across logo here and there. The lineage is obvious, but that only means it inherits some pretty good genes. With Toyota’s engineering know-how in evidence, this is one of the most appealing and most solidly built Suzukis for some time.
Select's rating score* - 3.7 / 5
The Across’ plug-in hybrid system will always dominate the narrative, but the Suzuki has much more to offer than low company car tax bills. This is also a practical, capable family SUV that’s sure to be reliable and well built.
It also promises strong economy, as long as your lifestyle suits the powertrain. If most of your journeys are short hops around town and you can charge it on your driveway at home, it’ll reward you with more than 100mpg. As soon as you stray onto a motorway or try driving as though your hair is on fire, however, that figure will tumble.
Just as importantly, the car comes with bags of equipment, from infotainment systems to safety gadgets, and the single-level range means decisions are few and far between. Simply pick a colour and you’re on your way.
Arguably the most appealing feature of the Across is its huge equipment list. Yes, it has a massive list price of almost £46,000, so you might expect some goodies, but it’s the most luxurious Suzuki we’ve ever tested. You get part-leather upholstery, big alloy wheels and heated seats as standard, along with a nine-inch touchscreen, a reversing camera and a heated steering wheel.
We’re big fans of a heated steering wheel, but the heated rear seats are great for kids on a winter’s school run. But that isn’t the only family-friendly addition. With plenty of safety kit on board, you know the Across is looking after your nearest and dearest whenever you’re out on the road.
The Across is available solely in plug-in hybrid guise, and the powertrain might be somewhat familiar to those with a Toyota RAV4 on the drive. The petrol engine is a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder unit, paired with an 18.1kWh battery pack and two electric motors. Together, the combination churns out 306hp, which gives the Across surprising amounts of punch.
Even in electric mode, the two-tonne SUV feels relatively eager. But with both petrol and electric power working together, it’s downright rapid. The sprint from 0-62mph takes six seconds flat, and that makes it faster than a Volkswagen Golf GTI. It’s also faster than the equivalent Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid or Ford Kuga PHEV.
But the effect is more impressive on the road, where the Suzuki will surprise you with its mid-range grunt. Overtaking is staggeringly simple, with just a split-second’s delay between stamping down with your right foot and an almighty shove in the back. It’s as though the car just plans its power delivery, then unleashes fire and brimstone.
In fairness, this sort of trick doesn’t do anything for refinement. The engine roars manically as it drops down the gears, so it’s a good job you only have to use the throttle in short bursts. That said, the car is very quiet most of the time, and the little EV logo on the dash is the only major indicator of whether or not the petrol engine is working. It starts almost imperceptibly and goes about its business without fuss. There’s a little wind noise, as you might expect from a mid-size SUV, but it isn’t too intrusive – even on the motorway.
For all this, though, the Across appears not to be set up for sportiness or comfort – more a middle ground somewhere between the two. The ride is just a little firm at low speed, perhaps because the hybrid system is just so heavy, but it never jars you too much. And when you’re on motorways or fast A-roads, it just floats along very nicely.
Handling isn’t its forte either, with steering that’s far too light to be engaging and plenty of roll in corners thanks to that tall bodywork. But there’s plenty of grip on offer and the wheels respond well to your steering inputs. All of which means the Across is better in town, where it’s easy to manoeuvre and simple to see out of, than it is on a good country road. But then where will you spend the majority of your time?
You almost certainly won’t spend most of your time on farm tracks, but that doesn’t mean the Across can’t cope. With four-wheel drive as standard and sensible amounts of ground clearance, it’ll deal with pretty much anything you’re likely to throw at it. It’s no Toyota Land Cruiser, but cars like this are surprisingly capable. It’ll certainly cope with snow or muddy fields without a second thought.
Where the Across really shines is around town, because it’s easy to use it without troubling the petrol engine whatsoever. Officially, Suzuki says the Across will manage 46 miles on electric power alone, and we reckon that’s possible if you drive very carefully. With only minor changes to our driving style, we squeezed about 43 miles from a single charge.
That means you can probably do most of your urban miles – the school run, shopping trips and maybe even a commute – on electrical power. As long as you live relatively close to your local amenities, you can get most places without using a drop of petrol. Simply charge the battery overnight and you’ll have 40-odd miles of guilt-free, zero-emission urban driving on tap.
Do that often enough, and you might get somewhere near the 282.4mpg economy figure achieved on the official economy test. Realistically, you probably won’t manage that with any sort of regularity – particularly if you do regular longer drives – but three-figure economy isn’t impossible over the course of a quiet week. On a long motorway trip, you’ll probably get around 40-odd to the gallon from the petrol engine, and that isn’t bad for a 2.5-litre, petrol-powered 4x4 that weighs almost two tonnes. The Across really comes into its own as a company car.
With its 46-mile electric range, it emits just 22g of carbon dioxide per kilometre on the official emissions test. That means company car drivers will pay Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax at just 7%. That’s less than you’ll pay for, say, a Kuga, because once you drop below 50g/km, the tax is determined by electric range. So while a plug-in hybrid Kuga is taxed at 11%, the Across is much more tax-efficient.
Admittedly, the Across comes with a high P11D value – the asking price is almost £46,000 – but you still won’t pay much to run one of these as company wheels. And with competitors costing similar money, the Across is far cheaper to run than many of its rivals.
If you really want to know just how similar the Across and RAV4 are, compare the interiors. It’s like an enormous game of spot the difference, but there’s only one difference: the badge on the steering wheel. Even the gear levers are identical.
But that’s no bad thing, because Toyota has a reputation for building solid and reliable cars with equally solid and reliable interiors. Suzuki, on the other hand, does not normally earn such glowing reviews when it comes to cabin quality. Yes, its cars are generally sturdy, but refinement isn’t always easy to find.
So the Across’ relationship with the RAV4 is no bad thing for Suzuki. This is one of the nicest Suzuki cabins we’ve come across, with sturdy switchgear, impeccable build quality and decent materials. That said, Across also inherits the RAV4’s faults. The components might be well bolted together, but some of the plastics feel a little cheap for a car with a £45,599 starting price. A few of the switches are in odd places, too, and the iPad-style central touchscreen looks like something of an afterthought. Where the Across really suffers for its tie-up with Toyota is on the technology front.
Toyota might make some impressive hybrid systems, but the infotainment leaves plenty to be desired. With modern systems proving so slick, the Across’ touchscreen feels very dated. The graphics are blocky and the menus feel unnecessarily old-school.
That said, it all works quite well, and you get quite a quick response when you press anything. You also get the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity systems, which feel much more intuitive and look far more modern.
Aside from the touchscreen, you also get a digital display in the middle of the instrument binnacle. It isn’t a full digital instrument cluster, because dials showing you the fuel and battery level are, intriguingly, analogue. The speedo is digital, however, and you get plenty of information regarding battery use and fuel consumption. You can also configure the display slightly to show you the information you want, whether it’s energy consumption or tyre pressures. Just like the RAV4.
But there’s one change that’ll really rankle with Across drivers. Unlike the Toyota, the Suzuki doesn’t come with satellite navigation – you have to use your phone. That’s no problem, but the factory has left the navigation system shortcut button on the side of the screen. Press it and you get an error message. Surely it wouldn’t have been that hard to get rid of it and stop teasing us all.
The Across is a spacious car, despite effectively having an engine, two motors and a battery to hide inside its bodywork. There’s bags of space in the cabin, so fitting four adults won’t be a problem – even on longer journeys. Slotting three passengers into the rear seats may be slightly less enjoyable, but it’s fine for short hops.
Boot space is slightly less impressive, but everything is relative. With 490 litres of capacity when all five seats are in use, the boot is unsurprisingly identical to that of the RAV4. That’s more than you would get in a Nissan Qashqai or a Vauxhall Grandland X hybrid, but it isn’t quite as spacious as the hybrid versions of the Peugeot 3008 or a Citroen C5 Aircross.
But comparisons only tell you so much when you’re talking about an almost 500-litre cargo bay. It’s plenty big enough for family life. You won’t have any problem fitting sports gear, school bags or even musical instruments into the boot – and you probably won’t even have to fold the seats down. And because you get an electrically operated tailgate as standard, you can access the space with ease.
The Suzuki Across hasn’t yet been crash tested by Euro NCAP, so it’s difficult to draw solid conclusions about its safety. However, it’s pretty much identical to the Toyota RAV4, which has been through the rigorous safety assessment. That car managed a five-star rating, with particularly strong scores for adult occupant protection. It did well on the child occupant and vulnerable road user protection aspects of the test, too.
If that doesn’t give you enough reassurance as to the Across’ safety credentials, just take a look at the standard-fit safety gizmos. Not only do you get the usual autonomous emergency braking system, which can brake automatically if necessary, but there’s also a system to keep you in your lane on the motorway. Blind-spot monitoring is also standard, giving you a warning if a vehicle is in the blind spots over your shoulders.
The Across also comes with Rear Crossing Traffic Alert, which is designed to help you avoid collisions when you’re reversing out of parking spaces. The system warns the driver if an unseen vehicle is crossing the car’s path, helping to avoid unfortunate collisions. Furthermore, the Across gets radar-linked cruise control as standard, automatically allowing the car to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle in front.
And there’s a fleet of passive safety features, including three child seat mounting points (two of which are Isofix-compliant), curtain airbags down the sides of the cabin and the usual front airbags. There’s even an airbag for the driver’s knee, while the front and outer rear seats have a force limiter to protect you in a crash.
If you want to lease an Across, you won’t have too many decisions to make. Suzuki is only producing one fully-loaded version, but it comes with everything you’ll ever need.
That means you get a nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 19-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights. You get a seven-inch “multi-information” digital instrument display, too, plus the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration systems. And that’s before you look at the two-zone climate control, automatic windscreen wipers or the part-leather upholstery.
Other standard features include a reversing camera, a power-operated tailgate and parking sensors at the front and rear. There seats are also heated in the front and rear, while the steering wheel can be warmed to keep your digits toasty on cold mornings.
All of which means the Across comes with pretty much everything you’re likely to want or need. And that’s just as well, because the Suzuki’s options list is short. Suzuki will sell you some carpet mats and cargo space dividers, but that’s more or less it.
That said, you do get a choice of six paint options, including the lustrous Sensual Red Mica and the deep, brooding Dark Blue Mica. Other than that, it’s a fairly monochrome choice of White Pearl Crystal Shine, Silver Metallic, Attitude Black Mica or Grey Metallic.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the Across’ start in life, its biggest competitor is the RAV4 that gave it life in the first place. There’s almost nothing to choose between the two, so it’ll probably come down to which brand you like best and which subtle difference is easiest on the eye.
Other than that, the Across is up against the usual plug-in SUV suspects. There’s the Ford Kuga that’s glorious to drive, and there’s the miraculously comfortable Citroen C5 Aircross. Or you might prefer a Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4, with its ultra-modern looks and futuristic cabin. Alternatively, you’re looking at the Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid4 or the original plug-in hybrid SUV: the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
You could also consider premium alternatives, which often have strong residual values and competitive lease rates as a result. Mercedes-Benz offers a plug-in hybrid version of the classy, comfortable GLA, while Audi produces a plug-in hybrid Q3. There’s also a plug-in BMW X1 that’s more suited to keen drivers.
Suzuki’s first plug-in car will tick plenty of boxes for plenty of people. It’s roomy, well equipped and well built, not to mention startlingly fast. The plug-in hybrid powertrain won’t suit everyone, but the Across’ long electric range gives it the widest appeal possible. You might not connect with this car on an emotional level, but its solidity and dependability means it will still integrate seamlessly into your life. And that’s the sign of a great family SUV.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Suzuki Across
**Correct as of 01/06/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £4036.07 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.