What the Fr#$@&onx! Suzuki SA launches another budget winner
While the name ‘Fronx’ might not float everyone’s boat, Suzuki’s new B-segment compact SUV has found a sweet spot when it comes to specs and pricing.
Over the past few years, Suzuki Auto SA’s ascent up the bestseller charts has been nothing short of meteoric. Once considered to be a bit of an outsider, posing little threat to the big guns like Toyota and VW, Suzuki has since 2022 been consistently securing the number three spot in the local best-selling passenger car market.
According to Naamsa figures, last year Suzuki Auto SA improved its total sales output by a massive 71.04% year-on-year, selling 47,178 units. This upswing in sales saw the company move from a respectable number six, with a 5.94% market share, to an extremely competitive number three, with an 8.92% slice of the passenger car market.
One has to ask, what has driven this unprecedented growth?
While many manufacturers were experiencing stock and availability of parts issues during the Covid lockdown, the stream of Suzukis flowing into the country was consistent and strong.
Most of the Suzuki nameplates that make their way on to local shores are built in India and manufactured at various plants owned by the Japanese company’s subsidiary, Maruti Suzuki.
And while the premium market keeps nosediving due to customers’ financial constraints, Suzuki Auto SA has managed to offer a vast selection of budget-friendly, competitively priced products like the Swift, the Baleno, the Jimny, the Ignis and Espresso.
Now there’s another attractive offering in the popular crossover B segment – the Suzuki Fronx. At the press briefing last week, its strange name was a hot topic of conversation.
According to the local Suzuki team, the “Fron” refers to the “new frontiers” that the vehicle is crossing in this particular segment, while the “x” indicates that the Fronx is “a crossover between a coupé and SUV”.
The think tank that came up with its nameplate created a single word by combining two terms – language buffs will know that’s called a portmanteau. I guess sometimes a name is so weird and nonsensical, that it’s for this very reason that it sticks.
Suzuki’s bizarrely named new baby shares many of its design elements with the Baleno, but it’s one of the manufacturer’s first models based on Suzuki’s “Crafted Futurism” design language.
The Fronx’s bonnet has been heightened compared with the Baleno; its body panels have been reshaped, and it shows some swagger with a coupé-like sloping roofline. It measures just under four metres, with an improved ground clearance of 170mm to give it that crossover appeal.
There are two spec levels – the GL and GLX – both are available in a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed auto transmission, all powered by a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder K15B petrol engine, generating 77 kW and 138 Nm.
The Fronx shares the same “HEARTECT” platform as the Swift and the Baleno. First introduced in 2014, this platform utilises ultra-high tensile steel that’s lighter than ordinary steel. It’s supposed to improve safety in the event of a collision and Suzuki also claims this platform increases ride quality and handling.
The Fronx straddles a popular segment, competing with the likes of the Kia Sonet, Hyundai Venue, Nissan Magnite and Renault Kiger.
Suzuki has clearly done its homework when it comes to offering spec and attractive pricing to throw the gauntlet at its rivals. There are attractive add-ons in the top-of-the-range GLX, like wireless smartphone charging, a 360-degree camera system, a head-up display and a reverse camera. Even the GL gets stuff like automatic climate control, cruise control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and roof rails.
While its boot space of 308 litres isn’t the best in the segment – the Renault Kiger has 406 litres – the safety systems, which include ABS with EBD, electronic stability control and hill-hold control, outshine a number of its competitors.
Like most of its rivals, the entry-level GL has dual front airbags but the top-specced GLX upgrades to six airbags, the only vehicle that offers this in the segment.
I chose to drive the 4-speed GLX on launch and I must admit, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed as I am not a huge fan of these 4-speed auto transmissions.
However the engine is well-tuned to its gearbox and on our route that included highways and mountain passes in pretty wet conditions, there was a good level of driver engagement.
The steering felt light but sharp and the impressive suspension managed to absorb some fairly bumpy roads. Once at speed, overtaking was a breeze, and while there was slight body roll on the twisty passes, the Fronx showed impressive stability on rain-soaked roads. Given its good ground clearance, I’m looking forward to taking it on gravel.
When it came to fuel economy, consumption was slightly higher than the manufacturer’s claim of 5.7 litres/100 km – we managed to average around 6.5 l/100 km. In India there’s also a more frugal turbocharged 1.0-litre mild-hybrid powertrain with a 6-speed auto transmission on offer – I’d love to see that model in SA.
Suzuki Auto SA has truly made a mark since it opened its doors in 2008. It now has 97 dealerships throughout SA and on my car show on Cape Talk every Saturday morning, it’s regularly praised by listeners for good service and availability of parts.
With the Fronx promising to be a volume-seller, it’s entirely possible that by the end of the year, Suzuki may overtake VW to claim the number two spot in the passenger car market. However, Suzuki needs to make hay while the sun shines.
As part of the two Japanese companies’ model-sharing agreement, top-selling Toyota plans to reveal a new car based on the Fronx later this year. It’s rumoured to be called the Urban Cruiser Taisor.
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.
This includes a 5-year/200,000km warranty and a 4-year/60,000km service plan. DM