The Philippine Star

7 REASONS WHY SUZUKI’S NEW XL7 EXCELS

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SUZUKI’S latest compact model is called the XL7. The “7” part of the model name is obvious — the new XL7 is a seven-seater. But “XL”? Extra-large? Not quite — although parked next to the popular Suzuki models like the Celerio, Jimny, and the new S-Presso, the XL7 looks downright huge.

What the XL7 does or tries to do, is excel. And given the rapidly growing number of compact-sized contenders in the market, exceling, in itself, is a challenge. So does the XL7 actually pull it off? Let’s see.

1 SMART DESIGN

First impression­s: The XL7 looks like no Suzuki before — and not just because of its size. The XL7 is based on Suzuki’s bestsellin­g Ertiga seven-seater, but it sports its crossover garb so well that the two models look vastly dissimilar.

It starts with a completely different front end, which sports upscale LED headlamps that bracket a bold blacked-out grille trimmed with an elegant chrome strip. The chrome strip seamlessly extends into the headlamp cluster, transformi­ng into LED daytime running lights. An SUV- inspired front bumper with black trim and foglight surrounds and a silver scuff plate underneath complete the crossover look.

The side view best shows off the XL7’s adventurou­s aspiration­s. A sharply slanted character line and window beltline and the bold triangular D-pillar give it a dynamic profile. A high ground clearance of almost eight inches give it that offloader look while also endowing the XL7 with real-world ability to traverse big bumps and knee-deep floods. Handy roof rails, protective black plastic moldings on the fender openings and rocker panels (accented with silver), and handsome 16-inch polished aluminum wheels round out the distinctiv­e side view of the XL7.

The rear end continues the offroad theme with a high departure angle and black moldings with silver accents under the rear bumper. A nice touch is the blacked-out tailgate panel that continues the black surrounds of the rear windshield and the third brake light that is cleanly integrated in the trailing edge of the roof. Of course, the piece de resistance is the eye- catching threedimen­sional taillights that sweep to the side of the car and up the D-pillar.

2 SMALL-ENGINE EXCELLENCE

The new XL7 is powered by Suzuki’s proven K15B 1.5- liter DOHC 16-valve VVT petrol engine delivering 103hp at 6,000 rpm and 138Nm of torque at 4,400 rpm. The energetic K15B is known for its smoothness and fuel-efficiency. This powerplant is mated to a smoothshif­ting four-speed automatic. This is a drivetrain that should have no trouble delivering 9 km/ liter ( or better) of fuel mileage, and that’s in city driving. Expect way better mileage on the highway, something I couldn’t try out in this travel-restricted pandemic.

You’d wish for more power or a five- or even six-speed automatic, but many vehicles in this category have similar specs, so it’s basically par for the course.

3 SPACIOUS, VERSATILE CABIN

Inside the pollen filterequi­pped cabin, the XL7 boasts flexible seven- passenger seating with a 199-liter luggage capacity, which can be almost tripled to 550 liters with the third-row seatbacks folded, all the way to a maximum 800 liters with the second-row seats folded as well. The center armrestequ­ipped middle- row seat slides to accommodat­e various heights and folds and tumbles forward with a quick pull of a lever to ease entry to the third- row seats. The 50:50-split-folding rear seats allow any number of passenger/ cargocarry­ing configurat­ions. It has two ISOFIX child seat anchorages and another child seat tether on the side, allowing parents to position their infant or toddler in multiple safe places within the car.

Legroom for all occupants — even for the third- row passengers — is generous, thanks to the XL7’ s lengthy 2,740mm wheelbase. That’s 5mm shy of a Toyota Fortuner’s. Th e seats are upholstere­d in stylish and durableloo­king black fabric with a patterned design in the seats’ center while the dashboard and doors feature sporty carbon- fiber trim. The driver’s seat is height- adjustable and there are aircon vents and controls for the rear passengers.

The sporty flat- bottom threespoke leather steering wheel boasts audio controls and hands- free phone control. A novel feature— and something you’d find only in a sports car—is the digital informatio­n display that shows g-forces when cornering as well as accelerati­on and braking performanc­e (and even power and torque outputs). Not that anyone will be bringing an XL7 for track day anytime soon.

4 HIGH CONNECTIVI­TY AND CONVENIENC­E

Convenienc­e features include rear parking sensor and rear parking camera, advanced multiinfor­mation LCD, automatic A/C controls, and keyless engine-pushstart function. The XL7 has a huge 10-inch infotainme­nt system with six speakers and Bluetooth, Apple Carplay, and Android Auto connectivi­ty. It has 12V outlets for all three rows (plus a USB port on the center console) and even has ventilated cup holders to keep your drinks cool. The cabin of the XL7 has a total of eight cup and bottle holders.

5 TRUE RIDING COMFORT

Riding comfort is paramount in a vehicle designed to bring families and friends on long trips. Far from the jarring ride of pickup-based sevenseat SUV, the XL7 fairly glides on both smooth and broken pavement, thanks to judicious tuning of the front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam with coil springs all around. Riding comfort is also the result of a stiff and rigid HEARTECT platform.

6 GENEROUS SAFETY FEATURES

Suzuki’s new-generation light- yet- strong HEARTECT platform results in a quiet drive due to lowered NVH. With this platform, cabin and luggage area are maximized with the increased available space. HEARTECT, which uses ultra- high- tensile steel, also effectivel­y disperses energy during collision for better safety and gives the XL7 responsive maneuverab­ility.

The XL7 is also big on pedestrian protection with its pedestrian injury-mitigating features. The front bumper, hood, hood hinges, wipers, and even the angle of the windshield are all designed to protect the human body by reducing injuries as much as possible in case of impact with the car.

The XL7 comes with dual airbags backed by ABS with Electric Brake force Distributi­on (EBD), Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Hill Hold Control (HHC), and reverse parking sensors with rear-view camera.

7 GREAT VALUE

LEGROOM FOR ALL OCCUPANTS — EVEN FOR THE THIRD-ROW PASSENGERS — IS GENEROUS, THANKS TO THE XL7’S LENGTHY 2,740 MM WHEELBASE. THAT’S 5 MM SHY OF A TOYOTA FORTUNER’S.

With its long list of standard features and technologi­es, perhaps the biggest surprise about the XL7 is its eminently reasonable price of P1,068,000. That’s a lot of car and a lot of goodies for the money, making the XL7 one of the biggest bangs for the buck, regardless of price point.

The only decision to make now is what color to choose from. (It comes in desirable colorways of Brave Khaki Pearl and Snow White Pearl as well as Magma Gray and Sunrise Orange, both in metallic finish).

Handsome styling, smooth and fuel-efficient drivetrain, a spacious and versatile cabin, generous convenienc­e features, high riding comfort, lots of safety features, and great value for money — this sevenseate­r truly lives up to its name.

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