I’m just Jenny from the Fronx: Suzuki’s new crossover has a lot to offer

2023 Suzuki Fronx review South Africa

Published Aug 21, 2023


“Used to have a little, now I have a lot. No matter where I go, I know where I came from.”

These Jennifer Jopez lyrics from two decades ago could very well describe what Suzuki Auto South Africa has achieved in our market in recent years.

In a relatively short space of time, the importer has gone from being a small player in the local market to the third biggest brand overall, behind Volkswagen and Toyota.

And as J.Lo might say, this Japanese brand still seems to know where it came from.

While many other popular and mainstream brands are slowly pricing themselves out of contention, Suzuki continues to flood the market with cars and SUVs that are largely within reach of the average car buyer. And they have certainly been voting with their hard-earned rands, haven’t they?

But what the Fronx?

The Suzuki Fronx is the latest to join the growing family and it has a name which even Suzuki Auto SA admits is strange - it’s derived from “frontier” and “next”, they say.

The new crossover product fills a void in the line-up left by the departure of the Suzuki Vitara Brezza, which is no longer earmarked for export markets in its latest incarnation.

Although also sourced from Maruti Suzuki of India, the Fronx doesn’t directly replace the Brezza. While the latter takes the form of a boxy SUV, the newcomer is a more car-like crossover model that’s perhaps similar in concept to the Subaru XV, only much cheaper - with prices ranging from R279 900 to R335 900.

The Suzuki Fronx is based on the Baleno hatchback, but gets its own, brawnier-looking bodywork as well as a 170mm of ground clearance, making it 20mm higher than the hatch it’s based on but 28mm lower than the Brezza, for what it’s worth.

Pictures don’t seem to do the Suzuki Fronx much justice, we thought after landing in a rainy Cape Town last week for its local launch. The front end, with its slim upper daytime running lights and large grille, resembles the Grand Vitara, while the side and rear angles cut a sportier profile.

Suzuki describes it as a “Coupe SUV” body style. Not sure if we’d take it that far, but it does strike a handsome pose. It also matches the Baleno for practicality, with a 304 litre boot and reasonably good rear legroom.

What’s it like to drive the Suzuki Fronx?

Power, as you would have guessed, comes from the highly familiar K15B normally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine. It offers up 77kW and 138Nm, which is enough to keep it chugging along comfortably, at the coast at least.

It’s available with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox, and it was the former that we got to sample on the first day of the launch, on a route that would take us via the twisty and treacherous Bainskloof Pass, to our overnight stop at Riebeek Kasteel.

If you enjoy driving then the manual is the one for you. It’s easy to drive, slick shifting and dare I say even a little fun to stir through the gears under hard acceleration. It also settles down rather well once you reach cruising speeds.

The auto, on the other hand, is easier to live with than you might expect from an old-fashioned four-speeder. With overdrive engaged, it doesn’t feel under-geared at highway speeds, settling just below the 3,000rpm mark around the 120km/h mark.

With its limited ratios, it can seem a bit frenetic and even noisy when you floor the loud pedal to overtake, but all in all the auto version will provide a comfortable driving experience if you are a more relaxed kind of driver.

As per the Baleno that it’s based on, the Fronx appears to have skimped a bit when it comes to noise insulation. But while we wouldn’t call it quiet, its overall driving refinement is appropriate at the price point.

The ride felt comfortable too and although there is discernible body roll, the handling is as good as you could expect at this level and we felt pretty confident pushing it through those twisty sections of Bainskloof pass in the wet.

Let’s take a look inside

The cabin architecture is largely as per the Baleno, but there is an interesting (synonym for maybe not so lekker) colour scheme that combines black and burgundy trim. It looks good enough on the seats, but the burgundy trimmings on the doors and dashboard are perhaps an acquired taste. As in, probably never to be acquired.

The cockpit area has traditional analogue instrumentation and a touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay is standard, measuring 7.0-inches (17.8cm) in the GL base model and 9.0-inches (22.8cm) in the GLX, which also gets high-definition graphics as well as a 360-degree surround view camera and a head-up display with fold-up glass.

The top model also is also blessed with push-button start, wireless phone charger auto-dimming rear view mirror and rear privacy glass.

But if you don’t need all the trimmings, the GL is more liveable than you might imagine. Standard features include 16-inch black alloy wheels, auto climate control with rear ventilation, as well as cruise control, reverse camera, auto lights and a leather-covered multi-function steering wheel.

Although ESP stability control, ABS and dual front airbags are part of the deal, the GL misses out on the side and curtain-level airbags that you get in the GLX. Given how our intersections are often treated as a free-for-all, we don’t feel Suzuki should be skimping on these.

So is the Suzuki Fronx a good car?

There’s every reason to believe that the Fronx will do well on the South African market thanks to its combination of style, practicality, features and accessible pricing.

SUVs and crossovers are all the rage these days and this one seems to hit a sweet spot.

But if you don’t have to have SUV-type vehicle, the Baleno is arguably an even better value proposition.

Suzuki Fronx Pricing (August 2023)

1.5 GL manual - R279 900

1.5 GL auto - R299 900

1.5 GLX manual - R315 900

1.5 GLX auto - R335 900