Compact SUVs, small SUVs, midsize SUVs, regardless of your preferred terminology to categorise cars in or around these segments, business is booming.
In many ways, small is the new black. It’s now fashionable to be seen in a car that doesn’t cause an eclipse as it moves through traffic. When it comes to the old ‘good things come in small packages’ line, no brand does it quite like Suzuki.
Suzuki has a cracking range of small cars, we have spent time in the new Ignis and the brilliant new Swift Turbo, these experiences serve as the evidence that Suzuki is doing good things.
This brings us neatly to the S-Cross, a car that seems to struggle for airtime in a growing segment. It’s something of a forgotten car in Suzuki’s current range.
On test here is the top-spec S-Cross Turbo Prestige which is competitively priced at $29,990 drive-away.
A range-topping variant should come with plenty of fruit and the S-Cross is well stocked. 17-inch polished alloys, dual-zone climate control, leather trim, satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay are all standard.
With the exception of the chrome teeth, the exterior of the S-Cross is rather conservative. The proportions are great, but in no way does it look for attention. It’s a very straight-faced car in a family of fashionistas.
Size is the key term to keep in mind when analysing the S-Cross. Like the Nissan Qashqai, the S-Cross with its 2600mm wheelbase (which is only 60mm shorter than a Honda CR-V) is larger than the majority of rivals in the small SUV segment. This translates to far more usable interior space than what is available in models like the Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-3. It’s not just a tightly packed raised hatchback.
Suzuki is a brand that generally looks to liven things up by showing a little flair when it comes to interior design. Strangely, this isn’t the case with the S-Cross. There’s a level of maturity to the interior that is at odds with other Suzuki models. The styling is far too sensible. The A-Team responsible for the Ignis and Swift interiors need to quarterback a rethink of the cabin’s absence of colour and texture.
Now just as I was beginning to think the whole S-Cross experience was becoming bland and very un-Suzuki like, the start button was pushed.
Suzuki is the Jedi Master of small turbo engines and powering the S-Cross is a 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbo petrol engine, it’s good for 103kW of power and 220Nm of torque. The engine is much stronger than the spec sheet suggests, there is plenty of low down oomph to get you moving. It also revs smoothly and cleanly.
Assisting the performance of the engine is the lack of unnecessary bulk. Like all Suzuki models, the S-Cross isn’t a porker.
Putting the power down is a traditional six-speed torque converter automatic. It does such a brilliant job, we again needed to pause and ask why there is a need to adopt new technology.
Where the S-Cross exposes it’s hard to uncover personality is the driving experience. The winning combination of a great engine and transmission without excessive weight to contend with gives the car some legitimate performance and handling credentials.
The steering is sharp and the car’s chassis tune leans heavily towards agility. The S-Cross is a rather playful car when the mood strikes. Body control in the corners is excellent, there’s a very planted feel to the car’s manoeuvrability despite it being so light.
Driver’s wanting to feel that connectedness to the road which is hard to come by in the majority of SUVs will find the S-Cross extremely likeable. In a market littered with overly soft suspension and steering, the S-Cross has a very distinct ride and handling calibration that will be an instant hit with buyers chasing an engaging drive.
When the time comes to suffer through city traffic while navigating the perils of the daily commute, the S-Cross can provide a relaxed ride. There’s a balance between sport and comfort that makes the S-Cross a very usable SUV. It can appease all sorts who give it an opportunity.
This is a car that needs to be driven to appreciate its skillset, the S-Cross won't jump out at you on the dealership forecourt.
Now for those wanting to go a step further and do battle with nature, the S-Cross is front wheel drive only making the road its natural habitat.
Our test covered a mix of driving situations, covering over 700km. We returned an excellent fuel consumption figure of 6.2L/100km, a result nearly 2.0 litres better than we achieved with the similarly sized Qashqai.
Suzuki offers a capped price service program for the S-Cross, however, the intervals are set to old-school 6 month/10,000km intervals. Over the first five years of ownership, maintenance costs average out to $235 for each visit back to the dealership.
Warranty is another area of the ownership proposition that Suzuki needs to re-examine. Average is the best way to describe the three year/100,000 kilometre warranty that supports the S-Cross. At present, plenty of rival manufacturers are stumping up five and seven-year warranties.
The S-Cross is something of an enigma, it’s a car that initially seems out of place wearing a Suzuki badge. It’s a car that at first glance seems ordinary, just another SUV in an ever-growing market. The S-Cross is an introvert, the funky DNA and the dash of panache found in the styling of Suzuki’s other models isn’t present here.
This is a car about the drive and a new perspective emerges from behind the wheel. The S-Cross is an SUV to be shortlisted if you enjoy a sportier drive. The engine, transmission and chassis combine beautifully to deliver a lively and thoroughly entertaining driving experience. Steering and suspension are also top-notch regardless of the conditions. Then there’s the economy of the turbo engine.
If you can put the grown-up styling to one side, the S-Cross is one of the highpoints of the small SUV segment. It delivers the now familiar Suzuki driving characteristics that make it a must drive if you’re shopping for a car of this size. It might not carry the same nods to youth as other Suzuki models, but under the sheet metal lies the fire only found in middle-aged teenagers.
2017 Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige Specifications
Price from $29,990 drive-away Engine 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbo petrol Power 103kW @ 5500rpm Torque 220Nm @ 1500-4000rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 5.9L/100km Tank Capacity 47L Length 4300mm Width 1785mm Height 1585mm Wheelbase 2600mm Turning Circle 5.4m Ground Clearance 180mm Kerb Weight 1170kg Service Intervals 6 months/10,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre
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