By Wayne Gorrett
What are the highs and lows?
✔ Clean, crisp external styling.
✔ Well-set, comfortable ride and good handling.
✔ Generous standard kit level
✖ Dual-leaf panoramic roof restricts head room throughout.
✖ Unless you’re gifted with undue levels of patience, the CVT is best avoided.
✖ The interior, it’s all a bit, you know…Wogan.
So, what is it?
To give the car its official and rather extrinsic name, please meet the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross, a smallish, C-segment SUV to be built at the Magyar Suzuki plant in Hungary. UK pre-orders are open now and it goes on sale from 1st October.
It’s an additional, though late newcomer to the fiercely-competitive small SUV market. Let me say up front that it’s actually pretty good. But do exercise due diligence when choosing trim level, engine and transmissions, as it’s not without issues.
I’m not too sure why Suzuki UK have continued using ‘SX4’ in its official name. Neither the name ‘SX4’ or ‘S-Cross’ appeared on the blue car used in Suzuki-UK’s PR images, nor on the ‘crystal lime’ car taken by me during the recent UK launch event at Fawsley Hall, near Daventry. Retaining ‘SX4’ in its name suggests some propinquity to the still-available SX4 model, which could not be further from the truth.
I agree with the line from Suzuki UK, that the new S-Cross should not be regarded as a direct replacement for the current SX4, as it is entirely new from the ground up. (Then why continue to use the SX4 name?) As is evident, it’s a much bigger, more conventional car than the SX4 (a.k.a. Fiat Sedici) and as such, it now directly challenges the Nissan Qashqai, Skoda’s Yeti, Peugeot 2008 and a myriad of other UK small SUV players.
So, an almost masochistic application of pressure, compounded by Suzuki UK’s aspiring first year S-Cross sales target of 5,000 units. Mind you, it’s not without a few weapons in its armoury…
Is it a looker?
Weapon number one – yes, I think it is. First impressions reveal a sharp, crisp design with the well-proportioned nose set low and the indented grille has that whale-shark Audi look about it. There’s an accentuating hip line running from the front light clusters to those at the rear, which works very well.
Black cladding and edging surround the entire lower edge of the car which alludes to a greater ride height than its actual ground clearance of 165mm (SX3 170mm). Along the lower sides, this is dramatically broken with contrasting silver scuff plates. The overall appearance is smart and fuss-free with an air of honest ruggedness.
Suzuki could well have looked to the Nissan Qashqai for its side profile styling cues and overall proportions – which is no bad thing when you look at the impressive Qashqai sales charts in most markets.
What’s it like inside?
The interior is pleasant enough with emphasis given to practicality and durability over style and functionality. The quality of materials could be better, particularly on the knobs, controls and switches. Ergonomically, it’s sound: the controls fall easily to hand and there are no excessive buttons and switches. However, the infotainment unit has that sad aftermarket look about it and is positioned as lonely as a cloud in the main console. The result is not overly handsome.
Weapon number two – the driving position is good, with comfortable, supportive seats and excellent forward visibility. On the top SZ5 grade (from £19,749) where the unique, two-piece sliding panoramic glass roof is fitted as standard, the interior ambiance is quite bright and cheerful.
However, headroom is borderline adequate in all five seats as occupants taller than five-nine will have their heads cosying up to the roof lining. Suzuki told me that versions without the panoramic roof will provide an additional 30mm extra headroom. If so, then a remedial solution would appear to have been missed back at the design stage by raising the roof 60mm overall. Net result: headroom with the glass roof – very good…headroom without the glass roof, exceptional – and perhaps class-leading.
Across all proportions, the S-Cross is a much bigger car than the outgoing SX4, whereas it used to be around the size of the Nissan Juke, it’s now around the same size as a Qashqai. With the second row of seats raised, load space is a generous 430 litres (20 more than the Qashqai). When row two is lowered, available space more than doubles to 875 litres.
The load area is further enhanced by the false boot floor which is standard throughout the range. It eliminates an awkward step that would otherwise be left when the rear seats are folded. The result is a flush load area which makes the sliding in of bulkier loads a bit of a doddle.
What trim levels are in the launch line-up?
There are four available grades, consisting of SZ3, SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5. Standard on the entry-level SZ3 are seven airbags, ESP, 16-inch alloys, tyre-pressure monitor, daytime running lights, air-conditioning, cruise control with speed-limiter, front and rear electric windows, heated door mirrors and a USB socket.
SZ4 adds 17in alloys, dual-zone air conditioning, front fogs, Bluetooth connectivity and rear privacy glass. SZ-T is aimed directly at the corporate customer and includes satnav with DAB radio, rear parking camera and rear sensors. Top SZ5 grade adds front parking sensors, leather seats, dual-leaf opening panoramic sunroof, auto HID projector headlamps and LED DRLs.
What’s the engine & transmission line-up?
UK engine options consist of only two 1.6-litre engines – a petrol and DDiS turbo-diesel. Both units produce 120PS and are available in manual and CVT guise. Suzuki’s optional ALLGRIP four-wheel-drive system is also available on the top end trims on both engines and gearboxes.
The 1,6-litre, five-speed manual petrol engine will be adequate for most purposes but runs out of puff at the top of the ‘box when encountering slight inclines, requiring more frequent gear changes than usual. Still, it gets the same slick, precise gearshift as the six-speed manual used in the diesel, but has less than half the diesel’s torque, which becomes evident on the road.
You have to work the engine hard to make decent progress and, although it pulls strongly and smoothly from 3,000rpm, by then there’s excessive engine noise intruding into the cabin.
The best-seller of the S-Cross range is tipped to be the 2W(f)D, 1.6-litre DDiS turbo-diesel with a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s a good, solid engine and while it won’t set any off-the-line records, it never sounds like its being worked too hard. Torque weighs in at 320Nm, but in a quite narrow band, which may sometimes appear that its get up and go has gotten up and gone. Still, I’d much rather be busy working the gears on the diesel than the petrol, especially with the aforementioned slick shift.
What’s this ALLGRIP all about?
ALLGRIP is Suzuki’s new generation all-wheel-drive system. It offers four driver-selectable four-wheel-drive modes – auto, sport, snow and lock.
ALLGRIP electronically integrates control of the AWD system, engine, transmission and the ESP, allowing on-the-fly selection of the most suitable mode for prevailing conditions, activated by a simple push-and-turn dial on the centre console.
AUTO mode prioritises fuel economy in normal driving conditions and the system operates 2W(f)D by default, immediately switching to 4WD if wheel spin or loss of traction is detected.
SPORT mode is ideal for twisty roads (we like twisty roads here at WWA) and makes use of 4WD in response to throttle input. At low and mid-range engine speeds, the system will alter the throttle and torque characteristics to best engine response and cornering performance. When SPORT mode is selected, the driver will notice an increased engine speed of 500rpm and responding to greater throttle input, with the ALLGRIP system redirecting 20 percent more torque to the rear wheels.
SNOW mode is best for snowy, unpaved, loose or slippery surfaces and defers to permanent 4WD.
LOCK mode is designed for getting yourself out of that spot of bother you got yourself into because you didn’t select SNOW mode in the first place. The system will extricate the car from snow, mud or sand by sending high torque to the rear wheels continually.
What’s it like to drive?
Weapon number three – dynamically, it’s actually pretty good. The engineering team for the S-Cross also gave us the excellent Suzuki Swift – arguably one of the best-driving superminis available anywhere. Plus, there’s the new AWD variant of the Swift out now, too (we’ll be getting one to try out real soon).
The steering on the S-Cross is nicely weighted and has a confident feeling of pointing where you want it – when you want it. Often in this class, the steering is either too light and consequently a bit fluffy, or too tight offering a stodgy, lazy action. With ventilated discs up front and solid discs at the rear, let’s just say the brakes on the S-Cross are astonishingly good.
Weapon number four – body control and handling are better than expected for its class – and I’ll cohabit a delicate limb with several fellow scribes and suggest that both are better than the Qashqai, the 360 variant of which I drove only a few days ago for another article. Because it’s an SUV, the nature of the beast dictates an element of body roll. The individuates across rival C-segment SUV brands such as Nissan, Peugeot, Skoda et al, are at the mercy of the engineers who tinker with and evolve the car’s chassis dynamics, suspension and damping, to conclude the overall drivability of the car. Here, the good chaps at Suzuki have done an exceptional job on the S-Cross as it behaves very well on the road, with very little float and yaw, no matter how ‘enthusiastically’ it’s driven.
Road and wind noise levels are passable, with some wind noise around the wing mirrors and B pillar at legal cruising speed. It might increase with additional speed but I couldn’t possibly confirm that. Tyre roar, too, is okay and appears to be adequately curtailed, although linear changes in road surface quality are very discernible. All in though, noise vibration and harshness (NVH) is of an acceptable level and long-distance mile-munching on motorways and A-roads should be pleasant and relaxing.
Before I get to the CV (constant velocity) Transmission, I digress with a brief explanation of what exactly CVT is and how it works…CVT is an automatic transmission that uses two pulleys with a steel belt running between them. To continuously vary its gear ratios, the CVT simultaneously adjusts the diameter of the ‘drive pulley’ that transmits torque from the engine and the ‘driven pulley’ that transfers torque to the wheels. With stepless shifting of gear ratios, the CVT can avoid standard auto shift-shock and deliver smooth driving. That’s it – a simple, none-too-technical description of CVT. Now, where was I…
The CVT version of the S-Cross when coupled to the 1.6 petrol engine is difficult to recommend. Pop the throttle with any reasonable sense of urgency and, as the revs kick in, the gearbox converter whines noisily. There is a set of flappy paddles behind the steering wheel for making faux manual changes, but their main purpose seems to be limiting the noise. Which is a good thing.
Is it safe?
Active and passive safety kit on the S-Cross is good, with a number of passenger and pedestrian safety measure in place.
Active safety equipment includes a speed limiter which prevents the car from exceeding a set speed by the driver, ESP, a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) which informs the driver of individual tyre pressures via a diagram in the instrument cluster and delivers an audible and visual warning should any one tyre pressure reduce.
Standard passive safety kit includes seven airbags (driver and front passenger, side and curtain and driver knee), seat belt pre-tensioners and force limiters and a mechanism that limits backward movement of the brake pedal. In addition, bonnet shape, wipers and bumpers are designed to provide impact absorption to lessen injuries for daydreaming pedestrians. Oh, and seemingly deaf cyclists who insist on riding three-abreast.
The SX4 S-Cross has been rated one of Europe‘s safest cars, according to new independent crash testing results from Euro NCAP, receiving the maximum 5-star rating.
What about running costs?
Running costs are expected to be very reasonable with both petrol and diesel engines returning good levels of economy and efficiency. Emissions are well under control for both power plants with just 110g/km (£20 VED) for the 2WD diesel and 125g/km for the 2WD petrol unit with CVT. Service intervals of the S-Cross versus other Suzuki models currently available have been extended to 12,500, reducing cost of ownership.
Residual values are forecast to be good – particularly for high-mileage fleet operators – with CAP quoting a retained value of 34 percent over the conventional three-years/60,000-miles period, for the SZ-T diesel model.
What’s the warranty like?
There’s nothing unique and is all pretty much the industry norm:
> Three-year / 60,000 mile new car warranty > One year’s AA Suzuki Assistance, with 24hr UK/EU roadside assistance, recovery and associated services > 12-year perforation warranty.
So, overall – what do you think?
The new S-Cross offers a pleasing sense of design and true all-weather capability when fitted with ALLGRIP all-wheel-drive option. It can boast exemplary comfort and fine build quality. It’s a solid package all round, with reasonable prices across an generous range.
Careful and balanced consideration should be given to trim, engine and transmission choices. The S-Cross is a good, honest car from a good, honest and reliable car maker. If that appeals to you and you are prepared to accept a compromise or two, then there is no part of the new S-Cross that should be a deal-breaker.
Right, your verdict…should I get one?
The Suzuki S-Cross is easy to recommend with the head, but in an SUV sector packed to the rafters with attractive alternatives, the heart might take a little more convincing.
Common details for the range:
Dimensions: L 4,300mm, W 1,765mm. H 1,575mm.
Turning circle: 10.4m.
Ground clearance: SZ3 170mm, all other grades 165mm.
Luggage capacity: Row two up, 430 litres. Row two down, 875 litres.
Gross vehicle weight: Petrol 1,730kg, diesel 1,870kg.
Max tow weight kg (braked & unbraked): Petrol 1,200 & 400. Diesel 1,500 & 600.
Fuel tank capacity: 50 litres (11 gallons).
Engines – Fast Facts:
1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Power/torque – 120PS / 156Nm @ 4,400rpm.
Transmission: 5-speed manual or CVT, ALLGRIP optional.
0-62mph: Manual 11.0s / CVT 12.4s.
Top speed: 111mph / CVT 105mph.
Stop/Start: N/A, diesel only.
Fuel consumption (combined): 51.3mpg, manual and CVT.
CO2 rating: 127gkm / CVT 125gkm, both to Euro 6.
1.6-litre, 4-cylinder DDiS diesel
Power/torque – 120PS / 320Nm @ 1,750rpm.
Transmission: 6-speed FWD manual, ALLGRIP optional.
0-62mph: 12.0s 2WD, 13.0s ALLGRIP.
Top speed: 111mph 2WD, 108mph ALLGRIP.
Fuel consumption (combined): 67.2mpg 2WD, 64.2mpg ALLGRIP.
CO2 rating: 110gkm 2WD, 114gkm ALLGRIP, both to Euro 5.
Two clarifications from Suzuki UK:
Why SX4 is still in the name: Globally, the car is called “SX4”, which is fine for markets who aren’t continuing to sell the SX4, but not markets such as ourselves who are selling SX4 (old) and SX4 (new). We wanted to call the car “S-Cross” as per the concept and we came to a compromise with Suzuki Japan that we could call it “SX4 S-Cross” and the plan is to eventually go to “S-Cross” only.
Badges: Due to the above, we have had our own bespoke “SX4 S-Cross” badges manufactured. Cars from the factory were built with “SX4” badges which conflicts with our naming strategy so we had the press cars which were the first built minus the badges. As we took delivery of the press cars only five days before the launch, the badges weren’t ready as they were still being made. I’m sure you’ll appreciate, it is better to release 17 cars for evaluations than have to cancel a launch due to missing badges!