What is it? The new Suzuki S-Cross is a major facelift to C-segment crossover
Key features: New more efficient petrol engines, all offered with 4WD
Our view: Not as dynamically efficient as some rivals, but improved efficiency and excellent value for money
Type of review: Full road test
When Suzuki replaced its previous SX4 with the S-Cross in 2013, the new model was described as the brand’s first C-segment crossover and was clearly aimed at capitalising on a mushrooming market. Its styling was deliberately aimed at a more road-friendly look, distinguishing it from the similarly-sized but more off-road pitched Vitara.
Three years on, the S-Cross is getting a significant makeover, the most prominent part of which is the replacement of its previous 1.6-litre petrol engine with a choice of new and more efficient Boosterjet units, of either 1.0 or 1.4 litres.
The 1.6-litre diesel also remains available, meanwhile, and all three engines can be specified with either front or all-wheel-drive, the petrol units with manual or auto transmissions.
Other changes on the new model include revisions to the styling, especially at the front, a 15mm addition to the ground clearance and a redesigned interior.
Design – a more distinctive, SUV look
The major changes to the S-Cross styling are at the front end, which gets a more upright look with a significantly more prominent grille – the curved horizontal slats are gone, replaced by vertical versions with chrome detailing and surround. The lamps both front and rear are redesigned, the fronts sitting under the clam-shell design bonnet.
The aim is clearly to give the car a more distinctive, more SUV look – one of the reasons for modest S-Cross sales figures in the past three years is believed to have been the innocuous visual profile it presents. It’s still not as distinguishable amongst the crossover masses as is the Vitara, but it is an improvement on the previous version.
The S-Cross interior has always been practical and reasonably well appointed, and subtle updates serve to improve it. The instruments are big and clear, the satellite navigation screen, standard on the top two models SZ-T and SZ-5, of particularly good quality and easy to use.
There is plenty of adjustability in the driver’s seat and steering wheel, making it easy to get comfortable, and fit and finish is generally of acceptable quality, though uneven road surfaces did encourage the odd rattle from the top of the dash in our test vehicle.
Interior space, as one expects in a crossover, is plentiful, the S-Cross easily able to accommodate five adults in comfort. The driving position is high and with an excellent view all around, and the only area of criticism is the rear-seat headroom, which is slightly compromised by the sloping roof line. The 430-litre boot is bigger than many rivals and extends to 875 litres with the rear seat backs folded down. It also includes a useful two-level floor to hide valuables out of sight.
Engines and drivetrains – impressive efficiency
The new engines are the headline change to the S-Cross – the previous 1.6-litre petrol units making way for a pair using Suzuki’s Boosterjet direct injection turbo technology, promising power and torque of much larger-capacity units alongside significant fuel economy and emissions savings.
Our test car came supplied with the three cylinder 1.0-litre Boosterjet, first seen in the much smaller Baleno hatch. Now an engine of just one litre capacity might sound anathema in the much heavier surroundings of a crossover, and at 111hp it is seven horses less powerful than the 1.6-litre. Yet it offers nine per cent more torque with 170Nm, while fuel economy is improved by 10 per cent, CO2 emissions cut by 11 per cent. This puts the Suzuki ahead of many of its mainstream rivals.
The 1.4 is even more impressive – 17 per cent more powerful, with 41 per cent more torque, than the 1.6, yet still four per cent more economical.
While both engines are compact, lightweight units, the major clue to their efficiency is the use of a small displacement, high torque turbocharger. Its wastegate valve closes to create higher boost pressure under load but stays open during normal driving, reducing pumping losses and achieving better power and fuel efficiency.
On the road – well-behaved and comfortable
The engine does rattle a bit into life on first pressing the start button but soon settles down to a smooth idle. And this refinement remains as one accelerates to motorway cruise levels, the three-cylinder unit’s audio note virtually unnoticeable even at high speed.
The little unit will take a two-wheel-drive S-Cross through 62mph from rest in 11 seconds, our 4WD test model following a second behind. While this is not exactly rapid, it’s perfectly adequate and certainly feels eager enough. The diesel-like torque delivery, its 170Nm maximum served up between 2,000 and 3,500rpm, makes for great flexibility, particularly in busy town traffic.
The only significant change to the S-Cross chassis has been to raise the ride height by 15mm to 180mm, to give it more of the look of an SUV. Thankfully this does not make any difference to the car’s very creditable on-the-road performance.
The steering is well weighted, making it easy to place the car in corners, with the extra grip of the all-wheel-drive system helping to pull through bends when pushing on.
Ride comfort is good on smooth surfaces, though less perfect roads easily unsettle the car, with bumps and dips felt in the cabin. All in all though the S-Cross behaves very well on the road.
Equipment – the S-Cross scores
The S-Cross certainly scores on its specification. There are three trim levels, SZ4, SZ-T and SZ-5, and even entry-level models come fitted with such niceties as seven airbags, ESP, Bluetooth connectivity, a DAB digital radio, air conditioning, Daytime Running Lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control with a speed limiter, air conditioning and heated door mirrors.
At a price that buys little above entry-level on some rivals, our mid-range SZ-T version included satellite navigation, front and rear parking sensors with a rear camera, dual zone air con, LED projector headlamps, 17-inch polished alloys, front fog lamps and privacy glass. Suzuki expects this version to appeal particularly to fleet buyers.
Finally go for the range-topping SZ-5 and the standard equipment includes one of the largest sunroofs in the segment, made in two glass sections and opening across both front and rear seats. Leather heated front seats are included too, as is radar-assisted brake control.
The Suzuki S-Cross summary
The S-Cross has never sold as well as its highly-successful Vitara sister, possibly due to its ‘normal’ looks that don’t stand out from the crossover masses. The latest package of changes will certainly help its cause topped by the new engine that is a definite significant impovement. But the basic premise of the S-Cross remains – for pure driving enjoyment it doesn’t quite come up to rivals such as Skoda’s Yeti, but in terms of value, what you get for your money, it leaves many rivals behind.
Suzuki S-Cross key specification
Test Date: October 2016
Model Tested: Suzuki S-Cross 1.0 Boosterjet SZ-T 4W
Options Fitted: Sphere blue metallic paint (£430)
Price: £21,299; £21,729 with options
Insurance group: TBC
Engine: Petrol 3-cyl 988cc.
Power (hp): 111 @ 5.500rpm.
Torque (Nm): 170 @ 2,000-3,500rpm.
0-62mph (sec): 12.0.
Top speed (mph): 109.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 53.3.
CO2 emissions (g/km): 119.
Key rivals: Nissan Qashqai, Vauxhall Mokka, Hyundai Tucson