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Suzuki S-Cross review

The all-new S-Cross is substantially better than its predecessor (which is a low bar to clear), but is it worth your money over a number of very good alternatives in the medium SUV arena?

Summary

The second-generation Suzuki S-Cross is great value and a big step up from its predecessor, but it still can't match its rivals on the road.
Design
7
Comfort
6
Driving experience
5
Value for Money
8
Safety
8

Summary

The second-generation Suzuki S-Cross is great value and a big step up from its predecessor, but it still can't match its rivals on the road.

Suzuki first launched the S-Cross in 2013, as what was then the brand’s largest SUV/crossover, slightly overshadowing the long-established Vitara. Now we have an all-new version, arriving in showrooms at the start of 2022.

The new car is described as following Suzuki’s ‘all-hybrid’ mantra though it’s only a mild hybrid, the full petrol-electric version not coming until later. It replaces a car that could only manage 57% in our Expert Rating Index, which is quite a way behind the leaders of a crowded sector – so has the new model addressed any perceived failings?

What’s new about the Suzuki S-Cross?

Suzuki is selling the all-new S-Cross on its new and bolder styling, a spacious interior, simplified grade structure and the addition of hybrid technology to its powertrains.

We are also told that the safety specification has been upgraded. There is plenty of passive and active technology, no matter which version you buy. Autonomous braking, blind spot monitors, a rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control come fitted to all versions, along with plenty of airbags.

However, the S-Cross has not yet been independently tested by Euro NCAP so we’ll reserve final judgment until the definitive safety verdict is published.

How does it look?

The new S-Cross comes with a completely revised exterior and this is one of the definite improvements. Certainly the new look, with distinct body creases and angles and a strong v-grille, is far more modern than the overly curvy and definitely over-chromed visuals of the outgoing model.

The wheel arches are bigger and again distinctly more angular, while the slimline headlamps, each with three LEDs, help present a much more up-to-date appearance which compares well with rivals. The strong horizontal line formed by the rear lighting merging into the styling bar also adds to the assertive look.

What’s the spec like?

With the launch of the new S-Cross, Suzuki has taken the opportunity to significantly simplify its grade structure. There is just one engine with either six-speed manual or six-speed auto transmission, and two trim levels now dubbed Motion and Ultra. The main difference between the two is that Motion versions are front-wheel drive, Ultra variants all-wheel drive.

Suzuki is making much of the value proposition for the new S-Cross and certainly it comes well equipped. All versions include smartphone capability through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, keyless entry and starting, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, heated front seats and parking sensors front and rear.

Pay the extra £4,800 for the Ultra and along with the extra propelled axle you also get leather upholstery, a sliding panoramic sunroof, 360-degree view camera and navigation. It’s interesting that Suzuki isn’t following the industry trend with standard nav across its range but in truth this matters little these days as most people simply use Google Maps through their phone.

What’s the Suzuki S-Cross like inside?

There are no major changes to the interior space of the S-Cross which is adequate for the class, though if you are tall and travelling in the back you might feel a little lacking in headroom, especially close to that big sunroof in Ultra versions. No complaints about the boot, though, 430 litres is not bad when compared to rivals.

What Suzuki can’t match its rivals in, however is interior quality. It doesn’t feel horrendously cheap, but it’s not that plush either, certainly suggesting that you are driving something in the lower half of the market.

The dash equipment doesn’t help – yes we have nice digital controls (though not a complete digital driver’s panel) but the nine-inch touchscreen centre console system in our Ultra-spec test car (Motion versions, which don’t have satnav, only get seven-inch screens ) was not exactly user-friendly and slow to react to commands.

What’s under the bonnet?

Simplicity rules again with just one engine available, at least at present, this being Suzuki’s familiar 1.4-litre turbo petrol unit with the brand’s Boosterjet technology that improves both flexibility and fuel efficiency.

Suzuki now has a ‘Hybrids for all’ strategy across its range and its marketing makes much of the fact that this is a petrol-electric car. But, in reality, it’s only a mild hybrid, which is fast becoming the default for all new petrol and diesel cars.

The 48-volt unit basically helps with the torque while the electric motor replaces the engine when idling, with some minor fuel consumption savings. Combined cycle fuel economy is still under 50mpg, however. Suzuki is still waiting for its proper petrol-electric technology – so far the brand’s only full hybrids have been rebadged Toyotas. A Suzuki system should arrive in 2022 but will be offered on the Vitara before the S-Cross gets it at around the end of the year.

What’s the Suzuki S-Cross like to drive?

On the launch event the only models available were to Ultra specification, so all-wheel drive, though we did get to drive with both manual and auto gearboxes.

First impressions on the road is that there is no shortage of get up and go – boosted by its mild hybrid assistance, the petrol engine pulls enthusiastically from around 2,000rpm but still feels refined. Officially, the AWD car claims 0-62mph time of just over ten seconds, whether in manual or auto form, which is highly competitive with equivalent rivals. The FWD Motion variants cut seven tenths off that sprint too.

In terms of transmission, the manual scores over the auto – shifts are easy but distinct, whereas the auto seems to sometimes wait a little too long before shifting up. This becomes all the more noticeable because the engine feels at its most refined in the lower half of the rev range.

Ride comfort is generally good, with bumps smoothed out adequately right up to motorway speeds. But, this car’s driving experience is so innocuous as to be dull – the combination of soft suspension and over-light steering makes for a lack of feedback when cornering.

Verdict

There’s a lot to like about the new Suzuki S-Cross. Certainly for the price you pay its specification, with lots of equipment and a very strong safety package, will make it very tempting for many buyers – few rivals can match it for value.

You will then have to ask yourself if you are happy with it doing the other stuff only adequately, such as its amount of space and its performance on the road. Certainly there are rivals, such as the SEAT Ateca and even the car that started the SUV craze, the Nissan Qashqai, that are more involving and enjoyable to drive.

In probably the most competitive market, the S-Cross is a big step up from its predecessor, competent and excellent value. But it’s by no means a stand-out contender.

Similar cars

Citroën C5 Aircross | Ford Kuga | Honda CR-V | Hyundai Tucson | Kia Sportage | Mazda CX-30 | MG HS | Nissan Qashqai | Peugeot 3008 | Renault Kadjar | SEAT Ateca | Skoda Karoq | Subaru XV | Toyota RAV4 | Vauxhall Mokka

Key specifications

Model tested: Suzuki S-Cross Ultra
Price (as tested): £29,799 (manual), £31,149 (auto)
Engine: 1.4-litre petrol mild-hybrid
Gearbox: six-speed manual, six-speed auto, all-wheel drive

Power: 129 hp
Torque: 235 Nm
Top speed: 121 mph
0-62 mph: 10.2 seconds

Fuel economy (combined): 47.8 mpg (man), 46.3 mpg (auto)
CO2 emissions: 133 g/km (man), 139 g/km (auto)
Euro NCAP safety rating: Not yet tested
TCE Expert Rating: Not yet rated

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.
The second-generation Suzuki S-Cross is great value and a big step up from its predecessor, but it still can't match its rivals on the road.Suzuki S-Cross review