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Suzuki was making SUVs way before we could even bring ourselves to actually call them SUVs. The Suzuki (Jimny) Sierra and Vitara were carrying out small-SUV duties decades ahead of any of their current rivals. So, you'd reckon the Japanese brand knows a thing or two about how to make a good small SUV and that the new Suzuki S Cross would be well worth a look, right? So, we've road tested the latest one.
When we say S-Cross, it's essentially the same car that debuted in 2014, but this one has been updated with new looks and a different engine. Suzuki also changed the naming of the grades – there are now only two - the base spec which is called Turbo and the top-spec Turbo Prestige which we've tested here. You can't get the S-Cross with all-wheel drive any more, as well.
If you were going to compare the S-Cross to anything else then size it up against a Mitsubishi's ASX, or Honda's HR-V, or even a Toyota C-HR if you're feeling like a quirky take on the small SUV thing.
So, what the heck is an S-Cross trying to be, and what's it like to live with? What impressed us and what took the S out of S-Cross, and just made us cross?
|Suzuki S-Cross 2017: TURBO PRESTIGE|
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Suzuki has the small, under $40K SUV segment covered like no other manufacturer. There's the tiny odd/cool Ignis newcomer, the hardcore little Jimny Sierra off-roader, the Vitara and the larger Grand Vitara.
It's great that it no longer looks like one of those weird fish that lives down in the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean.
Where does the S-Cross fit in? Well the S-Cross's dimensions show it to be 4300mm long, 1785mm wide, 1585mm tall with a ground clearance of 180mm. The Vitara is 125mm shorter in length, 10mm narrower but 25mm taller with a smidge more ground clearance. The Grand Vitara is 200mm longer than the S-Cross, 15mm wider and a 110mm taller.
So in terms of size the S-Cross fits nicely in the Vitara and Grand Vitara sandwich.
The new looks are an improvement. The turned-down nose of the previous car was replaced by a stronger looking more angular face with smaller headlights and a fairly grandiose grille.
It's great that it no longer looks like one of those weird fish that lives down in the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean, but it's still not as pretty as a Vitara or a heap of other small SUVs.
You can pick the top-spec Turbo Prestige from the Turbo by... well, there isn't much difference. Only the Turbo Prestige's polished alloy wheels and LED headlights give it away.
The Turbo Prestige's cabin is simple but stylish, and you can spot the top spec by the leather seats.
Big and wide-opening rear doors make getting in and out easy, or for putting kids into cars seats. The leg and headroom in the back is also excellent – at 191cm tall I can sit behind my own driving position with about 40mm of space between my knees and the front seatback.
There are giant bottle holders in all doors, two cup holders in the fold-down rear centre armrest and two more up front. Under the centre console armrest is a deep storage bin and there's a giant glove box, too.
The boot space is divided into two levels with a second area hidden below the boot floor.
The S-Cross Turbo Prestige lists for $29,990, which is $2000 more than the base-spec Turbo. At the time of writing an "ongoing" driveaway price of $30,990 was being offered, so check to see if that's still happening.
You might also want to think about if you really need the Prestige Turbo spec because the base grade comes with almost exactly the same standard features. There are 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a touchscreen with sat nav and reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker sound system, proximity unlocking and ignition button.
All the Prestige Turbo gets over the Turbo is the LED headlights, rear parking sensors, auto headlights and auto windscreen wipers, polished alloys and leather seats.
Both grades are great value for money.
The best change Suzuki has made to the S-Cross is dumping the 1.6-litre engine and replacing it with this new 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol which makes more power (103kW) and torque (220Nm).
The new turbo engine is good, with plenty of oomph.
The next best thing Suzuki did is pull out the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and give it a six-speed automatic torque converter transmission, which doesn't drone-on like the previous unit. There's no manual gearbox offered on the S-Cross, by the way.
Suzuki says the S-Cross should drink regular unleaded petrol at an average rate of 5.9L/100km. I obviously hammered our test car with 11.8L/100km recorded after mainly urban duties – more highway driving would lower that, however, closer to the Suzuki's serving suggestion.
The S-Cross doesn't have the refined driving feel that its kind-of-classy looks might suggest, but after getting over the steering which didn't always want to centre itself (and made me a bit cross) and a ride which seemed too hard, I found there was still much to like. The new turbo engine is good, with plenty of oomph; the transmission is smooth and those paddles on the steering wheel are handy for shifting quickly when you want to.
Front-wheel drive means this SUV is really for the road only, although the 180mm of clearance is far more than a regular car.
I found that on a wet road there was a loss of traction to the front wheels (especially up hills) with harder acceleration, but that's common in a small and light front-wheel drive SUV, and the traction control was quick to step in.
Sure the driving experience isn't as impressive as some of its rivals, but it's still enjoyable and easy to drive.
Suspension set-up feels excellent with great damping and such good travel that even the killer speed bump section of my test loop couldn't cause the S-Cross to bottom-out when nearly everything else does.
And I swear it's those Continental ContiEcoContact (215/55 R17) tyres which give it the harder ride. They are great tyres with excellent grip and supposedly good for fuel efficiency, too, but other SUVs I've driven lately with the same tyres have had that harder ride as well.
While handling is fairly good, as well, the driving experience is still at the more basic end of the spectrum.
3 years / 100,000 km warranty
The Suzuki S-Cross has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating. Keep in mind, though, this is based on the original version from 2014 and the S-Cross doesn't come with the high level of advanced safety equipment that you'll find on many of its rivals, such as auto emergency braking (AEB).
For child seats there are three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts across the back seat.
The S-Cross is covered by Suzuki's three-year/100,000km warranty. Suzuki also has a five-year servicing plan which caps prices at less than $300 per service each year. Suzuki recommends servicing at six month/10,000km intervals.
|GL (4x2)||1.6L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$15,620 – 20,020||2017 SUZUKI S-CROSS 2017 GL (4x2) Pricing and Specs|
|GL (4x2)||1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$12,980 – 17,270||2017 SUZUKI S-CROSS 2017 GL (4x2) Pricing and Specs|
|GL NAVI (4x2)||1.6L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$14,960 – 19,690||2017 SUZUKI S-CROSS 2017 GL NAVI (4x2) Pricing and Specs|
|GLX (4x2)||1.6L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$17,820 – 22,550||2017 SUZUKI S-CROSS 2017 GLX (4x2) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||7|
“The improvements to the engine, transmission and looks make it a better S-Cross than the previous version. Sure the driving experience isn't as impressive as some of its rivals, but it's still enjoyable and easy to drive. The great value and practicality is what the S-Cross is all about. The nearly identical base-spec Turbo is the best reason not to step up to the Turbo Prestige but the rear parking sensors , leather seats and the excellent LED headlights which come with the higher grade are nice additions.”
Would you chose a Suzuki S-Cross over one of its small-SUV rivals? Let us know what you think in the comments below.