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Nissan X-Trail


Suzuki S-Cross

Summary

Nissan X-Trail

If you're a fan of the old Nissan X-Trail - and plenty of you are, it was the brand's best-selling model here last year - then we've got good news for you: this 2017 Series II update is absolutely unchanged under the skin.

Instead, Nissan's freshened up the exterior, added some critical safety and technology features and introduced a new diesel option for its versatile mid-size SUV staple.

Better still,  it costs the same as the old one. Or less. So is more of pretty much the same a good thing?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6.1L/100km
Seating5 seats

Suzuki S-Cross

Suzuki is a well-known brand that makes some of Australia’s favourite cars. There’s the Vitara, the Swift, and the Jimny, but what the heck is an S-Cross?

The S-Cross is a less familiar car that once went by the SX4 name and the Turbo Prestige, which I tested, is the top-of-the-range grade.

So, has this forgotten Suzuki missed out on the ‘magic dust’ the Japanese brand seems to sprinkle on many of its cars to make them pleasantly surprising to drive?

I found out when one came to live with my family for a week.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.4L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.9L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Nissan X-Trail6.9/10

It might not be an X-Trail blazer, but this nip-and-tuck has added some critical technology and safety extras to an already competent package. It's improved in the areas that matter and, CVT aside, is an easy-breezy drive from behind the wheel. For ours, the petrol-powered ST-L makes the most sense, no matter which configuration you opt for, scoring the best of the new stuff without breaking the bank.

Has this refresh put the Nissan X-Trail on your SUV shopping list? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Suzuki S-Cross7/10

I thought I didn’t really understand the S-Cross. Was it an SUV or just a tall car? How can it exist in a line-up where the Vitara can already do the same job really well? Why does it still wear an SX4 badge? Why does it have that face? The answers are pretty obvious to me now – it fits nicely into that zone of having the high driving position of an SUV without being a thirsty little off-roader, yet still offers the space and practicality of one.

Combine that with being enjoyable and easy to drive and it’s hard to understand why sales of it aren’t as high as they should be. Maybe it’s that face? As for the SX4 badge, I’m waiting to hear back from Suzuki on that one.

Is Suzuki a brand that excites you, or just not on your radar? Tell us why in the comments section below.

Design

Nissan X-Trail7/10

It was and still is rather handsome, the X-Trail. It's not pushing any design boundaries, sure, but neither is it controversial or polarising - plus, it's bound to age well, given it hasn't really changed much since 2014, and it still doesn't look old.

This time around, though, Nissan has redesigned the grille, with a new shield that forms part of a now-jutting jawline. There's a new design for the alloy wheels, too, along with new rear lights and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.

Inside, you get what you pay for, with the cheap plastics that lower the tone in the entry-level model replaced with soft-touch and premium-feeling materials (along with a bigger multimedia screen) in the more expensive models.

In the entry-level ST, for example, the 5.0-inch screen is surrounded by a sea of rock-hard plastics, while the top-spec TI offers up a leather-wrapped and raised centre console, and a stitched leather panel lines the dash.


Suzuki S-Cross6/10

I like quirky-looking cars, but the styling of the S-Cross, in places, challenges even me. I’m talking about that gleaming grille, which looks like a big, shiny metal mouth full of teeth (even though its plastic).

Then there are those is-it-an-SUV-or-not looks. The answer is in the name: the S-Cross is a crossover between a hatchback and an SUV. It’s not offensive looking by any means, if anything the S-Cross is quite stately and premium in style – it’s just that face I have trouble moving past.

What’s the SX4 badge doing on the back? Well it’s a mystery. The S-Cross used to be called the SX4, but Suzuki kept the badge, even after it renamed the car. Strange but true. Interestingly, the same SX4 and S-Cross double badge is also worn by the car in Italy, but not India. That bit of dinner-party ammo will be sure to impress your friends. Also interesting is that the S-Cross is front-wheel-drive only – despite what SX4 might suggest.

What are the S-Cross’s dimensions? It’s not big, at 4300mm long, 1785mm wide and 1585mm tall. That fairly diminutive size made the S-Cross easy to park in city streets and also hassle free to pilot in tight laneways.

Practicality

Nissan X-Trail7/10

Nissan refers to its X-Trail as the  "Swiss-army knife of our range -  the one-size-fits-all, family proof car", and so expect a useable, versatile cabin irrespective of whether you opt for a five or seven seater.

All trim levels offer two up-front cupholders and room for bottles in the doors, along with a USB connection and a 12 volt charge point in the centre console, and a second power source in the centre bin. The dials in the driver's binnacle are analogue, but they're separated by a digital screen that displays all the usual trip data.

The backseat (or second row) is hugely spacious for human-sized riders, even if you opt to go three across. But the aircon vents have no temperature controls and there's no power or USB connections points on offer. There is, however, room in the doors for bottles, and two extra cupholders hidden in the pull down divider that separates the rear seats.

Things do feel a bit squished in third row for the seven seat models, though, with the back row definitely reserved for children. It's tight in head and legroom, and adults (with the possible exception of Tattoo from Fantasy Island) will find the going tough.

Five seat models offer 565 litres of storage with the second row of seats in place, swelling to 945 litres with the second row folded flat. Opt for a seven seater, and you'll get a paltry 135 litres with all seating rows in place, growing to 445 litres with the third row folded flat, and maxing out at 825 litres with everything flattened.


Suzuki S-Cross8/10

Small on the outside, pretty big on the inside. That is one of the S-Cross’s strong points. Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with about 20mm of space between my knees and the seatback. Head room back there is getting a little tight for me, though.

The S-Cross is a five-seater but being in the middle in the back isn’t the best seat in the house – then again, I’ve yet to review a single car where it is.

The cargo capacity of the boot in the S-Cross is an excellent 430 litres with under floor storage and two side wells to pop small items that might be wet or things you don’t want to roll around. With the rear seats down that expands to 875 litres to the window line or 1269 litres to the roof.

Cabin storage in the S-Cross Turbo Prestige is great with two cupholders in the fold-down rear armrest and another two up front. There’s a deep centre-console bin with a USB port, another deep bucket in front of the shifter housing a 12V outlet; and big bottle holders in the doors.

Price and features

Nissan X-Trail7/10

Good news for X-Trail shoppers: Series II prices, right across the board, are either identical to, or down slightly on, the 2016 sticker prices.

The range still kicks off with the petrol-powered ST - $27,990-$30,490, depending on your engine choice, $31,990 for the seven seater and $32,490 as a five seat, four-wheel drive (4WD), before climbing to the ST-L ($36,590 for the five-seater, $38,090 for the seven-seater, and $38,590 for the five seat-only 4WD version) before topping out with the 4WD-only Ti ($44,290).

There are still two diesel-powered options on offer (both of which are pencilled in for a mid-year or later arrival), the $35,490 TS, and $47,290 TL.

The ST and TS trims arrive with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and taillights, along with powered mirrors, automatic headlights and some splashes of chrome, including the door handles. Inside, expect cloth seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, push-button start and climate control. A tiny-looking 5.0-inch touchscreen is mounted in the dash, which is paired with a six-speaker stereo, but there's no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto on offer anywhere in the range.

Stepping up to the ST-L trim and you'll add fog lights, roof rails and heated mirrors outside, while your seats are now leather-trimmed, and heated in the front. You'll also score dual-zone climate control and a powered driver's seat. Your entertainment options are now controlled through a bigger 7.0-inch touchscreen, which is sat nav equipped.

The top-spec Ti (or TL, if you've opted for a diesel), gains 19-inch alloys, adaptive headlights and a sunroof outside, along with a boot that opens automatically when you wave your foot under it. Inside, you'll find a heated steering wheel, along with heated seats in the second row. You get a better stereo, too, now an eight-speaker Bose unit.


Suzuki S-Cross8/10

The Suzuki S-Cross comes in two grades: the entry-level Turbo for $27,990 and the top-of-the-range Turbo Prestige, which we tested, that lists for $29,990.

Turbo Prestige; sounds fast and fancy. So, is it worth parting with $2K more, and what’s prestige about it?

Two grand is a lot at this price point, and seeing as you get the same engine, same safety and same in-car tech in both grades, it's fair to say that if spending the extra dough for the Turbo Prestige is going to break the budget, you shouldn't fret.

That said, there are three good reasons for stepping up to the Turbo Prestige: rear parking sensors, auto LED headlights and leather seats. There are also the 17-inch polished alloy wheels, daytime running lights and rain-sensing wipers as part of the step up.

Other standard features on the Turbo Prestige include a touchscreen with sat nav, Apple CarPlay, a six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control and roof rails. Those features, by the way, are all standard on the Turbo, too.

Either way, the S-Cross is good value regardless of which of the two grades you buy.

Rivals? Honda’s HR-V, Mitsubishi’s ASX, Mazda’s CX-3 provide some healthy competition, so check them out, too.

Engine & trans

Nissan X-Trail7/10

There are two petrol engines on offer in the X-Trail range, with a revamped (and, on paper at least, significantly better) diesel engine scheduled to arrive closer to the middle of the year.

The smallest petrol - a 2.0-litre unit good for 106kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4400rpm - is available only in the base model ST, and can only be partnered with a six-speed manual sending its power to the front wheels. Which is bound to make it as popular as curdled milk.

The big seller, then, will be a solid 2.5-litre petrol unit that will produce 126kW at 6000rpm and 226Nm at 4400rpm. It's partnered exclusively with a CVT auto, and can be had in two- or 4WD.

Finally, the late-to-the-party diesel is a fine-sounding 2.0-litre that will produce 130kW at 3750rpm and 380Nm at 2000rpm (significant increases on the outgoing 1.6-litre engine). It's also CVT only, and will only be offered in the 4WD configuration.

Nissan's holding out some hope for the diesel, too. Somewhere around 95 per cent of diesel sales in the segment are 4WDs partnered with an automatic transmission - a configuration missing from the current range.


Suzuki S-Cross7/10

The S-Cross Turbo Prestige has a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine making 103kW and 220Nm, which is a decent amount of mumbo for a sedate-looking car like this.

That’s the only engine on offer for the entire S-Cross range, so don’t think you’re getting more grunt just by steeping up to the king-of-the-castle Turbo Prestige. Likewise, the six-speed automatic is shared across both grades and while it isn’t spectacularly sporty, it’s a million times better than any personality-free CVT automatic that other car companies tend to put in SUVs like this.

Fuel consumption

Nissan X-Trail7/10

The 2.0-litre petrol engine sips 8.2L/100km on the claimed/combined cycle, while emitting 190 grams per kilometre of C02. The bigger, 2.5-litre petrol is actually more efficient, needing 7.9 litres (8.1 in seven-seat models) to go the same distance, emitting 183 grams (188 grams if you opt for the third row) per kilometre. Predictably, ticking the 4WD box hurts economy a little, increasing that number to 8.3 litres and 192 grams per kilometre.

The incoming diesel sips a mere 6.0 or 6.1L/100km, depending on the trim level, and emits 158g/km of C02.


Suzuki S-Cross7/10

After 177km I measured the S-Cross Turbo Prestige’s fuel consumption at the petrol station and found its mileage to be 7.3L/100km. Not bad considering that while some of that was free-flowing motorways, there were many slow kilometres of peak-hour traffic in there, too.

Driving

Nissan X-Trail6/10

Nissan clearly reckons it's onto a good thing with its X-Trail, and so hasn't messed with the formula too much. Or at all, for that matter.

In fact, except for the new diesel engine that's yet to hit our shores, nothing's changed under the skin at all.

But that's maybe not such a bad thing. We spent the majority of our time in the top-spec Ti model, equipped with the bigger 2.5-litre petrol engine and 4WD, and it's a hugely likeable set-up, delivering its power in a constant stream, while its confident suspension irons out all but the worst bumps in the road, and manages to dispose of most corners without transforming the X-Trail into a rollicking high-seas tall ship.

It's confident off-road, too, tackling gravel tracks with ease, while the steering, though weirdly light, is nicely predictable. Nothing there that needed too much updating, then.

But the CVT auto, for us at least, is harrowingly close to a deal-breaker: a whining, whirring disruption that makes smooth progress difficult, instead making you feel like you're constantly ebbing and flowing, surging forward with every light prod of the accelerator.

Elsewhere, though, the X-Trail is spacious and comfortable, and always easy to manoeuvre. And, in the top-spec models at least, it feels polished and premium in the cabin, though some cheaper plastics have crept in below the passengers' line of sight.


Suzuki S-Cross7/10

If cars looked as good as they drove, the S-Cross would be a lot sexier to look at. The engine, the transmission, the balance and feel are far better in the S-Cross than you’d expect or hope for in a car from this segment. Don’t get too excited, it’s no sportscar or limo, just more of a pleasant surprise.

Good visibility through those large windows and a high driving position made the S-Cross easy to pilot through carparks and in traffic. Comfortable, supportive seats, great pedal feel from the brakes underneath my foot, a responsive engine with good torque, plus steering with great feel complete a package that pleased this tester.

That said, I’m not giving it an eight out of 10, because a score like that is reserved for something approaching superb on-road performance.

Safety

Nissan X-Trail8/10

Every X-Trail arrives with a commendable standard safety package, including six airbags (dual front, front-side and curtain bags), along with a reversing camera and forward collision warning with AEB.

Spring for the ST-L trim, and you'll add blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a surround-view camera that detects motion, while the Ti or TL top-spec models score lane departure warning and pedestrian detection, while for reasons known only to Nissan, only the Ti gets Intelligent Lane Intervention, which will counter-steer if it senses you drifting out of the lane, along with active cruise control.

The X-Trail range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2014.


Suzuki S-Cross6/10

The S-Cross received the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in, wait for it… 2013. It’s now 2019 and there’s no way the S-Cross would be given that score now. I’m not saying it’s unsafe - far from it - all the S-Cross is now missing is the advanced safety equipment which has become part of the essential criteria of attaining that maximum score in 2019. I’m talking about auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection and other systems such as blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

That said, the S-Cross has seven airbags, plus ABS, traction and stability control. Just keep in mind that there are other cars for this price with more advanced safety tech.

I trusted the S-Cross with my own child’s life without any hesitation, and you can, too, with three top-tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row for child and baby seats.

Ownership

Nissan X-Trail6/10

The X-Trail is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 10,000km.

X-Trail falls under Nissan's menu-based servicing program, with owners able to verify what needs to be done and cost estimated ahead of each service.


Suzuki S-Cross7/10

Suzuki automatically covers the S-Cross with a three-year/100,000km warranty, but if you service it every six months for five years with the capped-price program, you’ll be eligible for a five-year/140,000km warranty. Check with your dealer regarding the ins and outs of this, however.

According to Suzuki, you can expect to pay $175 each time for the first three services (at six months/10,000km intervals) then $359 for the next, then $175 for the 30-month service.