Suzuki S-Cross VS Mitsubishi ASX
- LED headlights
- Easy and fun to drive
- Leather seats
- That face
- No AEB
- Same engine as the base grade
- Lots of space
- New nose looks better
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Buzzy pedals
- Lumpy ride in town
- Just about everything, actually
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?
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.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The world is chock-a-block with enduring mysteries. The Loch Ness Monster, people who consider Taylor Swift's anodyne pop 'classic' material and the eternal descent of global politics.
To that I will add (perhaps unkindly), the Mitsubishi ASX. It's old - very old - and competes in a market full of interesting, stylish and gadget-stacked offerings from other makers. Including, oddly enough, Mitsubishi's own Eclipse Cross.
Being the newest member of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, there's a massive toy box of stuff to pick from before hitting the go button on an ASX replacement. Or, as it turns out, another one.
Thing is, in Australia at least, the ASX doesn't need a replacement, it's walloping everything in its class. For 2020, the evergreen, ever-daggy ASX gets a(nother) facelift, a few spec tweaks and, one expects - nay, hopes - renewed vigour.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
If I seem like I've been too hard on the manual ASX, you may well be right. It's really not my kind of car, but I know Mitsubishi can do better. What winds me up about it is that the company knows it doesn't have to, because the automatic ASX continues to fly off the forecourts.
Of course it doesn't in manual form and it's fairly easy to see why. It's not particularly cheap, doesn't have a lot of stuff (apart from a tonne of space) and I'd be surprised if dealers even mention its existence to shoppers.
If your heart is set on an ASX, skip the manual and use the saved energy to talk a dealer down the extra to get a CVT version. And there's a new mystery to add to the collection - I just recommended a CVT over a manual.
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.
The first ASX was a style-free zone. It had virtually no adornments. The styling was detectable only with a device with the sort of sensitivity that can detect an alien burping on a planet circling Alpha Centauri.
Did the job for a few years before another going-over made it look almost contemporary, but it stuck with the gawky profile.
This latest update puts a whole new, ill-fitting front end on the ASX but it looks a heck of a lot better. The 'Dynamic Shield' face from elsewhere in the range makes the car look fresh out of the box from the front, with Triton-esque slim headlights and a properly chunky look.
The new clamshell-style bonnet is nifty, or would be if the panel gaps weren't all over the place.
Then you see the side and rear and realise it's just the same old ASX with a bit of makeup on and new LED tail-lights that, to be completely fair, would look pretty good on any other car.
Amusingly, Mitsubishi has also slapped the Dynamic Shield on the Mirage - it really works on the ASX, it really doesn't on the tiddly hatch.
The cabin is the same old thing, with a natty new pattern on the seats that looks quite fetching, and a couple of new bits of trim here and there.
Ahead of the shifter is a piece of trim with an unexplained circular cut-out that is filled with the same patterned plastic. It really irrirates me and has been there for years, but at least the weird cupholder with a little sign that told you not to use as a cupholder is gone.
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.
The one thing right about the Mitsubishi is the space (cue reverb effect).
For a compact SUV, it's huge inside. Front and rear passengers luxuriate in reasonably comfortable seats with plenty of head and legroom. Front and rear rows each have a pair of cupholders but only the front doors will hold a bottle.
Boot space is very generous, starting at 393 litres and with the rear seats out of the way, 1193 litres. If you end up choosing another ASX, be aware that the Exceed's fully-hectic sub-woofer is so fully hectic it swallows up 50 litres to deliver sick beats.
Price and features
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.
One of the weirdest things about the ASX is that it's not very cheap, with one exception - the entry-level ES with the manual transmission, landing at $23,990. Or, more accurately, $24,990 drive-away at the time of writing.
I hold a deep suspicion that it won't take much arm-twisting to reduce the price considerably. In fact, a slightly stern look should do it.
The ES spec includes 18-inch alloys (where competitors will sling you steel wheels with hubcaps), a four-speaker stereo, climate control, reversing camera, remote central locking, cruise control, LED headlights, leather wheel and shifter, power folding rear vision mirrors and a space-saver spare. Slim, but useful pickings.
A new 8.0-inch screen sits proudly in a new-looking centre stack with DAB+, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The sound is pretty ordinary and the Mitsubishi software has a very 1980s Stranger Things feel about it, but the hardware is okay and works well with smart phones.
You get the distinct impression Mitsubishi has learnt what 'just enough' means for its buyers. That attitude permeates the whole car.
There are seven colours, one free (white), five for a puzzling $740 and one for a scandalous $940. For comparison, Mazda's (beautiful) premium colours are $300 and there are just two of them.
Engine & trans
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.
The dowdy 2.0-litre four-cylinder is unchanged (again) for 2020, with 110kW/197Nm. Those figures are class-competitive because as I always say, there appears to be legislation governing naturally aspirated compact SUV power outputs.
The basest of base specs has a five-speed manual gearbox (they're more common than you think, so I don't have a joke or exclamation of surprise here) driving the front wheels only.
No more all-wheel drive in the ASX, you have to go to the Eclipse Cross for that. Which is a pity, because the AWD ASX was almost compelling.
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.
Mitsubishi's official fuel figure weighs in at 7.7L/100km which, as I have discovered in the past, is a long way off reality.
A week in the manual delivered an even worse figure than the CVT I last drove, getting through 12.4L/100km (11.5 for the CVT) in the week I had it.
Granted, it was just me driving it, the usual softening influence of my wife was not available to the ASX.
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.
For some reason I was hoping the manual ASX would be a better car to drive than its CVT siblings. That proves two things. The first, is I have a short memory, and the second... I have a short memory.
I last drove a manual ASX five or so years ago. It was not my favourite car then owing to the engine buzz, the long, light clutch and the gear lever stolen from a pole vaulter's kit bag.
And for all the same reasons, some half a decade later, the manual ASX is still not very good.
Adding to the ASX's issues is the fact that having better access to the power and torque means a propensity to spin the inside wheel with moderate steering lock and throttle applied together.
The tyres screech away with entertaining abandon and the traction control light comes on like that flickering, distant lightning 20 minutes after a storm has blown through.
The CVT's torque steer is one of the aforementioned great mysteries - despite not having a huge amount of torque, the auto model still manages to pull the steering wheel under power.
That's all manageable, though. What isn't is the buzzing you get from the pedals. Once you're moving you realise that you don't have your feet planted on the shopping channel vibrating foot thing.
The accelerator, brake and clutch all have a hotline to a beehive. I got out more than once shaking my right leg because it felt like it was asleep.
Once you're over all that, you find that the ASX is a bit lumpy and bumpy around town, despite a multi-link rear end.
It's weird to ask extra then deliver a ride that isn't demonstrably better than a cheaper torsion beam set-up (sharp speed bumps being the only exception).
The steering is also slow, so you're constantly twirling the wheel when you're moving around the city and the burbs. And the electric assistance is all over the place, making you wonder what you're actually doing.
And after all of that, the manual shifter is so long that if your grip is anything other than completely orthodox, you can actually trap your hand between the dashboard and the gear knob when you go for third.
I think you've probably got the point. This is not the pick of the ASX range, not by a long way. And the manual makes it worse in the city, not better.
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.
For a very solid $2500, you can add lane departure warning, auto high beam, reverse sensors, blind spot warning, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. There's a catch, though - you can't have it on the manual.
The model featured below is the 2020 Mitsubishi ASX GSR
The Mazda CX-3 is full of safety gear without ticking boxes.
The maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating stretches back to 2014 when the rules were quite different. I won't speculate on what it might achieve in 2020 as-is, but five stars might be tricky.
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.
The three-year capped price servicing regime is not bad and every service you get at the dealer extends the roadside cover for another 12 months.
A small bit of good news for you - where previously a service was $240, they're now $199 for all three during the program, with the initial 1000km service remaining free (and annoying).