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Suzuki S-Cross 2020 review: Turbo Prestige

Don't let the cheesy grille fool you, it's a Suzuki S-Cross.

Daily driver score

3.2/5

Urban score

3.4/5

Here's a test for you. When was the last time you saw a Suzuki S-Cross? Now let me tell you you've probably seen one more recently than you think, because not only does Suzuki still sell them (I was certain they had quietly dropped it), but it actually sells almost a thousand new ones every year.

The S-Cross is a strange beast, even forgetting the vestigial SX4 badge. Like the Swift/Baleno conundrum, it kind of, sort of sits in the same space as the Vitara, except like that other pair, it kind of doesn't.

It has been a while since I drove the S-Cross - all the way back to its local launch, so it was an interesting prospect to dive in and see what's changed in (checks notes) six years.

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

You have a choice of two mechanically identical S-Cross, the Turbo and the Turbo Premium. The two cars are separated by just $1500. Up here in the dizzy heights of $29,990 for the latter car, you get 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, cruise control, sat nav, keyless entry and start, fake leather seats, LED headlights, auto wipers, powered wing mirrors and a space-saver spare.

The Turbo Premium comes with 17-inch alloy wheels. The Turbo Premium comes with 17-inch alloy wheels.

The six speaker stereo controls are part of the tiny 6.0-inch touchscreen in the dash, which is the same system in every Suzuki, with or without the sat nav. It also has Apple CarPlay and is better than anything Toyota foists upon the owners of its vehicles.

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

One of the reasons you probably think you haven't seen one of these is that, big half-a-BMW-grille aside, it's a bit anonymous. Which is perfectly fine if that's what you're after, but it's pretty functional rather than pretty. Suzuki styling is weird like that - funky chunky like the Ignis and Vitara and Swift, or terminally dull like the Baleno and S-Cross. It's kind of a shame it's so dreary because it's not, in fact, a dreary car. The chrome grille is way too much, a six-year-old screaming "Look at me!" at a dinner party.

The S-Cross is pretty functional rather than pretty. The S-Cross is pretty functional rather than pretty.

The cabin is pretty standard Suzuki, meaning nothing too exciting or arresting. The materials are fine, the seats are a bit high (and a bit firm) and it does feel a bit yesteryear, but so did the Vitara when it first came out.

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

This is where the S-Cross starts to get interesting. It's huge inside. The 430-litre boot (almost tripling to 1269 litres with the seats down), with underfloor storage and bins either side is massive for a car with this footprint. 

  • Boot space is rated at 430 litres. Boot space is rated at 430 litres.
  • Fold the rear seats down and cargo capacity grows to 1269L. Fold the rear seats down and cargo capacity grows to 1269L.

Front-seat passengers score a pair each of cupholder and bottle holders, repeated in the rear. The front cupholders are a bit annoying because they're square and not as deep as you might want.

  • Front-seat passengers score a pair each of cupholder and bottle holders. Front-seat passengers score a pair each of cupholder and bottle holders.
  • On the inside, the S-Cross is huge. On the inside, the S-Cross is huge.

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Under the bonnet - or more accurately - behind that giant grille lurks Suzuki's rather good 1.4-litre turbo, also found in the Vitara. Outputs are modest at 103kW and 220Nm, but the car weighs two-tenths of not very much at 1170kg, which is a bit of a Suzuki strength.

The 1.4-litre turbo four cylinder makes 103kW/220Nm. The 1.4-litre turbo four cylinder makes 103kW/220Nm.

The engine drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic that is not a CVT and we can all be forever thankful for that.

You can tow 1200kg braked and 400kg unbraked if you're that way inclined.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

Suzuki claims the 1.4 - without stop-start or other trickery - will deliver 5.9L/100km. Our time with the S-Cross was almost exclusively urban and it managed a very creditable 7.1L/100km, close to my colleague Richard Berry's 7.3L/100km in 2019. Not bad, but it does drink premium from its 47-litre tank.

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Out of the gate Suzuki offers you a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is quite generous. If you use the car for business (eg courier or ride-sharing), that does reduce to five years/160,000km.

Servicing is also capped for the first five years. The wrinkle there is that while the time between services is pretty standard at 12 months, not many people fall under the 10,000km interval. The first five services avereage out to $295. The fifth service is capped with pricing stepped up to 100,000km, topping out at a whopping $639 for a single service, which does not bode well for high mileage drivers, so keep that in mind.

Driving - What's it like to drive?

My memories of the first S-Cross I drove aren't all that distinct, which means it either wasn't very good or it was just okay. I'm leaning towards just okay, but it was slow with its 1.6-litre engine and whining CVT. It handled okay but the main selling point was the interior space.

I'm very pleased to report that, like the Vitara, the addition of the turbo has made it a much nicer thing to drive. With substantially more power and torque with very little extra weight, it feels far more modern.

The Turbo Premium is priced at $29,990. The Turbo Premium is priced at $29,990.

And like its slightly bigger stablemate, the lightweight chassis strikes a really good compromise between ride and handling. It's always going to roll but the grippy Continentals keep things tidy in the corners and the light steering makes its around-town demeanour most agreeable. I had the car during Sydney's very wet week in late July and was impressed by how it handled the conditions. 

Quiet and well-composed on the faster stuff, the strong winds didn't push the high-sided S-Cross out the lane, either. One irritation is that the little central screen in the dashboard doesn't have a digital speed readout which means deciphering the tightly-packed speedo.

I won't be rushing out to buy an S-Cross any time soon because there are lots of other cars ahead of it. I had thought that this was a bit of a "for the fans" car but the sales figures, while comparatively modest, proved me wrong. 

With a good warranty, capped servicing and tons of space, it's obviously a compelling proposition. Add to that a good driving experience and low running costs, it stacks up well. But it's missing a lot of modern safety gear and is looking a bit old even if it doesn't feel it.

$30,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.2/5

Urban score

3.4/5