I was quite impressed with the last Suzuki SX4 S-Cross
that I drove. But, in retrospect I can see that it did lack a vital element for a crossover.
It looked a little bit tame.
Suzuki have clearly recognised that. One of the appeals of crossovers is the adventurous, outdoor SUV image. Owners want their crossover to look like they spend the weekends doing macho activities like driving across moorlands, fording rivers and climbing mountains – even if their most challenging journey, in reality, is collecting the week’s groceries at Tesco (other supermarkets are available).
So, the most notable change since I last drove the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is a bolder, more assertive look, dominated by a chrome barred grille complete with big Suzuki ’S’. It may not be the most beautiful bit of car design I have seen, but it is undeniably more purposeful.
It is not just the appearance of the S-Cross that has been tweaked. Under the bonnet are Suzuki’s latest Boosterjet engines. I’m quite familiar with these engines from previous drives. For example, the 1.4-litre engine in this S-Cross is the power unit that impressed when I drove the Suzuki Vitara S
. I have also sampled the giant-killing one-litre Boosterjet in the likeable Suzuki Baleno
In addition to these one-litre and 1.4-litre Boosterjets, there is also a third engine option in the 1.6-litre diesel supplied by Fiat. But given the growing clampdown on diesels and the combination of power and economy with the 1.4-litre Boosterjet, that would seem the sensible option.
As cars like the Nissan Qashqai have demonstrated, many people like the SUV style of crossovers but have no need of anything other than two-wheel-drive. Now, offering two-wheel or four-wheel drive versions of crossovers has become the norm.
After all, if you don’t need four-wheel drive, why would you want to pay the extra up-front cost for the four-wheel-drive system and the on-going higher fuel consumption?
My test car was the AllGrip version, which means it has four wheel drive as standard. But, there are a range of settings that you can use to switch between two and four-wheel drive.
‘Auto’ is the main button in the centre and it prioritises fuel economy by keeping the car in two-wheel drive most of the time, switching to four-wheel if the system detects any wheelspin. ‘Sport’ sharpens things up and Suzuki advise this as the ideal setting for twisty roads. The third setting is named “Snow” and prioritises four-wheel drive to help you keep going on slippery surfaces such as snow, or mud.
For those who may actually take the Suzuki S-Cross off the black stuff, this latest version rides 15mm higher, increasing the ground clearance to 180mm. Like its predecessor it also comes with a ‘Lock’ setting on the transmission – something that few other cars in this class offer. This setting engages a limited-slip differential which will lock a spinning wheel and divert torque to the rear wheels. This should help to keep the S-Cross moving in really slippery conditions.
One of the other sales points of crossovers is that they often offer more space. The Suzuki S-Cross is a good example. It is easier to get in and out of, compared to a lower slung hatchback, and there is really good space front and rear for a car in this class. Three adult passengers emerged from the test car following a 150-mile round trip with no complaints about space. Despite the huge panoramic sunroof, headroom and legroom in the back was ample for my almost six-foot frame.
Luggage room is good too with 430 litre of easily accessible space. The boot floor can be adjusted to different levels, leaving a variable amount of hidden space beneath. Under here, Suzuki provide a pressure pump and sealant in place of a spare tyre.
I really like the Boosterjet engines. They combine giant-killing, lively performance with good fuel economy. Out of town I found it easy to better 40mpg, without any serious focus on economy driving. The 1.4 Boosterjet in the test car pulls strongly through all six gears and yet is refined and subdued, which is perhaps why other road noise seems more noticeable.
Get off straight roads and the first thing you notice is the steering. It is quite precise, but I found it disconcertingly light. I would prefer a bit more feel and weight. That said, it is something you adapt to and I found that – with the transmission set to ‘Sport’ – the S-Cross can be quite a good companion even on twisty B-roads.
The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross range starts at £14,999 for the SZ4 with manual transmission. Confusingly, for a car that has SX4 as part of its full name, the three trim levels are prefixed by the rather similar initials SZ. So there are SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5 variants. The SZ-T is aimed at corporate/fleet buyers.
The test car was the S-Cross SZ5 1.4 Boosterjet Allgrip. It’s one rung down from the top of the range Fiat-engined 1.6DDiS SZ5 Allgrip diesel and it is available with manual or automatic gearbox. The test car was the manual version at £22,849.
Equipment levels are a strong point with the test car including kit like a double panoramic sunroof, sat nav, parking sensors, heated seats, tyre pressure monitoring, excellent LED headlights and rear view camera as standard. New to the S-Cross and standard on the SZ5 version, is one of my favourite bits of technology – adaptive cruise control combined with radar brake support.
The town where I live is thick with Suzukis, thanks to a very active new local Suzuki dealership right on our doorstep. It just shows the potential for the marque. With an almost bewildering range of cars covering the small hatchback, crossover and 4x4 sector there is huge potential to grow the market share. Suzuki SX4 S-Cross SZ5 Booster-jet AllGrip
Carbon dioxide emissions: 127 g/km
Combined fuel economy 50.4 mpg
Top speed: 124 mph
0-62: 10.2 secs
Power (engine) 138 bhp
Engine size 1373cc petrol
Boot capacity 430 litres (back seats up)