On the one hand the 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Prestige struggles to escape its past. But on the other it powers towards a new future for both the brand and nameplate.
A little ‘SX4’ badge lurks on the rump of this small SUV, reminding everyone of the days when that hatchback-cum-crossover model failed with initially high pricing then dropped to $19,990 driveaway to thrash it out with the Toyota Corolla.
The new-generation S-Cross officially dropped the SX4 part of the name, yet it is still used in some markets. It arrived back in 2013 just as the small SUV genre was taking off and when its big brother, the Vitara, was still a larger, proper off-roader.
Now, however, the Vitara has downsized and the S-Cross has scored a new 1.4-litre turbocharged engine with a higher pricetag to match. This time, can this Suzuki justify being a $29,990 plus on-road costs – rather than $19,990 – proposition?
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $29,990 plus on-road costs or $30,990 driveaway
Engine/trans: 103kW/220Nm 1.4 petrol four-cylinder | six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.9 l/100km | Tested: 8.2 l/100km
Even when the first, 2006-era SX4 S-Cross handed the reins to the second-gen version in 2013, the starting price was still $22,990 (plus orc). But a single, weedy 1.6-litre non-turbo four-cylinder has until now been the only choice.
Enter a lusty 1.4-litre turbo with 103kW at 5500rpm, and 220Nm between 1500rpm and 4000rpm. It also only weighs 1170kg, making this Suzuki a shining star among rivals such as the Mazda CX-3 (109kW/192Nm and weighing 1252kg) and the Toyota CH-R (85kW/185Nm and a portly 1440kg).
Teamed with a six-speed auto, claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres is as sterling as much as the performance promises to be stirring.
Prices have soared, however. Now available in $27,990 (plus orc) Turbo and $29,990 (plus orc) Turbo Prestige as tested here, the S-Cross is again asking a lot.
- Standard Equipment: keyless auto-entry, power windows and mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, multi-function trip computer, auto on/off headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, leather trim, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning and cruise control
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity with voice control
- Options Fitted: None
- Cargo Volume: 430 litres
The S-Cross Turbo gets Suzuki’s terrific new 7.0-inch touchscreen with everything from integrated satellite navigation to Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology and a reverse-view camera. It also scores 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and cloth trim.
For a $2000 premium, this S-Cross Turbo Prestige only adds leather trim, auto on/off wipers and LED headlights, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, keyless auto-entry with push-button start and rear parking sensors. It doesn’t appear as good value.
For around $30,000 the Suzuki still lacks items such as heated front seats, an electric sunroof, active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) or even a blind-spot monitor or front parking sensors generally found in similarly priced rivals.
Just as it struggles to move beyond yesteryear standards of active safety technology, the S-Cross interior fails to shake its humble, cut-price origins. Door and dashboard plastics that are uniformly dark and hard, vinyl-like leather trim with a flat rear bench, plus a lack of rear air-vents, all conspire to make this Suzuki feel cheaper than it is.
Fit-and-finish is expectedly excellent, however, and storage space is decent, with bottle holders in each door, cupholders in the front console and rear fold-down armrest and a split-floor luggage compartment.
At 435 litres the boot is decent for the segment, and the rear backrest offers a two-stage reclining function as standard. But there are no inspired rear-seat sliding or tumble-fold theatrics here, while back legroom is merely average.
It is worth keeping in mind that – especially because the S-Cross is front-wheel-drive, forgoing any off-roading advantage – a Volkswagen Golf Wagon may be a better fit for most needs.
It combines a 584L boot with a much more comfortable rear seat with air-vents, it gets a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbo and the same equipment minus leather trim but with AEB and front parking sensors, all for $30,490 plus on-road costs.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 103kW/220Nm 1.4 4cyl petrol
- Transmission: six-speed automatic, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
Suzuki’s brand new direct injection turbocharged engine is a winner. If the cabin feels downmarket inside, then the aptly titled BoosterJet 1.4-litre gives this S-Cross a big leg-up against its competitor set.
Roughly as powerful as the aforementioned Golf Wagon but around 130kg lighter, the new engine is smooth, responsive, genuinely brisk and matched perfectly with an intelligent and fluid six-speed automatic as standard. No flawed continuously-variable transmission (CVT) to be found here.
The drivetrain makes this Suzuki feel lively in all situations, but it is also supported by a willing chassis that places a focus on handling above ride comfort and refinement.
Perhaps being built in Europe is an indicator of that, because Europeans tend to prefer firm suspension to deliver great dynamics. Its balance is even enhanced by the Continental EcoContact tyres that give up grip in a progressive fashion.
On rough roads at speed, the suspension is terrifically controlled and quite comfortable, although at low speeds around town it immediately becomes agitated and fidgety. Combined with high road noise levels, and again the S-Cross starts to feel a tad immature and a bit … cheap.
The steering is also awfully sticky on the centre position, failing to fluently self-centre when parking and also turning heavy as lock is applied quickly. It gets more direct at speed, but the electrically assisted set-up remains imperfect.
Even the turbo engine prefers higher speeds. Compared with a high 10.9L/100km around town, or almost double its combined claim, it settled at a solid 8.2L/100km overall after 50 per cent freeway running was added.
The Suzuki S-Cross has not been tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC, rear parking sensors and reverse-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Servicing: Capped-price servicing program includes average six-month/10,000km checks at a reasonably affordable cost of $179 for the first three dealer visits and $359 for the fourth.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The CX-3 is even smaller inside and similarly noisy and fun, while the 2008 is the best-packaged small SUV with a similarly sprightly driving feel. The CH-R may look funky, but its ride and refinement is the most mature of the bunch. And yet a ‘daggy’ wagon such as the Golf still beats them all for value, space and overall polish.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Beyond its toothy new chrome grille, the Suzuki S-Cross Prestige is impressively characterful to drive and decently spacious. But these likeable virtues most apply to it as a hatchback rather than an SUV, and one priced from around $25K not $30K.
For the price it lacks active safety technology, cabin appointments and innovation, and polish in its steering, ride and noise suppression. In some cases, its basic feel and ‘rough diamond’ character is quite alluring, slightly colourful in a world of vanilla.
Only the superb engine and great automatic justify its pricetag, however. The rest of the S-Cross Prestige package either needs to catch up and power beyond past standards, or have its price chopped – as happened back when it was called SX4
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