Car reviews - Suzuki - S-Cross - GL
Economy, packaging, handling, smooth CVT, quality finish, dash functionality, clear instruments, roomy cabin, cargo area size
Room for improvement
Feel-free steering, no reverse camera or parking sensors on base GL, infuriating Bluetooth complexity, derivative styling
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17 Nov 2014
Price and equipment
Undisputable 4x4 and crossover pioneer with cars like the old SJ Sierra and original Vitara, it now languishes like a wannabe in the medium SUV segment while nobody even bothers to acknowledge how ahead of its time the 2006 SX4 was.
Sure, both Honda and Holden got there first with the 1999 HR-V and 2002 Cruze respectively (the latter, ironically, built by Suzuki), but it was the underrated SX4 that pretty much lit the baby SUV flame that now burns with dazzling intensity.
History’s memory is fickle sometimes.
Now there’s the S-Cross (with a tiny SX4 memorial prefix on the posterior – good on ya, Suzuki), bringing a larger overall platform and footprint as Suzuki at last tries to muscle in on the reigning small-car class.
In fact, though measurably bigger than its predecessor, the newcomer is an astounding 110kg lighter. That’s progress.
But, being larger than a Corolla yet smaller than the Nissan Dualis, how easily does it straddle the two sub-classes?Here we look at the $25,590 GL in CVT automatic guise – and that’s roughly about what an auto Holden Trax, Peugeot 2008 or Juke would cost.
Except for alloys (that look like hubcaps), the S-Cross’ equipment level is about on the money – with roof rails, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, cruise control, power windows, remote central locking and air-conditioning all standard.
However we’d happily lose the alloys for a rear camera or parking sensors.
Nevertheless, if you value space, comfort and refinement, the Suzuki’s value quotient climbs a notch or two.
Suzuki’s certainly on the ball as far as quality interiors are concerned.
From the first time you shut the door, there is a reassuring tightness to the fit and finish, while the overall décor is finished in a veneer of crafted quality.
We’re particularly impressed with the instruments and centre console presentation, with its ultra clear markings, premium illumination and simple controls. Here, S-Cross novices will slip into the driving environment like they’ve known the car for years.
Though nobody will mistake the plastics for an Audi’s, nor should anybody complain.
Likewise, the driving position is just as welcoming, with plenty of space to get comfortable, an attractive tilt/telescopic steering wheel, plenty of seat adjustment, effective ventilation all-round, and ample vision out.
Being a base ‘GL’ we weren’t expecting the overall front-seat area to be so complete.
But it isn’t all cocktails by the pool.
Why won’t Suzuki fit a secondary digital speedo between the analogue dials? We’d happily swap the useless average-speed data for actual-speed data.
The Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity – fiddly to connect and difficult to navigate – is the worst we’ve encountered, even though the actual sound quality and operation are fine. It’s probably just a setting thing, but the fact we had to manually reconnect after every drive drove us to distraction.
Moving to the rear of the S-Cross, the back seat is spacious and accommodating by why is the ambience so glum?It’s a shame because the (two-stage reclining) backrest and bench seat are both fine with no shortage of room for feet, legs, shoulders and heads.
Making a strong case for itself as a usefully practical (young) family car is the S-Cross’s 430-litre cargo capacity, extendable of course via a split/fold backrest.
Note though the parcel shelf’s surprising flimsiness is not in keeping with the general high-quality standard of the Suzuki’s interior, while the floor is set quite high even though a space-saver steel spare wheel lives underneath.
Engine and transmission
Tested in and around Melbourne where the roads are flat, the S-Cross’s 86kW/156Nm 1.6-litre twin-cam four-cylinder petrol engine performs fine.
With the air-con on, three or four souls on board, and very little luggage, our CVT auto-equipped GL is geared for lively acceleration, and will easily maintain the set speed.
Frankly, cruising quietly at 100km/h with the engine ticking away at just 1800rpm, you wouldn’t necessarily know there’s a smaller-capacity non-turbo powerplant working away ahead.
Add hills, or an overtaking situation, however, and the S-Cross needs a bootful of revs and a fair bit of patience. To Suzuki’s credit, the CVT isn’t as noisy or droney as most other similar types of transmissions, and the engine itself is a smooth and refined unit.
After some discussion with fellow colleagues, we decided that we’d prefer the S-Cross 1.6L CVT combo ahead of virtually all other standard compact SUV autos, including the rorty but unrefined Holden Trax 1.8L auto.
Especially when you consider how unbelievably economical the Suzuki is.
Across all manner of driving scenarios, we recorded an average of 6.9L/100km – a brilliant result, and one that most urban-based buyers will appreciate over extra highway overtaking oomph.
The flyweight (from 1085kg to 1125kg) S-Cross’ incredible efficiency puts its healthy power and torque outputs into sharp perspective, reflecting this leading motorcycle manufacturer’s decades of engineering experience and know-how.
Again, well done, Suzuki.
Ride and handling
Speaking of experience, once upon a time not so long ago, Suzuki vehicles were dynamically feeble, with too much understeer, not enough steering feel and noisy/jittery ride characteristics.
A quick spin in an old Ignis or Liana should clearly illustrate our point.
Then came the 2004 Swift, when the company declared itself as being completely engineering-driven, and minds duly changed. That carried through to the SX4 and wildly underrated Kizashi too.
Feel-free steering aside, the S-Cross continues on that righteous path.
Dull just off-centre and annoyingly artificial as you turn it, the helm does at least feel weighty and progressive while it directs the front wheels to go exactly where required.
The crossover itself is, well, car-like in the way it keeps composure and control through corners, with little body movement and plenty of poise.
Push harder and the 205/60 R16-clad wheels continue to grip but the S-Cross starts to lean increasingly into (albeit safe and predictable) understeer. The four-wheel disc brakes haul everything up just fine as well.
We expected a bit more wheel travel, however, for the suspension does feel firm over speed humps, but at least there isn’t the road drone of yesteryear.
Overall, then, the S-Cross’ dynamics are on the competent and secure side. The turning circle’s pretty good too.
Safety and servicing
Suzuki’s latest crossover scores a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating, backed up a body that features the company’s Total Effective Control Technology (TECT) concept for occupant-protecting impact absorption and low weight.
The active safety count includes anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control, while on the passive side there are seven airbags, a mechanism that limits backward movement of the brake pedal, and a pedestrian-impact friendlier nose cone to minimise head-strike injury.
Meanwhile Suzuki offers capped scheduled maintenance service costs for up to five years or 100,000km.
Intervals are six-monthly and are $249 except for the 24-month and 48-month services ($295).
Suzuki’s warranty period is for three years or 100,000km.
SUZUKI is an old hand at making crossovers and it shows in the S-Cross.
While the styling might be a bit too Nissan Dualis-derivative, there is no denying that the important things – value, reliability, economy, packaging, safety, handling and practicality – are there in abundance.
Some might wish for more power than what the undeniably hyper-efficient 1.6L petrol engine provides – and if you live in a hilly area or need to overtake B-Doubles on a regular basis perhaps look elsewhere – but otherwise we reckon the S-Cross hits the mark.
But like its undervalued SX4 predecessor, we fear the S-Cross may remain lost in the shadows. And that’d be a pity.
Peugeot 2008 Active 1.6 VTi autov(from $24,990 plus on-roads).
Look past the dated four-speed auto and the 2008 will impress with its good looks, spacious packaging, innovative dashboard, sharp steering and eager handling. We’d save a few bucks and go for the lightweight three-cylinder manual base car, though.
Nissan Juke ST CVT (from $24,390 plus on-roads).
Bold styling, pert proportions, high ground clearance and easy manoeuvrability make the Juke an effective urban warrior, but the CVT is noisy, rear-seat packaging tight, ride firm and the design too abrasive for some.
Holden Trax LS auto (from $25,690 plus on-roads).
Nicely packaged, with an appealing interior and surprisingly high equipment levels, but the ageing engine feels thrashy, the steering artificial, and the ride unsettled. Holden also charges too much.
MAKE/MODEL: SUZUKI JY S-CROSS GL CVT
ENGINE: 1586cc 4-cyl petrol
LAYOUT: FWD, transverse
POWER: 86kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE: 156Nm @ 4400rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-spd CVT auto
TOP SPEED: 171km/h
SUSPENSION f/r: Struts/Torsion beam
STEERING: Electric rack and pinion
BRAKES f/r: Discs/discs
PRICE: From $25,490 plus on-roads
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