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Driven: Suzuki eyes off Dualis with new S-Cross

Missing link: Suzuki Australia thinks the new S-Cross fills a crucial void in its range, and can lure buyers of C-segment hatchbacks and small SUVs alike.

Bold targets for bigger but pricier SX4-replacing Suzuki S-Cross, priced from $23k


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3 Dec 2013

SUZUKI Australia this week ends a recent new model drought with the launch of its all-new S-Cross, a replacement for the outgoing SX4 crossover that grows in all dimensions to challenge Nissan’s hot-selling Dualis head-on.

Priced from $22,990 plus on-road costs for the base, front-drive GL with a five-speed manual gearbox through to $34,990 for the GLX all-wheel-drive CVT, the new S-Cross gives Suzuki a proper presence in Australia’s fastest-growing major vehicle segment.

It’s also the first Suzuki sold in Australia to be sourced from Hungary, the home of its European manufacturing arm. The rest of Australia’s Suzuki models come from Asia or the subcontinent.

Unlike its Grand Vitara sibling (and the defunct Jimny Sierra), the S-Cross has a car-like monocoque chassis - derived in part from the Swift - making it a firmly road-based car. Emphasising the marked divergence from its larger sibling, Suzuki projects more than 80 per cent to be sold in front-drive form, reflecting market-wide trends.

Like the Dualis and Mitsubishi ASX, Suzuki also expects the S-Cross to lure buyers who may have otherwise have bought a lower, C-segment hatch such as a Toyota Corolla. In this way, the newest model in Suzuki’s range covers two vehicle segments where it was not previously covered at all.

Reinforcing the importance of S-Cross to Suzuki’s incremental growth plan is the fact that 41 per cent of its Swift buyers move into small SUV for their next car, but rarely the rugged and slightly utilitarian Grand Vitara. The company says this new model is the ideal stepping stone it needs to keep these loyal customers within the company as they upsize.

Points-of-difference over rivals, according to Suzuki, include the S-Cross’ 430 litres of cargo space (1269L with the seats folded) - 20L more than the Dualis and 14L more than the ASX - class-topping fuel economy of 5.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle for the front-drivers, and a smaller turning circle of 10.4 metres.

More notably, this luggage space is about 180L more than the outgoing SX4, which will be sold concurrently until stock levels are depleted (no more will be built).

The flagship variant also comes with a mammoth “world first” double glass panoramic sunroof. Quite what makes this huge glasshouse a world-first is less clear, but at 560mm retracted, it’s among the largest on any SUV.

Naturally, Suzuki is launching the S-Cross with relatively bold targets of 500 sales per month, about double what the $4000 cheaper SX4 has been doing.

This figure also represents about half the volume of the Dualis and is just shy of the ASX and Volkswagen’s Tiguan based on this year’s figures. This target, should it be reached, would make the S-Cross easily Suzuki’s second-best-seller behind the Swift.

Suzuki will offer three specification levels, GL, GLX and GLX Prestige. The base car is a front-drive only variant, the GLX (which will be the top-seller) comes in both front- and all-wheel-drive, and the Prestige is AWD-only.

All versions are powered by the same 86kW at 6000rpm and 156Nm at 4400rpm 1.6-litre atmo petrol engine which is smaller than the SX4’s 112kW/190Nm 2.0-litre unit, and less powerful than all rivals with the exception of Skoda’s (more torque-rich) 77kW/175Nm 1.2 TSI Yeti variant.

A European Fiat-sourced manual-only turbo-diesel with more than twice the torque (86kW and 320Nm) is not yet available due to sourcing issues, and is some time away from Australian launch.

But big weight reductions over the SX4, a claimed 110kg despite the dimensional growth, narrow the power-to-weight gap. Suzuki used more high-tensile steel to achieve an impressively light weight of 1085kg for the GL manual.

At 4300mm long, 1765mm wide and 1580mm high on a 2600mm wheelbase, the Suzuki is about lineball with the Dualis. It’s slightly larger than the wave of new sub-compact SUVs now entering the market such as the Holden Trax, Ford EcoSport and Nissan Juke, but will without a doubt be cross-shopped.

The engine is matched to either a five-speed manual gearbox (the GL price-leader only), or a CVT with seven artificial ratios, standard on all other variants above the base car.

The model walk is as follows. The $22,990 (or $25,490 for the volume CVT) GL spec comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, bluetooth with audio streaming, cruise control, seven airbags, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, a four-speaker sound system and roof rails.

Like all variants, the S-Cross GL gets a five-star Euro NCAP rating (the system our own ANCAP is largely based off).

The GLX ($29,990 for the front-drive or $32,990 for the AWD) gets in addition to the base car keyless entry/start, a leather steering wheel, HID headlamps with dusk sensors, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, a seven-speaker sound system, a 6.1-inch multimedia touchscreen with sat nav, USB integration, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloys, LED ‘positioning lamps’, silver body garnishes, paddle shifters for the CVT’s manual mode, mirror-mounted side indicators and an auto dimming rear vision mirror.

The GLX Prestige with AWD (from $34,990) adds the double sliding panoramic sunroof and leather seats.

Mechanically, all versions get electric steering, a space-saver spare wheel and a MacPherson front/torsion beam rear suspension setup.

The S-Cross comes with five years of capped-price servicing.

Suzuki S-Cross pricing*
GL 2WD $22,900
GL 2WD (a) $25,490
GLX 2WD (a) $29,990
GLX AWD (a) $32,990
GLX Prestige AWD (a) $34,990
* Plus on-road charges

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