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Car reviews - Suzuki - S-Cross - range

Our Opinion

We like
Decent cabin packaging, outstanding fuel economy, sharp entry price, agile handling
Room for improvement
CVT drone, high-grade models get pricey, no diesel option, some cheap cabin plastics

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Suzuki logo4 Dec 2013

THE Suzuki SX4 crossover attracted a loyal – but small – following, largely because it was one size too small. That’s not us saying that, that’s Suzuki itself, which admits it needed to upsize to upscale.

Enter the S-Cross, based on a new C-segment platform that will likely underpin a range of new models in time including the more rugged IV4 SUV and an unnamed small-car successor to the unloved Baleno.

It’s a practical and spacious little wagon priced from $23k and pitched at so-called crossover vehicles such as the Nissan Dualis and Mitsubishi ASX. Most sold will be front-drive, and few will go off the beaten path: Suzuki will pitch the IV4 at that market instead.

Glancing at the specs sheet, things look a little inauspicious. Under the bonnet is a small 1.6-litre petrol engine with only 86kW and 156Nm, which is a fair chunk less than most rivals. Consider the smaller SX4 had 112kW and 190Nm from it’s 2.0-litre engine.

There’s a Euro diesel of the same capacity but with twice the torque. But the Fiat-made engine only has a manual gearbox option, and until there’s an auto version Australia won’t get either. Let’s hope it comes in time.

But weight cuts are the saving grace, with base versions tipping the scales at a meagre 1085kg. Suzuki used a high proposition of high-tensile steel, but seemingly no aluminium. An impressive effort.

The smaller engine and the lower weight are all designed to improve fuel economy. And how. We used no more than 6.0 litres per 100km on our real-world drive loop, which is simply brilliant for this type of (petrol) vehicle.

The downside is the CVT automatic which, while frugal by its nature, also intrudes into the cabin with an incessant whirring drone.

Another benefit of the weight cuts is the affect this has on handling. The S-Cross tucks its nose in with keen abandon, a trait abetted by tenacious grip from front- or all-wheel-drivetrains and light but sharp and linear electric steering.

We drove through parts of Victoria’s magnificent Great Ocean Road and had a blast. Yes, most buyers won’t tap this agility, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

A car like this is all about practicality. We found both front and rear seat-room to be more than adequate, with good shoulder and knee room on the rear bench and a nice high hip point for an older buyers. Only the sunroof on top-spec versions undid things by culling headroom.

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.

Cargo space is ahead of the pack at 430 litres (or nearly 1300L with the seats flay-folded), although the tumble mechanism of the rear row doesn’t yield a perfectly flat floor like, say, a Honda Jazz. Still, few cars could claim otherwise.

The instrument panel is clean and uncluttered. In Suzuki fashion, it all feels bulletproof as well. The brand has even made a welcome effort to add some soft-touch padding to the plastics, but hard touchpoints on the upper doors and transmission tunnel cheapen the affect.

We also didn’t like the scratchy black plastic surrounding the aftermarket-looking touchscreen. In all, the cabin still feels less refined than the older Nissan Dualis’.

The features list is decent, though. 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.

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 a mammoth (and breathtaking) double-pane panoramic sunroof and leather seats. But at this price point, it’s worth noting that a buyer could slide behind the wheel of a mid-range Mazda CX-5 or high-spec Volkswagen Golf, both of which are much better cars.

The GLX, then, is the pick. Suzuki agrees, and expects the majority of buyers to plump for this one.

We can’t say the Suzuki S-Cross is a new segment leader. But we can say it’s a solid effort with fine handling, decent entry pricing and outstanding fuel economy. The Dualis is a fine car, and a plethora of small hatches such as the Golf offer a better drive, but the Suzuki is still a car we could live with.

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