Car reviews - Suzuki - S-Cross - Turbo Prestige
Superb turbo four-cylinder engine, agile and sprightly dynamics, excellent fit and finish, impressive boot volume
Room for improvement
Average value for money, lacks active safety equipment, sticky steering, low-speed ride, high road noise
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18 Dec 2017
SUZUKI has long been able to claim many firsts. The lineage of this new S-Cross Turbo leads back to the circa-2005 SX4, a crossover that appeared well before the small SUV class started to boom.
It followed in the tracks of the off-road-capable Vitara, which in the 1990s went on to sell a storm and create a segment. Only this time its smaller Suzuki protege became stuck, and not only because it was available singularly in front-wheel drive. The little SX4 simply did not catch on or sell well, forcing the car-maker to cut prices and re-align its crossover with more affordable hatchback rivals.
Since then, however, the SX4 has been reborn as the S-Cross – although it still wears both badges on its tailgate – and it appears fitter than ever thanks to the addition of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, new front- and rear-end styling, plus an infotainment upgrade inside.
It has returned to small SUV pricing, but now Australians are actually buying small SUV models. The question is, can a renewed original also become the best in a class stacked with new entrants?
Price and equipment
Suzuki once played in the $20,000 arena with the SX4. Indeed, Mazda still does at $20,490 plus on-road costs with its hubcap-equipped, touchscreen-less CX-3 Neo. Other rivals, though, kick off from mid-$20,000-plus, such as Hyundai’s $24,500 Kona Active and Toyota’s $26,990 C-HR.
Instead, however, the S-Cross Turbo starts from $27,990 and provides reasonably competitive middle-specification equipment, such as 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, plus integrated satellite navigation and a reversing camera.
As tested, the $29,990 S-Cross Turbo Prestige then adds auto on/off wipers and LED headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sensors, keyless auto-entry with push-button start and leather ‘accented’ seats and trim.
Disappointingly, though, active safety equipment such as blind-spot monitor, lane-keep assistance, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are not available on either S-Cross specification, despite all of the above featuring on both C-HR and the $28,500 Kona Elite.
Creating durable interiors has long been a Suzuki specialty and the S-Cross does not deviate from that dreary but dirt-friendly path. Basically, the plastic and trim materials used do not feel premium and lush, respectively, but overall fit and finish of this SUV is as excellent as could be expected.
Silver dashboard highlights, blue-backlit gauges and white stitching on the leather trim attempt to lift the ambience somewhat, but pragmatism rules here.
The touchscreen is as simple and intuitive to understand as the digital climate and cruise controls are.
While the front seats are firmly supportive, however, they lack heating or electric adjustment and have not been matched by the back bench, which is flat and unyielding. Rear headroom is generous and a reclining backrest is included, but legroom is merely average and air ventilation is lacking.
The 430-litre boot volume comfortably exceeds that of the C-HR (377L), Kona (361L) and particularly the CX-3 (264L), none of which have particularly impressive rear legroom either, but all of which feel notably more upmarket inside compared with this Suzuki.
Engine and transmission
Gone is the wheezy 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine from the S-Cross stable – and thank goodness for that. The Boosterjet under-bonnet labelling indicates the inclusion of a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 103kW of power at 5500rpm, 220Nm of torque from 1500rpm until 4000rpm, and claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of just 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres.
This is where the Suzuki can now quite literally make up ground on its competitors. Its nearest rival in the power stakes is the 130kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo optional in the Kona, but it takes the Elite’s pricetag from $28,500 to $32,000 owing to the mandatory inclusion of all-wheel drive.
The S-Cross Turbo Prestige also remains a front-wheel drive proposition only, and with a kerb weight of 1170kg it is a staggering 244kg lighter than the Hyundai. Meanwhile even the measly 85kW/185Nm 1.2-litre turbo, front-wheel-drive C-HR is 205kg heavier than the pert Suzuki.
Performance here is superb, with the turbo engine being both refined and quick to rev, while the six-speed automatic slick and crisp. The partnership between them is also consistently excellent whether around town or on the open road, although economy-wise a 10.9L/100km on-test urban figure only lowered to 8.2L/100km after freeway running.
Ride and handling
If the cabin of the S-Cross Turbo Prestige appears solid but plain, then the ride and handling of this Suzuki sides with the engine and automatic transmission by feeling perky and responsive.
Despite rolling on sensible 55-aspect Continental EcoContact tyres, the suspension of this hatchback-cum-small SUV can feel lumpy around town. As the brand of rubber might indicate, there is a distinct firmness in the tuning here that is typically the domain of a European set-up.
The upside is keen and agile handling that actually benefits from bodyroll and a slight lack of outright grip. Because the S-Cross is so light, and the Turbo so powerful, it harnesses the best of a balanced chassis. Plus, the suspension delivers both comfort and control at speed.
On the downside, road noise levels are high and the steering is both vague on-centre and sticky just off it – in other words, it fails to properly self-centre and the weighting can be oddly variable. Fun the Prestige might be, but it is also lacking refinement and – as with the cabin – it feels basic.
Safety and servicing
Seven airbags (including dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee protection), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), rear parking sensors and reversing camera are all standard.
ANCAP has not tested the Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige.
Capped-price servicing includes below-average bi-annual or 10,000km check-ups at a cost of $179 for the first trio of dealership visits, and $359 for the fourth.
As ever, Suzuki has continued to go its own way with the S-Cross Turbo Prestige. It is not as funky or full of flair as other small SUVs, all of which are better equipped, especially for active safety.
It has a well-built interior, but one that lacks polish, a bigger boot than most, but a below average back seat. It has a superbly perky engine and surprisingly keen handling, but ordinary ride quality and very ordinary refinement.
Perhaps it is the very definition of a lineball, mixed-bag performance. What it also delivers, though, is charm and character with its slightly rough feel – however, the pricetag really should reflect this.
Indeed, it certainly has a place in showrooms and in the heart of buyers bored with cookie-cutter hatchbacks, but this Suzuki should be either better equipped or more affordable, like it once was.
Hyundai Kona Elite FWD auto from $28,500 plus on-road costs
Needs $3500-optional turbo engine to match Suzuki, but beats it for equipment.
Mazda CX-3 sTouring FWD auto from $28,990 plus on-road costs
Smallest in class, but one of the giants for value and personality.
Toyota C-HR Koba FWD auto from $33,290 plus on-road costs
On of the class leaders, with character, refinement, equipment and superb dynamics.
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