Australians buy a lot of SUVs. Many Australians move out of a small car or medium car and into an SUV. If you're a car company without an SUV, particularly a compact SUV, you're missing out on a chunk of the market.
Up until now, Suzuki had just such a gap in its line-up. Buyers looking to move up and out of the Swift had nowhere to go. The SX4 was too small and, let's face it, a bit weird and the Grand Vitara far too big.
But now the Japanese company has a compact SUV in the form of the S-Cross. But they want you to think it's a hatchback, because next year, there's a 'proper' compact SUV coming in the form of the IV4.
Suzuki S-Cross Specs
Safety rating: 5 stars
Green rating: N/A
Fuel consumption: 5.8/6.2l/100km
Suzuki S-Cross Likes: Bigger, more efficient, sharp pricing on low and mid-spec models.
Suzuki S-Cross Dislikes: Awful rear headroom under (massive) sunroof.
Suzuki S-Cross Overview
The S-Cross is an almost totally different car to the SX4 it effectively replaces. It's bigger in every direction while sporting a more grown-up exterior and interior. It's basically a good-sized hatchback with some SUV cues.
Available in two or four wheel drive with a choice of five-speed manual or CVT automatic, there's just the one engine, a 1.6 litre four cylinder.
It's a very simple car, especially in two wheel drive form.
The Suzuki S-Cross line is:
GL 2WD (m/t) $22,990
GL 2WD (CVT) $25,490
GLX 2WD (CVT)$29,990
GLX AWD (CVT) $32,990
GLX AWD Prestige (CVT) $34,990
Suzuki S-Cross Engine
The S-Cross has just one engine (until the diesel is ready sometime next year). The 1.6 litre four cylinder produces 86kW and 156Nm of torque. Neither of these are class leading figures and are actually quite a long way down on the Suzuki Swift Sport's 1.6 litre.
The stressless nature of the engine, coupled with a significant weight loss over the outgoing SX4, contributes to a twenty percent drop in fuel consumption for both two- and four-wheel drive variants.
The two wheel drive is quoted at 5.6l/100km with the all-wheel drive at 6.2l/100km. We got remarkably close to these figures, at around 7.0l/100km.
The base model GL is the only car available with the five speed manual, with Suzuki expecting a eighty percent uptake of the automatic model, in line with its competitors. The base model GL also goes without the paddle shifters, so the CVT can't be manually forced to shift like a seven-speed auto.
Suzuki S-Cross Interior
Bigger is the theme for the S-Cross. The cabin has grown in every direction, with a 44mm jump in rear legroom and a huge jump from 270 litres to 430 litres in the boot.
There's also a lot more gear. The central touch screen handles sat-nav on all but the GL as well as connecting to your phone for music. The GL also sports cruise control, four speakers for the stereo, air-conditioning and a cloth interior.
The GLX adds a leather steering wheel, dual zone climate control, seven speakers for the stereo, 6.1-inch touchscreen (replacing the GL's dot-matrix), reversing camera and sensors and an auto-dimming rear vision mirror.
The GLX Prestige adds a full leather interior and the double sliding panoramic sunroof. Suzuki claims the huge roof is a world-first, but Mercedes-Benz might have something to say about that, with the new S Class's dancing glass panels.
The seats are well bolstered and comfortable, holding us in during the corners and keeping us happy on the straight bits. The air-con and climate control both work very well and the sat-nav is standard-issue Suzuki. The stereo in both cars is a little lacking in ultimate power, but is easy to use in both GL form and touchscreen-equipped GLX.
Suzuki S-Cross Exterior & Styling
While obviously related to the SX4, the S-Cross takes some cues from the Swift and Kizashi, especially around the front. Suzuki's chief designer, Takehito Arai, says the aerodynamic styling has brought a slippery drag co-efficient of 0.33, down from 0.40.
The grille is familiar from the Swift Sport and Kizashi, while the rest of the car looks a lot like close competitor Dualis. It does look more like a hatchback than an SUV, but with the increased ground clearance (165mm), the S-Cross looks enough like a crossover.
It's much, much better looking than the SX4. It's a more mature looking car with the proportions of a large hatch rather than a tippy-toed car based on the Swift.
The GL's alloy wheels are a bit naff, they look like they were styled to look like a food processor's grater blade, but all is forgiven on the bigger 17s on the GLX.
Suzuki S-Cross On The Road
When you look at the power figure, you think that this will be a bit asthmatic, but there's more to it than meets the eye - the S-Cross weights just over 1100kg meaning that it's an easy 260kg lighter than the car against which it was benchmarked, the Dualis.
This means reasonably pace and much better handling than you might expect. We were only able to drive the CVT-equipped GL and GLX, but neither was left wanting for power.
The engine and transission would make its presence felt with a bit of a whine at around 4000rpm, made worse by the way the CVT finds its level and holds it. It's an otherwise quiet cruiser with just some tyre roar from the Continental tyres on rough surfaces.
The car's only real weakness is that CVT, but a 'proper' six-speed auto would surely add weight, so it's a double-edged sword.
The GL and GLX two-wheel drive models are the pick of the drivetrains we drove. With a little less weight and minus the push of the all-wheel drive, the car was more surefooted in the corners. There's very little body roll to speak of in what is a very controlled package.
It's even fun, if you're that way inclined, but steep inclines are not its strong point.
The ride quality is excellent despite its reasonably firm demeanour and there's none of the heave of some of the crossover crowd. It's a well-sorted chassis, but won't be taking on any hot or warm hatches any time soon.
Suzuki S-Cross Challenges
The pricing might be a little ambitious at the higher end of the spec range - with the market heading south for most cars, big or small, the S-Cross stands out a little bit as being too close to better equipped cars from its rivals Holden, Nissan and Mitsubishi.
There's no diesel option yet either, which is a shame, because this section of the market loves a diesel.
Suzuki S-Cross Competition and Verdict
Nissan Dualis priced from $24,990, developing between 96kW (diesel) and 102kw (petrol).
Holden Trax priced from $23,490, developing 103kW (petrol only).
The S-Cross is a surprising package - it's big enough for a young family and their gear, impressively fuel efficient and, despite its weedy engine, pretty sprightly. It handles and rides very competently and really, all you could ask for is either more power or a proper automatic.
Ultimately, it does what Suzuki does best - a good solid car that will probably go forever, cost you very little while it does, and cover all the bases its customers want covered. And that's what good car companies do - find their market and look after it. Lots of Swift owners will move on up to the S-Cross and they won't be disappointed. And a few Dualis buyers might be tempted across too.