The Suzuki people tend to forget about.
If you think ‘Suzuki,’ your mind will likely jump to an image of a Swift hatchback or a Vitara SUV, or maybe an Ignis. The S-Cross actually lives between the former two, and offers a pretty nifty step-up between the typical family-hatch Swift and the bigger Vitara. The raised ride height, turbocharged powertrain, and standard six-speed automatic makes the S-Cross the perfect urban companion that packs proper versatility to handle some long-distance, cross-country driving when it has to.
Split into Turbo and Turbo Prestige trims, all cars pack the same ‘Boosterjet’ turbocharged engine and auto-transmission combination, with prices starting from $27,990. With impressive kit, rock-solid reliability, and reassuring safety kit, is the S-Cross the underdog in the hotly-contested compact-SUV segment that we should be paying attention to?
“Exterior styling has been given a revamp, so the S-Cross now looks formally bossy rather than droopily sad.” - Motoring
The S-Cross received a facelift in 2017, bringing with it a new nose and slightly revised rear. The rear only saw its taillights swapped out, but the nose… Let’s just say that there’s little resemblance to the car it replaces. A pronounced and flashy grille, flanked by complicated-looking headlights make for a face that divides opinion. Top-spec Prestige cars get LED headlights with LED positioning lights, which make for a very distinctive signature when the sun goes down. All cars get 17” alloys, while a polished finish to those alloys are a reserve of top-spec cars.
Moving down the side, it’s worth noting how rarely we find pronounced scuff plates on the side of cars, though it helps break up the visual mass of the S-Cross’ profile. The rear get those aforementioned taillights, while the overall treatment is pretty Japanese to say the least. You won’t find the purposeful surfacing of a Peugeot or the clean lines of a Volkswagen here, but it does at least help the S-Cross stand out from a crowd.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The 1.4 [Boosterjet] is quick and strong, so it’s perfect if you often venture onto the motorway.” - WhatCar?
All S-Cross models get a 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbocharged petrol engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. With 103kW and 220Nm offered, the S-Cross puts a greater emphasis on effortless in-gear performance (ride that torque!) rather than out-and-out power, which is probably best for an urban crossover. Claimed fuel consumption sits at 5.9L/100km, which is lofty at best; Expect something closer to the 7.5L/100km mark in real-world conditions.
The engine is smooth and muffled, while the gearbox helps ensure smooth progress. The latter offers a sportier ‘Manual’ mode which lets you hold on to gears right up to the redline, which can make for some pretty giggle-inducing antics around town. Overtaking is handled with a doddle too, with all that torque making for unstrained manoeuvres.
“There was more matt plastic on and around the functional dashboard than you’d find on a 20-year-old Bush CRT television, but Suzuki’s first-rate fit & finish means that it never feels offensive to the touch.” - Autocar
The S-Cross may look fresh and new, but it was actually introduced prior to the funky Vitara and Ignis, and the cabin is where that shows most prominently. While it’s in no-way a bad cabin, it offers very little visual flair. Instead, the S-Cross’ interior is built well with intelligent smatterings of soft-touch materials and smart kit. A 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay is standard, for example, while the large dash panel that faces occupants is of the soft-touch variety. There’s plenty of painted plastic and chrome around the place, which does go some way in livening up the interior.
430-litres of space is what you’ll find behind the rear seats, which is notably bigger than the larger Vitara. There are plenty of cubbies dotted around the cabin too, meaning practicality in the S-Cross isn’t limited to just its cargo space. And while dual-zone climate control is standard on the S-Cross, you won’t find aircond vents in the rear-half of the cabin, which becomes a bit of an issue with a full-load of people on a hot day.
Behind the Wheel
“The S-Cross is nimble and balanced, while the Boosterjet four-pot generates its maximum torque at just 1500rpm, making it feel very spritely, almost ‘sporty’ off the line.” - CarAdvice
While outright-performance will matter little to most buyers in this segment, the numbers that the S-Cross and its Boosterjet turbo-petrol mill are nothing short of impressive. The 220Nm of torque on offer is comparable to the 2.4-litre atmo four-pot you can find in a Honda Accord, which is handily spread across a wide rev-band (1500rpm to 4000rpm). This means that the S-Cross is a proper giggle between traffic lights, and remains refined during overtaking manoeuvres, executed mostly without kick down as the six-speed torque-converter automatic (replacing the old CVT-automatic that used to strangle the engine of its power) makes full use of the Boosterjet’s twist.
What can surprise more spirited drivers is the steering, which offers decent amounts of feedback, and a pretty direct steering feel. You can actually feel what the front wheels are doing (which can’t be said of all cars in this segment), which is aided by the relatively-light 1170kg curb weight. And while body control is very commendable, the S-Cross offers that by trading away some comfort: Tyre roar is rather pronounced as you approach the speed limit (though wind noise is well-surpressed), and the ride can be considered firm, which is particularly noticeable on long motorway journeys.
Safety & Technology
“The S-Cross achieved a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was first released in 2013. However, there is no availability of systems like AEB, blind spot monitoring, or adaptive cruise control…” - CarAdvice
The Suzuki S-Cross certainly impresses in terms of safety. With seven airbags, traction control, stability control, reverse camera and parking sensors all coming in as standard, the S-Cross certainly makes a strong argument for itself as the runabout of choice for young families. Two ISOFIX tethers can be found in the rear, perfect for fitting child seats. There’s even hill-start assist and hill descent control on offer, which makes this front-wheel drive crossover that little more capable on unsealed surfaces than some of its rivals.
Tech is pretty well catered for too, with things like cruise-control, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, and satellite navigation coming in as standard. There’s even voice control on offer, which we reckon you won’t use much unless trying to impress your friends. Apple CarPlay comes as standard, though Android Auto is strangely missing. Bluetooth is also available here, so at least Android users can play their music through the six speakers on offer.
The S-Cross, with its refreshed looks and increased prices, certainly deserves to be considered by anyone looking for a smart, safe crossover with enough breadth of ability to handle urban and long-distance driving. The turbocharged Boosterjet engine means that it’s properly fun to drive between the lights, while the suspension and steering offer great amounts of feedback and communication.
While the S-Cross is, admittedly, now more premium than it used to be, it’s also a whole lot of car for the money. It does face stiff competition, with rivals like the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V putting up a strong fight, while more value-conscious buyers may opt for a Baleno hatchback instead. However, if the distinct styling, great value, and peppy engine of the S-Cross appeals to you, along with Suzuki’s rock-solid reliability and competitive capped-price servicing offers, it’s a hard proposition to pass up.
CarAdvice - 7.5/10 - “What the S-Cross does have that some of its rivals don't, is character. Having driven the new Baleno, Vitara, and now the new S-Cross, Suzuki's latest models have a lovable charm about them that helps you see past flaws like the basic interior and design quirks.”
Motoring - 71/100 - “Where does this leave the S-Cross turbo? There’s no doubt it has been improved with the mid-life overhaul. But it is also unlikely that will trigger some sort of seminal moment among new car buyers that will fundamentally boost its popularity. There are simply too many quality rivals out there.”
WhatCar? - 3.0/5.0- “The Suzuki S-Cross is hard to beat when it comes to value for money.”
Autocar - 4.5/5.0 - “We all know someone like the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross. Someone who just goes quietly about their business, doing their best to attract very little in the way of attention while rubbing along easily with everybody. Remarkable in no way at all, until one day you notice they’re extraordinarily skilled at something.”
AutoExpress - 4.0/5.0 - “A facelift for the Suzuki S-Cross may have changed the styling, but it remains a great value crossover that’s decent to drive.”
CarBuyer UK - 3.6/5.0 - “Taken as a whole, the changes have been successful, with the Boosterjet engines a big improvement on the old petrol, while the interior and suspension adjustments are also welcome. The S-Cross’ main selling point is value, though, with similar space to a Nissan Qashqai for the price of a Nissan Juke.”