Part SUV, part hatch. The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross carries over one familiar badge but into a new crossover design that blurs body style boundaries.
Smaller than compact SUVs such as the Hyundai ix35 and Kia Sportage but larger than compact crossovers like the Holden Trax and Peugeot 2008, the S-Cross is more likely to butt heads with the Nissan Dualis and Mitsubishi ASX.
Whereas the SX4 was a distinctly boxy, tallboy design, the new-generation S-Cross has been styled with a more traditional SUV in mind. It’s also longer and wider than the outgoing model.
However, along with more size and space, there’s also a significant price hike for the new model.
The range kicks off with the entry-level Suzuki S-Cross GL 2WD from $22,990 plus on-road costs – a whopping $4000 premium over the equivalent outgoing model.
Still, that’s less than key rivals, with the Nissan Dualis ST priced from $25,990 and the Mitsubishi ASX from $24,990.
And along with increased prices comes a lift in equipment levels, with highlights that include 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth with music streaming, cruise control and seven airbags as standard on the base model.
Higher grades, including the GLX (from $29,990) and GLX Prestige ($34,990), feature additional kit such as keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, seven-speaker audio system, 17-inch alloys, reversing camera with rear parking sensors.
The GLX Prestige adds leather upholstery and a double-sliding panoramic sunroof.
The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 86kW and 156Nm – outputs lower than the 112kW/190Nm of the 2.0-litre motor that inhabited the SX4.
It’s a belt-tightened development of Suzuki’s own ‘M16A’ engine, intended to improve efficiency through detailed weight and friction reductions, though it lacks performance-enhancing technology such as direct injection and turbocharging.
Suzuki engineers justify the downsized engine displacement by citing weight-saving construction that has allowed the S-Cross to shed 110 kilograms (down to 1105kg), despite growing in size. By comparison, the entry-level Nissan Dualis tips the scales at 1371 kilos.
The base model GL is equipped with a standard five-speed manual transmission with an optional CVT for $2500, while all other models get a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Right from the get go you can feel the benefits of Suzuki’s weight loss program. Even with two passengers and luggage on board, there’s no shortage of off-the-line poke, and the CVT does a decent job of ensuring there’s always plenty of thrust when you need it.
Power delivery is also refreshingly smooth (more so than many other CVTs we’ve tried) and apart from full-throttle prods we found that engine noise inside the cabin to be relatively well checked.
There’s more fun to be had behind the wheel of the GLX and GLX Prestige models, which add paddleshifters and a seven-speed manual mode that enhances the S-Cross driving experience.
Suzuki Australia hopes to offer a torquier (320Nm) diesel version of the S-Cross, but can’t say when cars will become available from the company’s plant in Hungary, or whether it will be available in both manual and auto guise.
Also commendable is the car’s inherent agility. It’s not quite in the Suzuki Swift league, but it feels decidedly hatch-like (almost sporty) on more challenging twisty sections.
The steering is pleasantly light with consistent weighting, and apart from some on-centre vagueness, it’s sharp and moderately quick on turn-in.
Body roll is well contained, too, though lateral grip is only modest. Nonetheless, the S-Cross never feels unsettled even over mid-corner bumps – instead remaining a stable, solid and understeer-biased front-driver.
The pedal weights are also nicely calibrated – light but with good responses and feel.
All-wheel-drive versions of the S-Cross – dubbed Allgrip – drive in a similar fashion to their two-wheel-drive siblings, although offer slightly more traction out of corners when pushed.
It’s an on-demand system that also offers four driver-selectable modes ¬– auto, sport, snow and lock – and well worth considering for those who routinely venture down rougher roads.
It’s also superbly economical, with our S-Cross AWD returning a reading of 6.6L/100km after a spirited drive over a 50-kilometre test loop.
The positives continue with the ride, as the S-Cross soaks up the bumps well and strikes a good balance between handling and comfort.
It’s not exactly a soft set-up, but there’s a generally decent level of compliance, helped by either the 50 or 60-profile tyres on 16 or 17-inch rims.
However, on the inside, the new S-Cross is best described as unremarkable.
Although Suzuki has added more soft-touch materials (though plenty of hard plastics still feature) and infotainment to the cabin, it still lacks the panache of many of its counterparts these days.
While we didn’t get the chance to sample the range-topping GXL Prestige with leather upholstery, the cloth-bound seats in the lower grade models nevertheless provide good comfort and lower back support.
Perhaps in support of its SUV intentions, the driving position itself is suitably high set, so there’s a commanding view of the road ahead, as well plenty of adjustability for the steering wheel.
There’s also plenty of space for adult passengers and a boot boasting class-leading luggage space of 430 litres – trumping the Dualis’s 410 litres.
Rear legroom is excellent, though taller folks might struggle in the GLX Prestige with its extra-large sunroof impeding head space.
Suzuki has a reputation for building reliable, fun-to-drive small cars, and it’s managed to do the same with its all-new SX4 S-Cross.
Add plenty of space, improved styling and efficiency and more equipment and the S-Cross should easily attract a broader audience than its predecessor.