The Suzuki S-Cross was touted as a successor to the SX4 but continues to be sold alongside the small car months after its launch.
Suzuki Australia has also been playing around with the pricing of the S-Cross that still wears an SX4 badge but makes a more definitive play for the SUV market than the high-riding, tall-bodied hatch.
Lower-end grades enjoyed a $1000 cut, to as little as $22,990 driveaway, though the range-topping Suzuki S-Cross GLX Prestige tested here added the same amount for $36,990 driveaway.
That’s starting to get exxy for one of the smaller SUVs on the road, though fortunately there’s a list of standard features that goes at least some way to matching the 4.3-metre length of the vehicle.
A dual panoramic sunroof and leather upholstery are exclusive to the GLX Prestige grade, then there are features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, reverse-view camera and rear sensors, 6.1-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, leather steering wheel, Bluetooth audio streaming, and keyless entry and start. There's also an all-wheel-drive system.
However, while a Peugeot 2008 Allure 1.6 auto doesn't offer AWD and has only 16-inch alloys to 17s, this $33,840 driveaway model does have an even longer equipment list.
The leather of the GLX Prestige further lifts the tidy cabin presentation that looks and feels well put together, including the use of some good-quality materials, though the dash design of the lower-grade models looks more cohesive than the higher-spec models that gain an aftermarket-style touchscreen.
The touchscreen isn’t the most user-friendly system we’ve experienced and syncing your phone via Bluetooth isn’t a super-simple process. There’s no app integration feature, either, as with the Holden Trax’s MyLink.
Still, in its class, the S-Cross’s interior is only shaded by the Peugeot 2008 and the Trax.
It’s also a good match for the well executed Suzuki S-Cross exterior design that also looks far better proportioned than the tall-bodied SX4.
A combination of the S-Cross’s rear-sloping roof and the Prestige’s sunroof, however, cramps headroom for even average-sized adults. Air vents are also a notable omission.
Rear legroom is more liberal, and opening the tailgate reveals equal generosity with a 430-litre boot larger than those found in direct rivals such as the aforementioned 2008 and Trax, as well as the Ford EcoSport, Mitsubishi ASX, and Nissan Juke.
The rear seats can be folded down, of course, to prioritise cargo room.
There’s some space under the bonnet, too, because there’s just a 1.6-litre four-cylinder instead of the 2.0-litre four used in the SX4.
Many manufacturers these days are downsizing engines for improved fuel economy, though they commonly apply a turbocharger to try to recover some performance.
However, there’s no turbine-assisted power or even direct fuel injection for the engine, and the result isn’t ideal.
Although it’s commendable Suzuki has constructed a larger vehicle than the old SX4 while reducing weight by up to 110kg, with 86kW of power and 156Nm of torque the 1.6-litre, teamed with a CVT auto, can still struggle.
Throttle response is tardy, making it all the more tempting around town to permanently engage the Sport mode designed for more enthusiastic open road driving.
It goes a bit too much the other way, however, making it difficult to drive the S-Cross smoothly in traffic.
The need to work the Suzuki hard hurts fuel economy. Although the S-Cross’s official consumption is rated at 6.2 liters per 100km, our testing in a recent baby-SUV compare returned a figure of 9.1L/100km that put it in the bottom half of a six-vehicle group.
Steering that is indecisive around the straight-ahead position and a less-than-polished ride don’t do the Suzuki S-Cross any favours, either, but the Japanese SUV becomes more endearing on country roads.
As roads begin to tighten, so unwinds a terrifically balanced chassis capable of delivering highly predictable handling that provides plenty of assurance for your average SUV buyer.
For the keener motorist, there’s even a modicum of entertainment, though it’s kept in check by that underwhelming petrol engine – even with the Sport mode that lifts engine revs and shuffles some extra torque to the rear wheels, and the paddleshift levers that allows the driver to pick from seven pre-set gear ratios.
That’s selected via the Driver Select dial on the centre console, which also offers Snow for extra traction on slippery surfaces and Lock (separate button) for trickier low-speed situations. Auto is the default, biased towards saving fuel.
The S-Cross’s size makes it easy to park, though only GLX models come with a reverse-view camera and rear sensors. GL models miss out on both, where the rival Peugeot 2008 features them standard throughout the range.
Fuel is just one running cost, servicing is another – and the S-Cross is one of the more expensive of its breed here. With six-month or 10,000km servicing intervals, the Suzuki costs $1540 in check-ups over three years.
This compares with the Trax that asks its owners just $550 over the same period.
Let’s hope Suzuki Australia is successful in expanding the S-Cross range with a 1.6-litre turbo diesel available in other markets including the UK.
For now, the range-topping Suzuki S-Cross appeals with its standard kit and carries some of the charm of the Swift, though in addition to some shortcomings in the way it drives the pricing also places it in difficult territory where there’s plenty of stronger (and bigger) SUV offerings.