The Suzuki S Cross is a car quite often forgotten in the over-populated, uber-popular small SUV category. While it isn't the first car to come to mind when you think of a small SUV, it is an all-round, well-packaged vehicle that serves its purpose well.
We purchased our S-Cross GL (base model) nearly 3 years ago, while the model was still in its infancy. The proven reliability of Suzuki motor cars, good size, and price (circa $25k) lured us into the deal.
The car is powered by Suzuki’s highly efficient M16A engine. It is a 1.6-litre, naturally aspirated unit that churns out 88kW of power and 156Nm of torque – both of which can only be achieved above 4000rpm. The M16A is unfortunately paired to a CVT that is aimed towards economy over driving performance. While not a powerhouse, the engine still gets the job done. The overall performance is adequate due to the low kerb weight of just 1125kg (CVT), but the drivetrain wins back points through its frugality. We manage 600km of urban driving to a tank (47 litres), while figures can stretch to at least 30km/L on the highway (3.3L per 100km).
My only gripes with the powertrain centre mainly around the CVT. The transmission is relatively slow to respond, especially when coasting (e.g to a red light), and then quickly accelerating. Hills are also the nemesis of the transmission, which can take a second to go from a cruising ratio to a hill ratio. A notable feature of the S-Cross is its S Mode, which holds the revs up high and improves performance (at the expense of refinement). As the CVT changes ratios, it emits a quiet, yet irritating whine that is more noticeable at lower speeds. While the CVT has its downsides, its combination with the engine certainly delivers strong fuel economy while maintaining a comparatively pleasant driving experience.
The accelerator pedal feel is good, with smooth, linear power delivery. The brake feel is strong, with little sponginess. The steering is well weighted, with no dead spots. While it can’t be described as sporty, it is easy, smooth and direct. The car travels well, with a ride that is just soft enough that it soaks up the bumps and imperfections nicely, although the cabin can be penetrated by a fair amount of road noise, especially on coarse surfaces. On the other hand, wind noise is minimal.
The best part of the S-Cross is its raised height. This allows for a raised driving position, as well as easy entry and exit from the vehicle. The cabin is spacious for a vehicle of this class, but like most modern cars, rear legroom is limited when the front occupants are tall. At around 190cm, I am uncomfortable in the front passenger seat due to the curved glovebox, which presses on my right knee. Unlike the driver’s seat, the height of the passenger seat cannot be adjusted. Headroom in the front seats is abundant, while tall back passengers may feel deprived of headroom when cornering.
As previously stated, the driver’s seat features both height, and backrest adjustment. The steering wheel also features both tilt and telescopic adjustment. The visibility from the driver seat is satisfactory, although it is compromised by broad A pillars. The shape of the seats themselves could be improved in terms of support at the top of the seat. Other than that minor issue, the seats are supportive with plenty of padding and side support.
It’s worth noting that in order to create a 3 point seatbelt, the belt in the back middle seat must first be extended from the roof and connected to an anchorage point in the seat. While this process seems odd at first, it is simple. The back seats can be folded down by simply releasing one catch, creating a cavernous storage compartment of around 1200L. The boot alone with the seats up can still absorb a generous 430L of items. The height of the tailgate itself can be hazardous for taller owners.
The controls of the car are basic yet adequate. The switchgear is predominately plastic, but solid. The simple sound system and air conditioning controls feature buttons that provide satisfactory feedback. The 4 speaker stereo generates a good sound with strong bass. The Bluetooth phone connection can be tricky to set up (especially with older handsets), but is solid once initialised. The sound system also includes a USB input found in the centre console that works best with iPods. The car doesn't have push button start or keyless entry (available on the higher spec GLX model), which contributes to the cars overall simplicity. The transmission gear selector does however, feel slightly second-rate. A leather clad steering wheel would have been nice, although the urethane doesn’t feel too uncomfortable. The dash top is comprised of hard, bargain-basement plastics, which feel durable and hard wearing. Along the front of the dash (facing the front seats) is a section of soft touch plastic that raises the overall cabin ambience.
Central to the tachometer and speedometer is a simple screen which conveys information such as range and fuel economy. This display is controlled by push and twist buttons protruding from the instrument binnacle.
While the car doesn’t include any active safety technologies, it does come standard with the usual array of airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag). It has a 5 star ANCAP rating.
Other positives of the S-Cross include the now elusive and rare space saver tyre, as well as a 12V socket in the boot – handy to plug in a car fridge.
The car requires servicing every 6 months through the Suzuki Capped Priced Servicing Program. While this servicing frequency can be thought of as overzealous, I believe it is beneficial for the reliability and longevity of the car. The car comes with a 3 year warranty that can be extended to 5 years if it is serviced at Suzuki dealers.
Our car has been affected by one recall, which involved rectifying the incorrect spacing of the stitching in the 2 front seats (which could have prevented the airbags from deploying).
The S-Cross is a vehicle that deserves more sales. It does everything required of it well, and has no other major issues. The recently unveiled, updated model includes a more powerful engine, as well as a proper six speed automatic transmission – both of which should address the drivetrain issues. In my opinion, Suzuki also need to increase their brand awareness by improving their marketing.
Overall, the Suzuki S-Cross is a good purchase that will serve owners well.