Suzuki SX4 S-Cross review
The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is a rival for the Nissan Qashqai, with efficient engines, plenty of space and the option of 4x4
The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is a replacement for the ageing SX4, which will continue to be sold until March 2014, and a crossover rival to the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti. It sits on an all-new chassis platform and features both two and four-wheel drive, as well as one of the biggest boots in its class. It comes with the choice of either a 1.6-litre petrol or diesel engine, with the petrol models available with the option of a CVT automatic gearbox. To help boost its fleet sales, Suzuki is launching a well-equipped SZT trim that will include sat-nav, reversing sensors, Bluetooth and DAB radio, along with the standard trims. Even entry-level SZ3 cars will come with alloy wheels, electric windows, cruise control and manual air-conditioning as standard, while the top-spec versions get heated leather seats, a huge sliding panoramic sun roof and upgraded auto headlights.
Our choice: SX4 S-Cross 1.6D SZ4 2WD
Suzuki has clearly drawn some styling inspiration from its nearest rivals when it came to finish the design of the new SX4 S-Cross. The optional Crystal Lime metallic paint aside, the overall look is handsome but a bit generic. At the back there is more than a hint of the Nissan Qashqai, while the domed bonnet and wide grille look like they could have been borrowed from the Chrysler Delta. Inside, much of the switchgear is taken from the Swift hatch. That means it's well made and simply laid-out, even if some of the plastics used for the handbrake and glovebox feel a tad cheap. The high driving position and tall windscreen mean visibility is good and the seats are comfortable if slightly firm. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake but getting positioning behind the wheel can be a truncated process due to the stepped seat adjustment.
There are two 1.6-litre engines to choose from in the SX4 S-Cross – one petrol and one diesel. Both produce 118bhp but there is a massive difference in torque as the petrol produces just 156Nm (less than half of the diesel’s 320Nm output), which means that the diesel is much more relaxing to drive. The petrol comes with a five-speed manual gearbox or a CVT automatic, but feels strained and often underpowered when driving up steep inclines or when loaded with passengers. The diesel is much better and, although it can be a bit noisy, is a more capable cruiser. The steering is light but pleasingly accurate and the handling is very tidy for a car in this class. However, the same can't be said for the ride. Low speed bumps expose a lack of composure and the damping is just too firm for a family car. It settles down at high speeds but could prove tiring in town. Four-wheel drive version have four different driving modes to help deal with tricky conditions. Leave it in ‘Auto’ and the system defaults to front-wheel drive to help save fuel. Switch to sport and the throttle response is improved and torque can be sent to the rear wheels if required. The ‘Snow’ and ‘Lock’ settings are for more serious off-roading. Still, the S-Cross doesn't have the best ground clearance, which means that cars like the Dacia Duster and Skoda Yeti are better suited to driving in mud.
Suzuki is one of the few Japanese manufacturers that hasn't been affected by a major product recall in the last 12 months. Both the engines on offer (although tweaked for efficiency) have been used elsewhere in the Suzuki range and have a proven track record. Inside, the cabin feels fairly robust – part of the appeal of its basic design - and it feels sturdier than rivals like the Vauxhall Mokka. That said, the manufacturer finished a disappointing 29th in the 2013 Driver Power survey, while its only model to make it into the Top 100 was the Swift in 81st place. The biggest problems for owners were its cars' lack of performance, harsh ride quality and disappointing practicality. That said, it did perform well in the reliablity and running costs categories, which bodes well for the S-Cross. As for safety, Euro NCAP hasn't yet tested the SX4 S-Cross but Suzuki is confident that thanks to the seven airbags, ESP and stiffer and lighter high-strength steel body shell, the new car will receive a five-star rating.
This is where the Suzuki scores points over its rivals. The standard boot is 430 litres and comes with a false floor that can be used to store hidden items and to create a flat loading bay. It can also be removed to create extra space for carrying luggage. The wheelbase is 100mm longer than the previous SX4, which provides a lot more legroom for rear passengers but the S-Cross still feels quite narrow and compact inside. The model we tried came fitted with a sliding panoramic sunroof that really impeded headroom, but Suzuki says that the standard car is likely to be better at carrying taller passengers in the back. 4x4 versions are a lot cheaper than their rivals, so Suzuki buyers will have to spend less to get the benefit of extra grip in snow or wintery conditions, too – only the much smaller Fiat Panda 4x4 offers all-wheel drive at this price point.
Unlike most crossovers in this segment the SX4 S-Cross should be very affordable to run – all but the petrol four-wheel-drive model produce less than 130g/km of C02 and diesel models get stop-start as standard, which helps to drop that figure to just 110g/km for the front-wheel-drive car. Economy varies but even the petrol versions manage a claimed fuel economy figure of more than 50mpg, while the diesel variants nudge closer to 70mpg. Suzuki doesn't offer any servicing packages but cheap insurance and very generous kit levels, combined with a price that should be at least 10 per cent lower than its main rivals, make the S-Cross extremely good value for money. The only fly in the ointment is the residual values, which are expected to be around 35 per cent – below average for the segment and much lower than some of the mainstream competition.