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 four-wheel drive
The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross might have emerged onto the crossover scene much later than most of its rivals, but it’s still a worthy competitor to the increasing crop of stylish SUVs.
Shunning its more utilitarian roots with the old SX4, the smarter SX4 S-Cross follows the trend for fashionable, high-riding family cars and brings a versatile cabin, sharp drive and plenty of kit to the party. On top of that it should be cheap to run if you opt for the frugal 1.6-litre turbodiesel. There’s also a 1.6 petrol, but unless you’re dead against driving a diesel-powered car, we’d recommend going for the more efficient alternative.
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Two-wheel drive and a manual gearbox are standard, but there is the option to upgrade to a CVT automatic (depending on engine) and four-wheel drive. This range of engine and transmission options spans three different trim levels: SZ3, SZ-T and SZ5 (the reason there’s no SZ4 is that Suzuki deleted this variant from the range at the end of 2014).
Equipment specs are fair in the entry-level SZ3 car – with cruise control, stop-start, air conditioning, Bluetooth and steering wheel mounted stereo controls coming as standard – but the real benefit is the S-Cross’ price.
SZ-T trim offers the best balance between affordability and kit, featuring keyless go, sat-nav, rear parking sensors and camera, dual-zone climate control, a DAB radio and an upgraded speaker system.
If you really want to push the boat out, the top-spec SZ5 model adds leather, front parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, a panoramic roof and LED running lights. It brings a more premium feel to the car, too, but there’s still no getting away from the Suzuki’s budget focus compared to some of its rivals.
Mixing rugged underpinnings – especially if you go for the proper four-wheel drive system – with inoffensive styling the SX4 S-Cross is a worthy contender in the family crossover sector.
The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is a rather forgettable crossover - even within Suzuki's own range. Most buyers are more likely to go for the Vitara, which is a little more traditional-looking and has the virtue of a nameplate with some history behind it. That doesn't mean you should discount the slightly older SX4 S-Cross from your shortlist, though, as it has plenty of its own strong points that make it a worthy purchase.
The first-generation S-Cross shared its platform with the Fiat Sedici (another largely forgotten car that's since been replaced with the excellent 500X) and shared that car's engines, too. The current model uses similar 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines but a much improved chassis, along with a 4WD system which unlike plenty of modern crossovers actually provides a modicum of off-road ability.
Engines, performance and drive
You don’t normally expect a high-riding crossover to deliver driving thrills, but the Suzuki is surprisingly engaging from behind the wheel. Despite its large size, it feels agile on twisting back roads and responds much more eagerly to the steering than rivals.
As you’d anticipate, there’s more body roll than with a standard family hatch, yet it’s no worse than the Nissan Qashqai and less pronounced than the Kia Sportage. And while the steering is a little light, it delivers decent feedback. A snappy six-speed gearbox and progressive brakes are further dynamic highlights.
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The good news is that the Suzuki’s nimble handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort. Supple suspension means the SX4 soaks up bumps that send a shudder through the Sportage, while the interior is well insulated from wind and road noise. The only fly in the ointment is a slight waywardness on the motorway, which requires constant small corrections with the steering wheel.
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 (the diesel gets the six-speed) or a CVT automatic, but feels strained and often underpowered when driving up steep inclines or when loaded with passengers.
There are no complaints about the 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel, which is a smooth and punchy performer. More importantly, with a muscular 320Nm of torque available from a mere 1,750rpm, the SX4 delivers effortless real-world pace and is able to power up hills that leave the Qashqai and Sportage a little breathless.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
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 CO2 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 51.3mpg, while the diesel variants top 70, with a best of 76.3mpg on paper.
There are drawbacks, though. For instance, Suzuki doesn’t offer a pre-paid servicing pack, so routine maintenance will cost you more. Also, our experts predict that the S-Cross will retain only around 40 per cent of its value after three years, which is some way behind rivals like the Sportage and Qashqai.
Interior, design and technology
While it’s not the most distinctive-looking crossover around, the SX4 S-Cross is a modern and well-proportioned design. A prominent grille is flanked by large, high-intensity discharge headlamps, plus there’s the usual SUV-inspired plastic body cladding.
All versions come with alloy wheels, as well as body-coloured bumpers and door mirrors. SZ5 spec adds 17-inch rims with a polished finish, practical roof bars and those eye-catching LED running lights.
Climb aboard and you’ll discover a neatly styled and logically laid-out cabin. The simple dash design is easy to get on with – particularly if you opt for a model with Suzuki’s intuitive touchscreen infotainment and sat-nav system. As with the exterior, the cabin isn’t the most eye-catching around, but the blue-ringed dials and silver trim for the air vents help lift the ambience.
As we’ve come to expect from the latest crop of Suzukis, quality is superb. The plastics have an upmarket look and feel, while the fixtures and fittings feel robustly constructed. It’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, as there’s plenty of seat and steering column adjustment, and the flat-looking seats are surprisingly supportive.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The S-Cross is slightly shorter and narrower than the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage, meaning it can’t quite match them for interior space. Even so, thoughtful packaging results in a useful 430-litre boot, which can easily be extended to 875 litres by folding the rear bench flat – although there are no remote release handles in the luggage area.
Elsewhere in the boot you’ll find a number of handy shopping bag hooks, a 12V power supply and a neat false floor that lifts to reveal extra storage. There’s also a pair of lidded cubbies hidden behind the rear wheelarches.
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Little separates the Suzuki from its closest contenders when it comes to legroom, but the S-Cross loses out on headroom if you go for the panoramic roof as it eats into space. Because the car is narrow, the rear bench is more of a squeeze for three adults, too.
At least there’s plenty of room up front, while the glass roof lets in a lot of light to help create a bright and airy atmosphere. Unfortunately, the Suzuki is let down by its lack of useful storage. Not only are the door pockets shallow, but you get just a small dashtop cubby and an average-sized bin ahead of the gearlever.
Reliability and Safety
Suzuki is known for its reliability, and both the engines on offer (although tweaked for efficiency) have been used elsewhere in the Suzuki range with 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.
Suzuki finished a disappointing 31st out of 32 overall in our 2015 Driver Power survey, but its cars scored well for reliability with a 10th place result. The S-Cross certainly feels built to last, while many mechanicals are shared with other established models in the brand’s line-up.
Safety was a priority when developing the car, which helped to earn the crossover a creditable five-star Euro NCAP crash test score.
All versions get seven airbags, stability control and tyre-pressure monitoring, while SZ5 adds high-intensity discharge headlamps as well as automatic lights and windscreen wipers to help improve vision and therefore safety.