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 all-new SX4 S-Cross marks Suzuki’s first venture into the lucrative crossover market. It shares its name with the smaller SX4 hatchback, and that model will continue to be sold alongside the newcomer. There are 1.6-litre diesel and petrol engines to choose from, as well as the option of four-wheel drive. 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
Some crossovers, such as the Nissan Qashqai, tend to add a few subtle off-road styling cues, while others, like the Skoda Yeti, go the whole way. The SX4 S-Cross is in the first category, and from some angles it doesn’t look like much more than a pumped-up Swift supermini. Up front, the rounded nose has hints of Suzuki’s SX4 hatch and Kizashi saloon about it, while black plastic cladding plus silver skid plates and roof rails add a touch of 4x4 style. From the rear, it’s uncannily similar to the Qashqai, but overall the S-Cross looks awkward next to its rivals. Inside, the Suzuki gets minimalist styling. The SZ5 model has touchscreen sat-nav as standard, so the centre console is uncluttered by buttons, while the straightforward climate controls are taken from the Swift. The blue-ringed dials stand out, plus the standard panoramic glass roof lets in plenty of light. 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.
Suzuki has a strong reputation for building fun-to-drive city cars and superminis, and it’s managed to pull off the same trick with the SX4 S-Cross. It feels eager to change direction, while there’s decent feedback through the wheel and plenty of grip from the chassis. As you might expect from a high-riding crossover, there’s some body roll, but it’s not as pronounced as in the Skoda Yeti or Nissan Qashqai. Push to the very limits of grip, and the Suzuki’s stability control system will cut in, even if you’ve switched it off. Take it easy, and the SX4 S-Cross is relatively comfortable. The longer travel suspension boosts comfort in town and on the motorway, and it’s certainly more relaxing than the stiff Skoda. It’s also pretty quiet, as the noise of the diesel engine is well isolated.
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. Four-wheel drive versions 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 gave the SX4 S-Cross the full five stars in their crash tests. It performed particularly well, with a score of 92 per cent in the adult occupant test, 80 per cent in child occupant, 72 per cent in the pedestrian test and 81 per cent for safety assist - probably thanks to the seven airbags, ESP and stiffer and lighter high-strength steel body shell.
Crossovers need to be family-friendly, and unfortunately the SX4 S-Cross is a bit of a mixed bag here. For starters, the tailgate doesn’t open high enough, while the parcel-shelf mounts feel flimsy. Clever packaging means there’s a 430-litre boot – 20 litres bigger than the Nissan Qashqai’s. Fold the seats and this increases to 875 litres (although this figure is measured to the window line). Even so, it’s unlikely to match the Yeti’s 1,760-litre maximum. Still, the Suzuki has some practical tricks up its sleeve. There’s a false boot floor that sits level with the boot lip, so you don’t have to lift items to get them out – something not found on the other cars here. And the bins behind the rear wheelarches have removable sides, allowing you to maximise the space on offer. On the downside, rear seat space is hurt by the Suzuki’s compact dimensions. There’s not as much room across the rear bench, so adults sitting three abreast will feel cramped. Elsewhere, that panoramic glass sunroof means the SX4 S-Cross has the least headroom here. Legroom is more restricted, too, while a lack of space prevents the Suzuki having vents for rear passengers like the Skoda’s. There’s plenty of room up front for even the tallest occupants, but the S-Cross doesn’t have its rivals’ wide range of storage options. The door bins are shallow, and you only get a small shelf bin and a tiny dashtop cubbyhole. 4x4 versions are expensive but still a lot cheaper than similiarly sized 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 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 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.