Mileage: 3,101 miles
Real world fuel economy: 48.4mpg
We waited as long as we could. Our Suzuki SX4 S-Cross arrived at the start of the year on a set of steel wheels shod with Avon Ice Touring ST winter tyres. And I spent the following months hoping in vain for the cold, slippery conditions to test them out.
Winter got pretty wet, disastrously fo for many households. But ice? Snow? Not a sniff. By the end of April, with the Met Office’s pronouncements turning to BBQs and sunblock, we had to admit defeat and get the S-Cross back into its summer shoes.
A trip to Suzuki service centre TW White in Bookham, Surrey, saw the winter tyres back in storage, replaced with Continental EcoContact tyres on the SZ5’s original 17-inch alloys. A thorough spring clean, and the lime green Suzuki was ready for summer.
British motorists invested in winter tyres in their droves following the Arctic onslaught of 2012/2013, but most will scarcely have had the opportunity to feel the benefits over the rain-soaked winter just gone. There’s always next year, though, and the S-Cross’ switch back to normal tyres has revealed that modern winter tyres are very good, even when conditions don’t really warrant them.
With its standard tyres back in place, the Suzuki has gained lighter steering and a more precise feel when cornering, although the difference is slight. Tyre noise may have dropped a notch, too, but that’s even harder to detect.
Fuel economy has also taken a turn for the better, rising from 46.4mpg to 48.4mpg, but that improvement has also corresponded with other members of the team taking the wheel, so it may be down to different journey types, or their superior eco driving skills...
The point is that winter tyres have their drawbacks in mild weather, but you’ve really got to be looking out for them to notice. I also know from experience that the safety benefits they give when Jack Frost does appear are huge.
If you’ve invested in winter rubber and the past six months have left you wondering why you bothered, stick with it – you’ll be glad you did.
In more general terms, the S-Cross continues to thrive as a small family car. The simplicity of its layout and controls is tough to beat, and I’m enjoying some of the handy little touches, like the deep storage bins tucked in on either side of the boot.
I took a peek inside a lower-spec version on our visit to the dealer, and that illustrated how the aftermarket look of our car’s sat-nav lowers the tone of the cabin. Nav-free models have a more cohesive dash, but the navigation system works well and I wouldn’t want to swap.
The driving experience continues to stand out as a strong point, too. The Suzuki is easy to drive, and it’s grippy and balanced in corners. I’m beginning to wonder about the gearshift, though. It’s loosened up with use, which has made its notchiness more obvious.
Overall, we’ve learned that while you can’t rely on the British weather, you can rely on the SX4 S-Cross. Other small crossovers layer on the polish, but strip that away and Suzuki has nailed the basics you really want.
Family man has been won over by sensible crossover
Mileage: 849 miles
Real world fuel economy: 46.4mpg
The appeal of a good family car is all too easy to miss. When you’re young and carefree, there’s always something sexier than that sensible five-door with the big boot. But once you’re in the family way, things change. Boy, do they change.
For five months I’d been battling through family life at the wheel of a small, three-door supermini. But now the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross has turned up, and it’s like having a 1.6-litre diesel-powered Mary Poppins parked outside.
Suddenly there are places to put wipes, bottles and other toddler essentials. The pushchair slots into the boot without expletives and the child seat fits easily. Of course, the SX4 S-Cross has been designed to cope with this kind of stuff.
It’s a crossover SUV that counts the Skoda Yeti, Mitsubishi ASX and Nissan Qashqai among its rivals. Yet it’s not a large car by class standards. It’s 30mm shorter and 15mm narrower than the latest Qashqai, but park the cars side-by-side and the difference seems greater.
Still, there’s a 430-litre boot, and two six-foot adults can sit comfortably in the back without having any head or legroom issues. Deep windows let lots of light into the rear, and also give small kids a chance of seeing out. But the major contributor to the airy feel inside is the full-length double-opening panoramic sunroof.
It won’t surprise you to hear that this isn’t standard on every model. Ours is the fully loaded, top-spec SZ5, which comes complete with leather seats, sat-nav, keyless entry and a rear parking camera, among other equipment.
Add the 1.6 DDiS diesel engine, and the price is pushed towards £22,000 – and our model’s £430 optional Crystal Lime metallic paint, plus winter tyres wrapped around a set of steel wheels, make for a grand total of £22,748.
About the only thing you don’t get for that price is four-wheel-drive. The 118bhp diesel sends power only to the front wheels, but with winter tyres fitted I’ve still been facing up to the cold, wet weather with confidence.
There’s plenty of grip and hardly any road noise makes its way into the cabin. The bare black wheels have prompted several local comedians to ask who’s stolen my hubcaps, but I quite like the contrast with the lime green bodywork.
If your first reaction on hearing the pitter-patter of tiny feet is to get on the phone to the council’s pest control department, you may not appreciate a car like the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross. When you’ve got kids though, a car that gets the basics right is a real bonus.
Insurance quote (below) provided by the AA for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.