SUV, anyone? We are awash with choices of compact/crossover SUVs at the moment. As someone who may be in the market for such a car, the S-Cross was pretty timely. I had just dropped off the Peugeot 2008 with its 1.2-litre turbo 3-cylinder engine, and then picked up the little Suzuki with its 1.4-litre turbo 4-cylinder engine.
On top of the Peugeot, while I had the S-Cross I shot up to Auckland to drive the all-new Toyota C-HR, which has a 1.2-litre, turbo 4-cylinder engine. This was going to be interesting.
There are 3 available models in the S-Cross range; the LTD 2WD at $29,990, the AWD LTD at $33,990, and the Prestige 2WD (tested) for the same $33,990.
The cruncher here is that only the Prestige model comes with the awesome 1.4 BoosterJet engine – the two LTD models come with the ‘old’ 1.6 non-turbo engine. All models are fitted with a 6-speed automatic, with no manual gearbox option.
Suzuki have done really well with the standard list of features for all models here; cruise control and speed limiter, gearbox paddles, keyless entry and start, dual zone climate AC, a 7” touchscreen display with built-in satnav, Apple CarPlay capability (but not Android Auto), reversing camera, Bluetooth of course, halogen projector headlamps, 17” alloy wheels, Hill Start Assist, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with controls for audio, cruise/limiter, voice control, and phone.
If you buy the AWD model, the only change is an ALLGRIP knob that lets you select Snow, Auto, Lock or Sports modes to give you some control over the AWD system.
For the same money as the AWD, the 2WD Prestige with the turbo engine gets quite a few more goodies. It adds auto-levelling LED Projector headlights, auto headlights and wipers, rear privacy glass, full leather interior, rear parking sensors, polished alloys, and LED tail lamps. You’d have to really want AWD to not get those goodies for the same price AND get the far better engine.
The other sell-point here is that currently while I’m writing this, Suzuki is doing a special on the Prestige for $31,990. That is a no-brainer over the 2WD LTD model and the AWD version.
Wow – the S-Cross is a lot more grown up than the SX4 it replaces. Still, it’s a nice looker, especially in the Canyon Bronze Pearl Metallic that our test car came in. I got lots of comments on the look of the car and the colour had lots to do with that.
The shark-ish grille had me thinking of the early Nissan Murano – bold, brash and shiny. But I got used to it quickly and somehow it does suit the car’s overall design. At first glance though, some people thought it looked a bit, uh, ugly (sorry, Suzuki).
The rear of the car doesn’t look too different – I fear that if the car was grey, it would look pretty boring, and the same as many other small SUVs on the market.
While based on the same platform as Vitara, the S-Cross doesn’t seem that much bigger but the interior feels a lot wider. She’s pretty spacious inside as far as width goes, for a compact SUV.
Leg room in the front is great, while rear legroom is average, but still good. However, the middle rear seat passenger can be pretty squeezed up here on a long trip. My middle-seat teenage passenger in the rear did find it pretty cramped on a drive to Feilding, but not to the point of not wanting to get back into the car.
Sitting in the driver’s seat is a pleasant experience; controls generally fall to hand nicely, and surfaces you touch are on the whole very nice. Great to see gearbox paddles, which I ended up using quite a bit for that bit of extra engine braking.
The leather seats in the Prestige are excellent – I had to drive to Feilding and back twice in the S-Cross, with a full load of five each time. No one complained of the seats not being up to it, even though it was 4 lots of 2.5-hour trips.
Like so many cars, while the seats are all black, the pillars and headlining are an off-white, so this helps to lighten up the interior a bit.
Interesting that Suzuki have not put any front USB ports in; there’s a 12-volt socket in the front centre console, but there’s just one USB inside the cubby in the console behind the handbrake.
The leather steering wheel has a great feel to it, and the controls for audio etc are brilliantly done – simple, and easy to use without even thinking about it. Perfect sign of it done right.
Audio quality from the 6-speaker system is ok. Nothing special, just average.
The boot on the S-Cross is more than usable, bordering on very spacious. A handy feature is the false floor that can be lifted and then objects not more than say 100mm tall can be stored. Your other option is to lift the false floor out, and that allows a flat floor when the rear seats are folded down.
I loved the BoosterJet engine in the Vitara – how would it translate into the S-Cross? Much the same, if not better. This 1.4-litre turbo power plant is quiet, smooth and powerful. And here’s the thing; it is ALWAYS these three things, no matter what your revs. After the 81Kw/205Nm Peugeot 2008 (which was has a great engine, but is often lumpy) the S-Cross was a delight. It has more power and torque than the 2008 (103Kw/220Nm), but is silky smooth along with it.
That’s not to say the 2008 has a bad engine – anything but – but it’s just so much more pleasing to drive the Suzuki, as far as smoothness goes.
And then there’s the all-new wildcard – the 85Kw/185Nm Toyota C-HR, which has a 1.2-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine. I see a theme developing here in the compact SUV market. So the S-Cross is much smoother than the turbo Peugeot – how does it compare to the C-HR?
While I’ve only driven the CH-R for a day so far, it was extremely smooth too, probably more so even than the S-Cross, but it doesn’t have the same instant pick-up as the Suzuki.
The six-speed auto in the S-Cross is a great gearbox, crisp smooth changes at just the right time. But, my test car did have a little glitch where sometimes it would be a little jerky, with a shunt on the downshift. I expect it was just my test car that did this, and otherwise the gearbox was perfectly behaved.
So does it go that well? Yes. We had lots of wet weather while I had the car, and just that little bit extra on the gas pedal would easily spin the front wheels when starting off. I mentioned earlier on two 300Km trips I had to do in the S-Cross – with a fully loaded car of 5 people. Did I notice the extra weight? Barely. Even up hills, the gearbox would simply downshift early and use a few more revs to get you up any steep hills with ease. It really is that good.
Ride is very good, not quite up to the 2008 or the C-HR, but excellent all the same. In saying that, at low speeds it could get a little jiggly and sometimes hitting a bump on a corner would unsettle the car a bit. No dramas, but I could feel the car moving sideways a bit.
General handling of the car is very good – body roll is well checked, and you can chuck this car around a bit when you want to. Steering is good, and brakes are fine.
There is a little wind noise when on the motorway, but it’s not too bad. The main thing I noticed on most of the time was the road noise, especially on chip seal. The S-Cross has Continental tyres, but these didn’t help. I often found myself making sure all the windows were up – until I remembered that was the normal level of road noise. The road noise was the worst I’ve heard in a while, but keep in mind that these days it’s pretty rare to mention this at all, so not the end of the world for the S-Cross.
What’s it like day-to-day? With that engine, very easy to live with. There were a few niggly things, like the audio system that reverts to radio every time you turn the car off (arghh!). Like many people, I like to use my phone’s music via Bluetooth, but it’s annoying to have to select Bluetooth every time you want to use it. Visibility out of the car is superb – this is a great commuter car. Motorway lane changes are a breeze, even without Blind Spot Monitoring.
SatNav is dead easy to use, but I wish that Suzuki had put turn-by-turn instructions into the centre of the instruments, for the driver. Speaking of the instruments, there’s no digital speedo, which is a bummer. If a car has one, it’s the only one I use.
The touchscreen can be slow on pressing the buttons, but the display is crystal clear with high resolution; it’s extremely crisp and is exactly the same system as the Vitara.
Over 1,200kms, my test car averaged 6.0l/100km. This is almost exactly what Suzuki says the combined rating should be, but bear in mind probably 75% of my driving was on the open road. This figure is a full litre/100km less than the result I got from the smaller engined, 3-cylinder Peugeot.
Toyota say that the Compact SUV market is one of the fastest growing segments. Looking at the amount of choices here, they may be onto something.
|Brand / Model|
(All FWD only)
|Price Highest to Lowest|
|Honda HR-V Sports||1.8-litre, 4-cylinder petrol||105/172||n/a||6.9||$39,990|
|Toyota C-HR||1.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol||85/185||11.0||6.4||$37,990|
|Kia Soul T-GDI||1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol||150/265||n/a||6.9||$37,990|
|Ford Escape Ambiente||1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol||134/240||n/a||7||$37,990|
|Skoda Yeti Monte Carlo||1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol||92/200||8.9||5.8||$36,990|
|Holden Trax LTZ||1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol||103/200||n/a||6.7||$36,990|
|Mitsubishi ASX XLS||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol||112/200||n/a||7.6||$36,690|
|Citroen C4 Cactus||1.2-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol||81/205||9.3||4.7||$35,990|
|Renault Captur Dynamique||1.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol||88/190||10.9||5.4||$35,990|
|Peugeot 2008 Allure||1.2-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol||81/205||10.3||4.8||$34,990|
|Mazda CX-3||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol||109/192||n/a||6.1||$34,695|
|Suzuki S-Cross||1.4-litre, 4-cylinder petrol turbo||103/220||8.7||5.9||$33,990|
|Nissan Juke||1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol||86/158||n/a||6.3||$31,990|
|SSangyong Tivoli Limited||1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol||94/160||n/a||7.2||$31,990|
The Pros and Cons
What do we think of it?
Compared to the 2008, the S-Cross is far more refined. Compared to the C-HR, it’s a better performer. Then again, the 2008 is a real driver’s car as far as character goes – it has some.
The S-Cross is a great car, but doesn’t have that same character. Does that bother you? If not, then quite possibly the S-Cross is for you (and it’s cheaper).
And the C-HR? It’s a Toyota, and that will equal sales. But as mentioned, both the 2008 and S-Cross perform much better – but it’s time to do a bit of fence sitting; we have a C-HR coming up on review, I think it’s going to take more than one day’s driving to decide on a winner in the compact SUV wars. Watch this space.
The S-Cross is a great daily driver and commuter. I don’t think anyone would be unhappy with the S-Cross Prestige – it ticks lots of boxes, and does things it was designed to do almost perfectly.
|Vehicle Type||Front engine, FWD Compact SUV|
|Tested Price||$33,990 ($31,990)|
|Engine||1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol|
|0 – 100 kph, seconds||8.7|
|Fuel Economy, l/100km||5.9 (stated)|
6.0 (real world)
|Kerb Weight, Kg||1,195|
|Length x Width x Height, mm||4,300×1,785×1,585|
|Cargo Capacity, litres||440/875|
|Fuel Tank, litres||47|
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||5 Star|
|Warranty||3 year/100,000km warranty|
Additional 2 year drivetrain warranty
5 years Roadside Assist