Left field, right cross
Part SUV, part small car ... Suzuki straddles two popular segments with a model that punches above its weight
SMALL cars are big sellers in Australia and Suzuki finally has a player in this field. The SX4 S-Cross is part hatch, part SUV and all that a lot of buyers will ask for in a car.
The 1.6-litre engine looks small on the stats sheet but has a power-to-weight ratio that’s hard to top in the car or SUV field as well as class-leading cargo space. The only thing missing is a five-year warranty to match the South Koreans.
The S-Cross is about $3000 dearer than the outgoing SX4. It’s a roomier, lighter and more modern car but some may baulk at the step up.
A $22,990 entry price buys a front-wheel drive GL with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and fivespeed manual. The CVT adds $2500. The GLX is the sweet spot and is expected to dominate sales. The 2WD version has a CVT with a sevenstep paddle-shift manual mode for $29,990. The all-wheel drive version adds $3000.
Topping the line-up is the GLX Prestige. It comes as AWD only and features include leather upholstery and panoramic sunroof.
All models are fitted with Bluetooth, cruise control and alloy wheels but the GLX adds dual-zone aircon, 6.1-inch touchscreen with satnav, reversing camera and paddleshifters with a seven-step sequence for the CVT.
SUV-styled rivals such as the Nissan Dualis cost $25,990$36,890, while the class-leading small car, the Toyota Corolla, starts at $19,990 and runs to $28,490.
The all-wheel drive setup, dubbed All Grip, has four selectable modes that will suit most conditions, given the 165mm ground clearance. The default auto mode is an on- demand setting that sends power to the rear wheels only when it detects slip.
Sport mode transfers power to all four wheels and the Snow mode is set up to maximise grip on low-traction surfaces including gravel. The lock setting is intended to extricate the S-Cross from deep snow, sand or mud.
The 1.6-litre doesn’t have a turbo or direct injection and Suzuki argues it doesn’t need these. Despite being a bigger car, the S-Cross is 100kg lighter than the SX4.
Conformist looks means the S-Cross isn’t going to stand out in the carpark. It shares a tapering roofline with the likes of the Dualis and it is only the corporate grille and undulating character line that will distinguish it at a casual glance.
The generic look belies serious work to improve aerodynamics and help reduce fuel consumption.
The S-Cross also has appreciably more rear legroom than an SX4 and will take four adults in comfort.
The panoramic sunroof on Prestige models trims headroom but the rear seat backs can be reclined to offset it.
Legroom upfront has increased by 6mm and there’s now a rubberised soft-touch plastic on the front of the dash that Carsguide would like to have seen extended to the upper door trims.
The rest of the trim comprises hard but textured plastics with satin chrome highlights. The instrument binnacle is easy to read and the touchscreen is small but smart.
EuroNCAP has anointed the S-Cross as a five-star car, with good or adequate readings in all three crash tests and good whiplash protection. Suzuki expects ANCAP to follow suit with the top mark, given the high scores the Suzuki achieved in all areas.
Seven airbags are standard across the range and there’s the de rigueur suite of software aids linked to the ABS.
Anaemic power figures on paper don’t translate to a lack of performance on the road. Through a twisting ascent of the Otways in southern Victoria the Suzuki was a capable performer with two adults on board.
Thankfully the dreaded CVT drone is absent from the S-Cross, replaced by a mechanical whine that ascends into a snarl as the accelerator is depressed.
Suzuki says the power-toweight ratio is better than the Dualis and Trax and we have no reason to doubt this.
The fuel consumption is just as impressive. Claimed use of 6.2L/100km is probably achievable, given Carsguide viewed readous of no worse than 8.0L in more than 200km of hard driving.
The manually adjustable seats are supportive and the wheel adjusts for reach and height, making it easy to find a comfortable driving position. The steering is intentionally light at most speeds to cater for the urban couples expected to be the main buyers of the car.
It doesn’t have the