Cheap’s crossed off list

Suzuki aban­dons bargain base­ment with a slick $30K city-fo­cused SUV

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARS­GUIDE EDI­TOR richard.black­burn@news.com.au

SUZUKI’S S-Cross baby cross­over is no longer a bargain base­ment propo­si­tion. The maker has dumped the cheapest ver­sion of the S-Cross and re­placed it with a much more ex­pen­sive, tur­bocharged model pre­sented as an al­ter­na­tive to its Vi­tara small SUV.

The S-Cross used to be priced from $22,990 drive-away but the new model will start from $28,990 drive-away. A bet­ter equipped ver­sion will cost $30,990.

That’s a big leap but Suzuki man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Andrew Moore says the move is de­signed to at­tract older, more con­ser­va­tive buy­ers who want more equip­ment and aren’t sold on the more rugged SUV styling of the Vi­tara.

The new S-Cross has had a vis­ual makeover, with a bolder front grille, new al­loy wheels and up­dated touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment set-up.

Gone are the 1.6-litre en­gine and con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion, re­placed by the 1.4-litre turbo and stan­dard sixspeed auto from the Vi­tara.

All-wheel-drive is no longer an op­tion and Moore says the new S-Cross is more car-like.

“About 95 per cent of our sales were two-wheel-drives,” he says.

Sales have tailed off badly in re­cent years but Moore be­lieves the S-Cross can sell 150-200 a month, sup­ple­ment­ing the Vi­tara’s tally of 500-600.

Com­peti­tors in­clude the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V, which are both more city­fo­cused than the Vi­tara.

Stan­dard equip­ment on the S-Cross Turbo in­cludes sat­nav, Ap­ple CarPlay (but not An­droid Auto), seven airbags, cruise con­trol, re­vers­ing cam­era and 17-inch al­loys.

The Turbo Pres­tige model adds key­less en­try and start, rear park­ing sen­sors, par­tial leather seats and LED head­lights.

Once you get past the in­y­our-face new grille and the smat­ter­ing of hard plas­tics in the cabin, the up­dated S-Cross is not without its charms.

The new touch­screen is more mod­ern-look­ing and the di­als are clear and easy to read. Stan­dard sat­nav puts it on par with the more ex­pen­sive ver­sions of the CX-3 and HR-V, while you can mir­ror your smart­phone menu on the big screen — if you have an iPhone.

In a ma­jor over­sight, the Suzuki doesn’t have the same func­tion for An­droid users, de­spite the fact they are in the ma­jor­ity in Aus­tralia.

A dig­i­tal speedo, rear air vents and au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing are other no­table omis­sions, although they are bal­anced by the leather seats and the gen­er­ous head and legroom in the rear pews. Also wel­come is a big rear load area with a handy 12V out­let and false floor for keep­ing valu­ables out of sight.

ON THE ROAD

The S-Cross is fun on the open road. It’s a light­weight with a rea­son­ably low cen­tre of grav­ity for this type of ve­hi­cle, which means it feels ag­ile through the cor­ners.

The fun fac­tor is helped by di­rect and ac­cu­rate steer­ing and good grip from the Con­ti­nen­tal tyres. The sus­pen­sion is gen­er­ally well con­trolled over bumps and rip­ples, although the ride can be jar­ring at times, de­pend­ing on the sur­face.

Less-than-per­fect back roads gen­er­ate a fair bit of road and sus­pen­sion noise.

The 1.4-litre turbo per­forms above the class av­er­age, with good re­sponse off the mark and strong mid-range for over­tak­ing. On the free­way it feels more re­laxed than many ri­vals, lum­ber­ing along qui­etly at low revs.

Around town, there is some vi­bra­tion on low throt­tle, as the six-speed trans­mis­sion holds on to lower gears for bet­ter fuel econ­omy. The auto can also be a lit­tle jerky at times but in gen­eral per­for­mance is aboveav­er­age for the class.

It’s thrifty too. We achieved 5.5L/100km on the free­way and about 10.0L in heavy city traf­fic.

VER­DICT

At first glance, Suzuki’s de­ci­sion to drop its cheapest model and chase the top end of the main­stream baby SUV market seems a gam­ble.

But even at $30,000, the Suzuki has its pluses — aboveav­er­age per­for­mance, sta­ble road man­ners, gen­er­ous equip­ment list and big, roomy cabin. It’s well worth shop­ping against the seg­ment lead­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.