Suzuki offers two compact Crossover models to buyers. This is the more sensible one, the much improved S-Cross. It's a car that straddles the mainstream part of this market segment, pitched somewhere between a Nissan Juke and a Nissan Qashqai in size. This enhanced S-Cross gets a more efficient range of engines, a sharper look and various equipment upgrades. Plus it's still as spacious and practical as before.
Everyone's at it. Launching crossover vehicles, that is. The thing is, like almost any rapidly developing vehicle class, it often takes a little time to hit upon exactly the right formula. Suzuki knows this better than most. Over the years, its various SX4 models were tidy little designs that never quite achieved the sales they deserved. The first generation model was a little too small, a little too shy and retiring and a little too poorly promoted to set the sales charts alight the way its Nissan Qashqai competitor did, but Suzuki watched, learned and came back fighting with an SX4 S-Cross in 2013 that was a much more competitive proposition. The model we look at here is that car in facelifted form. It's lost its 'SX4' tag - and its relatively inefficient 1.6-litre petrol engine, that replaced by downsized 1.0-litre and 1.4-litre 'Boosterjet' turbo units. The 1.6 DDiS diesel continues on. Suzuki has also sharpened the styling and improved equipment levels. It all sounds a pretty complete proposition.
People bought the original version of this car because it was relatively cheap - but it was only really affordable in a 1.6-litre petrol guise that condemned you to a thrashy, relatively inefficient engine. That's been sorted now. In place of that old 120PS 1.6, Suzuki now offers S-Cross buyers its 'Boosterjet' petrol technology - either a 111PS 1.0-litre three cylinder unit or a 140PS 1.4-litre four cylinder powerplant. Even the 1.0-litre variant's 170Nm torque figure is more pulling power than could be mustered by the old 1.6 and of course, it's much more efficient. There are no changes on the diesel side, so it's the same 120PS 1.6-litre DDiS VGT unit that was offered before, available with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, with a twin clutch auto transmissionan also offered. Suzuki has set the S-Cross up to ride fairly softly and that's a good thing on roads like ours, but they've also managed to include a respectable amount of roll stiffness, which means you won't encounter lurching when cornering. The optional ALLGRIP four-wheel-drive system features an electronically controlled clutch pack, operated by a four-position switch on the centre console. Choose 'Auto' and it'll stick to driving the front wheels unless slip is detected, whereupon the rear wheels are pressed into action. 'Sport' diverts up to 20 per cent of torque to the rear wheels to give livelier handling. 'Snow' offers permanent four-wheel drive, with the system choosing how much torque to split front and rear, while 'Lock' splits the torque equally between front and rear.
This revised S-Cross model gets what Suzuki hopes is more distinctive front end styling. Ground clearance is now slightly higher at 180mm (it was 165mm before) and smarter headlamps, along with redesigned LED rear combination lamps, help provide a sharper look. Overall though, the exterior styling sticks to the established class template with very few surprises. The sharply rising waistline, big headlights and chunky C-pillars are nicely executed but there's still little about the exterior of the S-Cross that will grab your attention. In size, this Suzuki remains within a few millimetres of the Nissan Qashqai and clever packaging inside has made it feel just as spacious. There's also decent headroom front and rear and plenty of shoulder width in the back, although seating three adults would be a pinch. The interior feels well screwed together, although some of the materials are still a bit scratchy. Overall, it's an inoffensive but not unpleasant piece of design. The 430-litre boot compares well with its key rivals and the false boot floor ensures a totally flat load bay when the rear seats are folded. The huge double-sliding panoramic glass sunroof fitted to the top SX5 model does rob a few centimetres of headroom though.
As before, the S-Cross is pretty much identically priced to its similarly-sized Suzuki Vitara Crossover counterpart. Yes, the Vitara offers trendier looks - but it's also got less luggage space too. S-Cross prices sit in the £15,000 to £25,000 bracket, but diesel models start up at around £20,000. The ALLGRIP 4WD system commands a premium of around £1,800. There are three trim levels, SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5, and all models are well equipped. Even the base SZ4 gets 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, cruise control, seven airbags, black protrective skidplates, black wheelarch extensions, front and rear electric windows, heated door mirrors, a DAB radio and a USB socket. There's also a model designed to target the fleet market, the SZT trim featuring 17-inch wheels, silver roof rails, skid plates, satellite navigation, dual-zone air con, DAB radio, plus a keyless entry and start system. The range-topping SZ5 gets high-intensity-discharge headlamps, leather upholstery and a huge twin-panel sunroof. Key rivals include the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson. Maybe these alternatives don't represent really direct competition (because you can buy relatively well-equipped versions of the S-Cross for what these rivals charge for entry-level cars) but close enough for the Suzuki to really have to earn its corn on merit alone.
The petrol-powered side of the S-Cross line-up has certainly been rejuvenated in efficiency terms. The 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine offers 9% more torque than the outgoing 1.6-litre petrol together with 11% lower CO2 emissions and 10% improved combined fuel consumption. The 140PS 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine is 4% more economical than the old 1.6-litre unit, despite being 17% more powerful and offering 41% more torque. The 1.6 DDiS diesel model's figures remain as before, so 67.3mpg on the combined cycle and 110g/km of CO2 for the 2WD variant. This Suzuki should also be economical to run when fitted with optional ALLGRIP 4WD. CO2 emissions for the Boosterjet petrol engine with manual transmission are rated at 119g/km for the 1.0-litre and 127g/km for the 1.4-litre. The optional automatic transmission equipped 1.4-litre model is only one gram higher. The S-Cross with 1.6-litre DDiS engine and ALLGRIP has a figure of 114g/km.
If you don't have a 'lifestyle' family but would rather like a 'lifestyle' car of the compact Crossover kind, then by all means try an S-Cross. I think you'd probably like it. True, the motoring magazines may well tell you of other Qashqai-class Crossovers they prefer - but inspect the fine print when it comes to comparably-sized models and you'll almost certainly find that all of these will cost you significantly more, an important consideration when you've to feed, clothe and holiday with increasingly demanding offspring. Of course, it's worth stretching up to something better if that something offers a more practical, efficient alternative. The question is though, whether the rival Crossovers that shade this Suzuki in terms of handling, cabin ambience or total luggage space are really worth paying so much more for. Spend some time with an S-Cross and you may well conclude that they aren't. It'd be nice if 4WD and diesel power were more affordable options, but then that's an issue with so many cars in this class, more obvious choices than this one but, as I've suggested, not necessarily better for it. So yes, make sure you try this Suzuki if you're shopping in this segment. 'Perfect for families without being just a family car'? The more I think about it, the more I think that sums this Suzuki up rather well.