As I’m sure you’ll have realised, every car manufacturer feels obliged to have an economical, cheap-to-tax, three-cylinder crossover in its range these days. The explanation for this might lie in the fact that the crossover market rose by 27% last year, while that for hatchbacks and saloons fell by 5%, and the S-Cross is Suzuki’s latest stab at the market.
As long-term readers will know, I think that Suzuki is one of the two most under-rated car brands in the UK today (SEAT is the other, in case you’re wondering) and the heavily revised S-Cross has a lot to live up to if its not to destroy my faith in the brand.
The evening press conference brought an unusual level of honesty when its top bod said that the S-Cross was a result of a product consultation exercise in which he, along with others, told their Japanese masters what was required of an SUV/crossover if it was to succeed in the United Kingdom.
It needed, he said, the appearance of a yawning chasm (my words; his were probably more measured but I had, by then, two G&Ts under my belt and my notes aren’t perhaps as legible as they might otherwise have been…) under the front bumper to give the illusion of a raised ride height, a bold, slightly intimidating radiator grille, a clam-shell bonnet (a la first-generation Range Rover for those of you with a keen interest in the development of four-wheel-drive design cues), and some fancy LED headlights.
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An SUV/crossover that looks the part
The new S-Cross got them all and now looks the part as a result. It also looks far better in the flesh than it does in the press shots, so while you might want to print a photo of it out to hang above the mantelpiece to keep the kids away from the fire, the reality is much less frightening.
The revised interior features more soft-touch fabrics than ever before but you still wouldn’t mistake it for that of a German car. Nor are the front seats especially supportive; I admit to being abnormally shaped and a martyr to my bad back but I had backache after twenty minutes, which would rule it out as a car for me. Nor, while I’m moaning, did I like the sunroof, which robbed me of too much headroom.
With all the expected goodies
Otherwise the Suzuki SZ-T is well-equipped and comes with all the goodies we’ve come to expect; there is certainly no need to go mad on the options list in order to get First World essentials like alloy wheels, air-conditioning, parking sensors and cameras, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic LED headlights, and Bluetooth.
I drove the 1.4-litre and 1.0-litre engines and the two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models and found the best car in the range is the cheapest: the two-wheel-drive S-Cross with the one litre Boosterjet turbocharged petrol engine (is there a finer name in use today?), which was an absolute joy to wend along the twisting North Walian roads that the Suzuki press team had chosen to demonstrate its abilities.
There are few cars in its class that flow as nicely or handle as sweetly and I had an absolute ball driving it between Conwy and Wrexham. It also felt far faster than the modest performance figures might suggest, which is probably a result of its relatively low weight and the nature of the free–revving engine.
But the Suzuki S-Cross’s trump card is its price: The range starts at £14,999 rising to a smidgeon under £25,000 but, as is so often the case, cheapest is very definitely best; the S-Cross is a cheap car and there is simply no need to spend a lot in order to get a lot in return.
It can also be even cheaper than its list price suggests, too. As a member of the BASC I would get a members’ discount were I to buy one. I’m not allowed to tell you just how much but it is considerable. Very considerable. So considerable that the membership fee to join the BASC would be swallowed whole by the savings you’d make and still leave you with enough to enjoy a very nice holiday indeed.
At which point the S-Cross makes sense. The Ateca is a more rounded car, and the Kadjar is more fun, but for the money it’ll cost you the S-Cross is unbeatable.
I’d go for the 1.0-litre, front-wheel-drive in SZ-T trim and buy a set of winter tyres to swap onto it when the weather takes a turn for the worst. Thus equipped, it’ll be better in the snow than any four-wheel-drive with standard tyres and give you the sort of lovely warm feeling that comes from having beaten the system.
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Power – 110bhp
Torque – 125lb ft
0-62mph – 11 seconds
Top speed – 112 mph
Kerb weight – 1160kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 56.4mpg
CO2 emissions – 113g/km
VED class – Band C
Towing capacity (braked) – 1,200kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 400kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £19,499
Price as tested - £19,929
The SEAT Ateca is very rounded and at the very top of its class.
The best of the rest
If you want a cheap car that’ll get the job done while putting a smile on your face then the S-Cross fits the bill.
If you need a vehicle that offers genuine off-road ability then the Suzuki Vitara S is cheap and great to drive.
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