IAIN ROBERTSON

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There is something indisputably pleasant about the Suzuki experience, just ask Suzuki buyers, or its UK dealers, and you will start to feel the difference, writes Iain Robertson, and its popular crossover model just upped the ante.

 

Acronyms are the clichéd ally to almost everyone within the automotive industry. Personally I hate them, mainly because they demand an understanding that all prescribing medical practitioners know about, notably on the placebo front, but KPIs, CSIs and CPIs are almost as confusing as ABS, SRS and ESP.

 

Suzuki is not averse to using a few concoctions of its own and the latest issues to demand ‘street-cred’ are DDiS, in its most recent form wedded to TCSS. Allow me to decipher them for you…DDiS is the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine that Suzuki ‘borrows’ from Fiat Chrysler Automotive, because Suzuki, despite 3m worldwide car sales and a Top Ten placing in the automotive league table, remains a relatively small player. For Suzuki to develop a brand new diesel engine would price its cars out of reach, to recoup the financial investment. The company is better off buying-in the acceptable technology.

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On the other hand, its latest Twin Clutch System by Suzuki gearbox is a mildly modified Magneti-Marelli transmission. The Italian firm is also owned by the immense Fiat organisation and versions of this ’box are fitted to various Fiat and Alfa Romeo models. Suzuki’s modifications are wrapped up in the ingenious electronic management package that allows the twin-clutch system to work efficiently with the S-Cross’s AllGrip 4WD technology. It is a tried and trusted system, which is markedly better (Shock! Horror!) than the VW Group DSG equivalent. Remember, you read it here, first!

 

TCSS bumps up the list price of the Hungarian-built Suzuki S-Cross in higher SZ5 trim by £1,350. However, it is NOT an automatIC gearbox, despite its similar gate set-up, being an automatED system instead, even though it can feel pretty much like the former to drive. I am an avowed fan of these super-efficient drive systems. My last three, personal modes of transport have featured them and I much prefer them to a manual gearbox. However, they have been VW Group products, not Suzuki.

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The main difference that enhances the Suzuki proposition lies in the manner of the TCSS operation. Where the German DSG is packed with drive inhibiting devices that cause the transmission, when set in manual mode and using either the steering wheel-mounted paddles, or the gearstick, to change ratios automatically, often when you want to hang onto a gear for, let’s say, increased vehicle stability, the Suzuki system is significantly more compliant with the driver’s desire. It will hang onto the gear selected, until the up-shift is made and not before.

 

However, being an ‘intelligent’ ’box, which has a number of pre-set parameters programmed into its ‘brain’ (its ECU, or Electronic Control Unit), when descending a hill, where speed management is a requirement, without being instructed to effect a down-shift in ‘automated mode’, the TCSS performs the task and ensures that the driver does not have to resort to braking, in the process illuminating the environment behind the car by brilliant brake-lights both regular and high-level, which can be annoying and sometimes disconcerting to following drivers, especially in adverse conditions.

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The ingenious nature inherent to twin-clutch transmissions means that their gearshift quality is all but imperceptible. The twin dry-clutches (a slight misnomer, as three are actually required) involve two rails carrying the ‘odd’ 1st, 3rd and 5th gears on one and the ‘even’ 2nd, 4th and 6th on the other. Pre-selection means that the next ratio, up, or down the ’box is always ready to be called upon, whether in manual, or automated modes. The driver can either leave the transmission to its own devices, or be engaged with the drive manually. It is practical in town and fun in the countryside, while being better than an auto-box, because the driver can control the car with greater proficiency.

 

However, along with its competence enhancing qualities, the unit also enables tremendous fuel efficiency to be attainable. While the Official Combined guide figures can often be unachievable in most of today’s cars, that of the S-Cross, stated as 62.8mpg in SZ5 AllGrip TCSS trim is remarkably close to the fuel economy I attained during a brisk cross-country drive in North Yorkshire. Revelling in the delightful handling balance of Suzuki’s crossover model, which means that I was not exactly hanging about, I registered an outstanding 59.0mpg on the dashboard’s computer read-out. As a result, I believe that, were the car to be driven more parsimoniously, it might exceed the official figure by a comfortable margin, to further underscore the value of the S-Cross in this guise.

 

Incidentally, it is worth highlighting that the Italian supplied turbo-diesel engine is not only exceptionally refined (and frugal) but it delivers an almost disproportionate amount of torque (236lbs ft at 1,750rpm), even though its power output of 117bhp is only average for a 1.6-litre displacement unit. In effect, this underscores the car’s potential as a tow-car and should warrant that as long as the parameters are not exceeded (1200kg braked; 600kg un-braked maximum towing weight), the S-Cross will prove more than sturdy enough for most demands.

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Thanks to a fairly compact turning circle of 10.4m, the S-Cross is wonderfully manoeuvrable. Its usefully shaped boot capacity is around 450-litres (seats up) and the boot has a false floor, beneath which personal possessions can be stored safely, or it can be lowered to increase the available space. Although its 0-60mph benchmark time is given as 12.7s, Suzuki is always very conservative in quoting acceleration times, or top speeds (108mph), of its models. I reckon that this version of the S-Cross will crack the benchmark in around 11.0s, topping out at around 115mph. Its CO2 rating is 119g/km, which equates to an annual VED charge of £30.

 

As far as the rest of the S-Cross is concerned, it remains a most engaging compact crossover model. Its 4WD system will transport it with ease across quite difficult terrain, aided by a decent ride height and long-travel independent suspension that provides a moderately firm ride quality and unerring grip on slippery surfaces. The operating system is uncomplicated and controlled by a dial-in switch, with four settings (auto, sport, snow and lock) located behind the gear selector, which apportions variable traction levels and performance to all four wheels. The SZ5 trim introduces a grey lower surface (exterior cladding) to differentiate it from lesser versions, with chrome trim strips adding a bit of bling but also having the effect of reducing the car’s slight slabbiness of its profile.

 

Full-length, twin, electrically operated, sliding glass sunroofs (a world first) provide both a panoramic view and create an airy cabin atmosphere, with an electric blind for added comfort. The detailing is ‘plastic-fantastic’ but, as the S-Cross has a multi-purpose role to fulfil, its wipe clean surfaces are eminently practical. The quality hide covering on the seats is excellent and the multi-adjustable driving position ensures maximum comfort.

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While the S-Cross range starts at a most reasonable £13,999, in 2WD form, which includes Bluetooth, 16-inch alloys, air-con and cruise control, the SZ5 level tops the price list at £25,500, which might sound expensive but is actually in line with all of Suzuki’s competitors, for a well-specified, spacious and competent go-almost-anywhere family car.

 

Conclusion:   While it might sound ‘twee’ to describe Suzuki as one of those important little brands that we would miss, were it not there, it is important to highlight that Suzuki GB has one of the highest customer retention statistics of any car brand. It is a crucial aspect. Now into its second year, the S-Cross has exceeded original sales expectations and is responsible for broadening Suzuki’s acceptance in our market. In its latest guise, it provides a most enjoyable driving experience that is also driver-engaging, which makes it a highly recommended option in the crossover sector.

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).