Gareth Butterfield tests the competent and capable new Suzuki SX4 S-Cross
FANCY a new supermini? Perhaps you feel more inclined to buy an SUV. Maybe you feel the urge to buy a 4×4. Or, there’s a chance, you could be stuck on deciding between all three. Well, in case you’ve been lying under a rock for five or so years, there’s now a solution. It’s the crossover.
This seems to be an umbrella term for just about every jacked-up, rubber-clad, tall and ungainly niche car produced since around the turn of the decade – but it’s popular. I’m not sure why, but it really is.
Sales of crossovers have boomed in recent years. You only have to count the number of Nissan Qashais, Vauxhall Mokkas, Skoda Yetis and so on you see driving by to confirm that.
Arguably though, there are certain cars that could claim to have got in on the act before the crossover was even a thing. Suzuki is among these with its SX-4, a sort of baby sister to its once monopolising Vitara, and it’s just had a revamp.
The previous versions have been capable and competent, but forgettable to behold while this new version, the S-Cross with its sticky-out-a-bit grille that looks like it was picked up at an American autojumble and bolted on is certainly memorable.
Suzuki proudly says it has a “stronger and bolder road presence”. Yep, I’ll give them that. The actual shape of the car is really good, the proportions work well and I like the angles at the rear and along the sides. But that nose. It just seems out of place.
Inside it’s a happier story. Suzukis seem to be chipping away more and more at their once utilitarian feel in every car and I’m pleased to report this latest S-Cross looks and feels great.
There’s still a few hard plastics and the infotainment system looks a bit aftermarket (although it’s actually pretty good) but it’s comfortable, roomy and straight-forward. It’s a remarkably fuss-free cabin and that’s a very good thing in this day and age.
You can have the new SX-4 S-Cross in three flavours, confusingly entitled SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5. On the top models you can opt for Suzuki’s Allgrip four-wheel drive technology in all three engines.
This capability, matched with the extra ride height of the new version and Suzuki’s track record for making competent off-roaders might have you thinking it’s an accomplished mud-plugger, but it’s no SUV. It might get you out of a pickle in a muddy field, but you’d best save the green-laning for a Vitara.
The diesel engine is lifted over from the previous version and offers 68.8mpg on the combined cycle together with CO2 emissions of only 106g/km but the two new turbocharged petrol engines are destined to be the most popular, and it is the smaller engine may well prove most attractive.
In fact, the petrol engines are magnificent. Unless you do loads of miles in a year, they’re definitely the top choice. They’re lively, punchy and surprisingly frugal in the S-Cross’s lightweight body.
The manual version of the 1.0-litre car, with Allgrip, has a 0 to 62mph time of 12.0 seconds, compared with 10.2 seconds for the bigger engine, but that’s probably the only area in which the smaller engine loses out. It’s arguably the better choice.
The combined mpg is 53.3mpg, as opposed to 49.5mpg for the 1.4 unit, CO2 emissions are lower and it is cheaper.
However, if you want the top SZ5 trim, your choice is limited to the bigger petrol engine or the diesel.
SZ4 models come equipped with seven airbags, ESP, Bluetooth, DAB digital radio, air conditioning, daytime running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control with speed limiter, air conditioning, heated door mirrors, black protective skid plates and black wheel arch extensions.
SZ-T adds LED projector headlamps, satellite navigation, polished 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking camera, front and rear parking proximity sensors, dual zone automatic air conditioning, front fog lamps, rear privacy glass, silver roof rails and silver rear skid plates.
Equipment for the top-of-the-range SZ5 model includes radar brake support, leather seat upholstery, heated front seats, double sliding panoramic sunroof and aluminium roof rails.
And this is where the S-Cross really starts to shine. All that kit in a sensibly-sized crossover will send shivers down the spines of the Nissands and Skodas of this world.
The S-Cross, as well as being nimble, comfortable, practical and frugal is very keenly priced. A base model can be had for a cat’s whisker under £15,000 and even the top-spec version, with its adaptive cruise control, heated leather seats and a panoramic roof can be had for £22,499.
So its price is probably its best feature. And it’s not as if it’s short on reasons to choose one. Overlook the divisive styling and this is genuinely one of the best crossovers you can choose. If, that is, you feel you must.