Suzuki SX4 S-Cross SUV (2016 - ) review
The S-Cross’ startling nose job may well polarise opinion, but the latest range of petrol engines and affordable entry price are sure to be met with universal approval.The Auto Trader expert verdict: 3.2 Clearly, there are aspects of Suzuki’s latest S-Cross that are noteworthy. The styling may be a bit questionable, but if you spec it accordingly and choose one of the punchy petrol engines, the S-Cross is an awful lot of car for the money. Stray beyond the encouragingly affordable entry model however, and you’ll butt up against some very impressive competitors. The Renault Kadjar, Kia Sportage and the multi award-winning Nissan Qashqai all offer a more engaging drive, a better standard of interior finish and far superior refinement.
- Cabin is reasonably roomy and practical
- The best models are cheap to buy and run
- Petrol engines are smooth and quiet
- Diesel engine is rough and extremely noisy
- Cabin sounds open to the elements
- Some interior panels look and feel rather cheap
At a glance
In the quest to create a more obvious SUV appearance (apparently prospective buyers of the previous model were put off because the S-Cross didn’t look assertive enough), Suzuki’s designers have attempted to toughen up the latest S-Cross’ act. By adding an increased ride height and an emboldened front end with a raised clam shell bonnet and an outlandish chrome grille, the looks are certainly arresting. Whether the styling has the same authenticity and sophistication as a Nissan Qashqai or a Kia Sportage is open to debate.
Despite some material improvements, the SX4 S-Cross still feels quite utilitarian inside. Too many brittle plastics are used throughout the cabin, so the overriding impression is rather low rent, and it doesn’t feel nearly as plush as a Nissan Qashqai. At least there’s plenty of adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheel, and the view out is pretty good, too. The dashboard and steering wheel are smattered with a fair few buttons, but at least they’re all big and clearly marked. While the graphics used in the central touchscreen are displayed in relatively high definition, some of the icons are small and confusingly labelled, so navigating the system can be a wee bit confusing. Four-wheel-drive versions are fitted with a dash mounted rotary dial that gives you the ability to select snow and sports modes, to maximise traction depending on surface conditions.
Those in the back of the S-Cross are treated to a generous amount of legroom. However, headroom is a little tight for those over six feet tall, and even tighter still if you spec the split-panel sunroof. That said, you’ll reap its benefits when the sun shines as it opens up to give an extremely large aperture. The boot is a decent size at 430 litres, and it’s a practical square shape. What’s more, because it has a removable floor that can be set at two different heights, you get a level surface when you fold the back seats down.
Ride and handling
The latest revisions to the S-Cross’ suspension have been largely successful, although not entirely. While higher speed composure is generally impressive, affording a decent blend of comfort and control, some low speed impacts are still dealt with in a less than ideal fashion and can be fairly audible. What’s more, dropping a single wheel into a shallow road side depression has quite a disproportionate impact, often causing the whole car to flinch. The S-Cross’ steering is not exactly joyful, either. Although light and easy to use around town, it has a tendency to be sluggish initially, then speed up disproportionately, so much so that it’s difficult to plot a smooth course around a corner with any kind of certainty.
Fire up the diminutive 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine and the off-beat three-cylinder exhaust pulses and uneven idle suggest things are going to go downhill. Thankfully, the exact opposite is true. You need to raise the revs and slip the clutch a wee bit to overcome some initial reticence and exact a smooth pull away, but once you’re off the mark, the little motor is free-revving and surprisingly perky. It’s only once you get beyond 3500rpm that the signature three-cylinder thrum re-emerges, but even then, it never feels coarse.
The larger 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine creates a solid band of power right from the get go and maintains that forcefulness throughout the rev band. Simply flick the sweetly weighted six-speed manual shifter from sixth to third, give the accelerator a healthy shove, and you’ll fly past slower moving traffic. If you can’t be doing with shifting gears yourself, this engine is also available with a six-speed auto. It’s a pretty slick unit and well suited to the engine’s strong torque band. With little discernible slur when moving off the mark, it shuffles up and down the gears with no obvious shunt or bumps.
Although the diesel generates a good deal of gruff clatter at idle, it does at least produce some vivid mid-range power. Unfortunately, get beyond that mid-range sweet point and it very quickly hits the performance wall, running out of any decent acceleration and creating excessive amounts of combustion rattle beyond 3500rpm. Along with that engine noise, a lack of tangible soundproofing in the S-Cross means the levels of road- and wind-noise entering the cabin are higher than ideal. You’ll need no excuse to exercise your vocal chords fully to get those squabbling siblings in the back seats to settle down.
The entry-level model looks like brilliant value for money, but prices climb steeply as soon as you up the ante a notch or two, putting the S-Cross bang in the crosshairs of the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage. It’s relatively lightweight, which certainly helps wring out some decent fuel returns: even the least efficient petrol model returns 49.5mpg, while the most efficient diesel manages 68.8mpg. The sweet little 1.0 petrol engine mated to the five speed manual delivers a very respectable 56.4mpg. Although the S-Cross has very limited appeal to business users – all but a handful are bought by private owners – the diesel model emits 112g/km, giving it a 21% BIK implication.
The materials inside the S-Cross may not have that much in the way of lustre, but they feel solid and well put together. It’s been our experience, that even when encountering rough surfaces, the cabin remains squeak and rattle free. Suzuki’s reliability record also makes for encouraging reading, as the firm currently sits near the top of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings.
The SX4 achieved a five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP, scoring 92% for adult occupant protection. Seven airbags – including one to help protect the driver’s knees – are fitted across the range. Hill hold control is also standard. This system briefly prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards, giving you time to release the clutch and exact a smooth pull away on inclines. Top end SZ5 versions add adaptive cruise control, to help maintain a constant distance from the vehicle in front, and autonomous braking that operates at speeds in excess of 3mph to help sense and avoid collisions.
We always think twice before recommending a basic trim level, but in the case of the S-Cross, the entry SZ4 trim is definitely the one to go for. Although it’s not particularly overburdened with kit, it does come with alloy wheels, dual-zone air-conditioning, keyless entry and start-up, cruise control, a DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Crucially, it undercuts the next trim level by several thousand pounds. If you’re still determined to up the ante, then SZT adds sat-nav, a rear parking camera, and front and rear parking sensors. Top end SZ5 includes leather heated seats, adaptive cruise control and a panoramic sun roof.
In the case of the S-Cross, the basic model is the best bet. On the face of it, the 1.0-litre engine might appear underpowered, but in reality, it’s smooth, flexible, reasonably economical and delivers more than enough performance. We’d also advise you to stick with the entry level SZ4 trim. Although there’s not masses of kit, it undercuts the next trim level by several thousand pounds, and keeps the S-Cross out of a contest with significantly better alternatives, such as the all-conquering Nissan Qashqai.