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Driven: Suzuki SX4 S-Cross. Image by Suzuki.

Driven: Suzuki SX4 S-Cross
Facelifted and boasting new engines, but is the SX4 S-Cross a crossover contender?


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Suzuki SX4 S-Cross

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: Impressive interior space, decent performance and handling, loads of equipment

Not so good: Feels a bit bland and overpriced compared to a Vitara, front-end styling questionable

Key Facts

Model tested: Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.4 Boosterjet SZ5 Allgrip Auto
Price: SX4 S-Cross range starts from 14,999; 1.4 SZ5 Auto from 24,199
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed automatic
Body style: five-door crossover
CO2 emissions: 128/km (VED 160 first 12 months, 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 49.5mpg
Top speed: 128mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Power: 140hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 220Nm at 1,500- to 4,000rpm

Our view:

The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is the Japanese marque's biggest SUV, even though the very badging in its name invites you to think it's a crossover. It starts at the same 14,999 price as the edgy Vitara, but at the top end of its range - as with the car we're testing, the 1.4 Boosterjet SZ5 Allgrip Auto, which is only surpassed by one model in its line-up - the S-Cross is more than 24,000, whereas any variant of the Vitara remains below that threshold. The SX4 is also physically bigger, in terms of length and width, although it's slightly lower than the Vitara SUV.

It doesn't look it, though, being far more car-like at a glance than many other crossovers of similar ilk. And we're not as convinced by the exterior styling of the SX4 as we are by the sharper look of the Vitara. Don't get us wrong, the 2016 facelift of the S-Cross should be commended for not holding back, as Suxuki has 'de-blandified' the 2013 original with a striking grille arrangement and entirely new headlights. The SX4 is therefore far more distinctive than it once was... although it's not pretty. There's something about the combination of the upturned lower airdam section, chromed grille slats and those bulging headlamp clusters that doesn't quite sit right for us. Maybe other eyes would appreciate it more.

There are no complaints about the interior, though, which feels like Suzuki's best effort yet. It lacks razzmatazz in terms of the visual aesthetic, but there's a solidity to the materials used for the dashboard and door cards that's sorely lacking in the Vitara, while some little splashes of gloss-black trim do enough to make it feel classy in the S-Cross. Everything is intelligently laid out, the semi-command driving position is nice and - as it's an SZ5 - the thing is fully loaded with toys.

Keyless entry and go, satnav, parking sensors all round with a reversing camera, leather upholstery with heated front seats, Adaptive Cruise Control... it's all here, plus much more. About our only niggle here is arrangement of the automatic gearshift, as it's all too easy to slip past 'D' and into manual 'M' mode inadvertently. This can occasionally leave you haring off up the road with the engine screaming away in first gear, as if you're some sort of tremulous learner driver.

Once on the move, the driving experience of the SX4 is extremely grown-up and cultured. The 1.4-litre Boosterjet is the same 140hp/220Nm unit as found in the punchy Vitara S and here, even with standard-fit Allgrip four-wheel drive (there is no front-wheel drive 1.4 S-Cross, although you can get the 1.0-litre Boosterjet and 1.6 DDiS diesel engines elsewhere in the range with drive only going to the front axle) and the optional automatic transmission (1,350 extra over the six-speed manual), the Suzuki crossover only weighs 1,260kg. That makes for decently rapid performance, the SX4 feeling usefully snappy for step-off acceleration and easily capable of quickly replenishing lost speed due to heavy traffic, when travelling on motorways and dual carriageways.

The ride is reasonably supple, too, if not flawlessly smooth, while body roll is quelled to a high degree and the handling is smart enough. True, the steering could do with a bit more feel and the auto isn't the slickest self-shifter in the world. But after one dunderheaded moment where someone left their child's car seat in the back of the Suzuki - when it was actually needed 35 miles away... oh dear - the resulting drive to convey said chair to its rightful place was pretty pacey and rather enjoyable. The S-Cross feels properly swift when you thump the throttle right down, and Sport mode actually feels like it enlivens the drivetrain, rather than just weighting up the steering and not doing much else.

Even with this 'on-it' drive included in the 519 miles covered across a week behind the Suzuki's steering wheel, it managed to give back 37mpg overall, with the car showing an average 45mpg on a long motorway run. Remember, the Boosterjet is a petrol engine, not a diesel; so more than 40mpg from a tall, turbocharged crossover like this is impressive stuff.

However. Everything about the SX4 S-Cross just feels a little bit safe, a little bit... well, aimed at an older buyer. With Suzuki pulling out the stops to make more youthful products elsewhere in its range - like the Swift hatchback, the Ignis micro-4x4 and that oft-mentioned Vitara - the S-Cross just feels a touch too conservative for our money. And, talking of cash, if we were going to sink more than 20 grand into a high-riding Suzuki, we'd be chucking down the 21,000 required for a Vitara S manual instead: it looks nicer, it drives a little sweeter and it is more clearly an SUV, rather than a slightly bloated hatchback crossover.

So the ultimate verdict for the S-Cross isn't the greatest, but it remains a relevant and competitively priced machine in a class than includes the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar and blindingly good Peugeot 3008. If you can live with that rather bemused expression the Suzuki wears on its mush, and you just don't like the Vitara, then you could do a lot worse than purchasing the SX4.


Hyundai Tucson: The Tucson has upped its game considerably but well-equipped models to match the SX4 will be beyond the 30,000 mark, which puts the S-Cross' price into better perspective.

Nissan Qashqai: It has to be mentioned, because the Qashqai is the car the Suzuki is tilting at the most. The Nissan isn't much more exciting than the SX4, but it is just a little more polished in a few key areas.

Volkswagen Tiguan: It's pricey but the Tiguan is in another league for overall refinement - although we'd say, unless it's a really powerful R-Line diesel (and thus around 40k), the Tiguan is not hugely thrilling to steer.

Matt Robinson - 23 Feb 2017    - Suzuki road tests
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2017 Suzuki S-Cross. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki S-Cross. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki S-Cross. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki S-Cross. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki S-Cross. Image by Suzuki.

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