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First drive: 2022 Suzuki S-Cross. Image by Suzuki.

First drive: 2022 Suzuki S-Cross
Can the all-new S-Cross compete with established family SUVs?

   



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2022 Suzuki S-Cross

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Suzuki has completely redesigned its S-Cross family SUV, hoping to pinch more sales from the established players in this competitive sector. The new S-Cross has its talents, but itís trying to compete with great cars including the Skoda Karoq and Nissan Qashqai, and it ultimately falls short. But thereís no shame in that, and itís priced accordingly, which makes it a solid budget option.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Suzuki S-Cross SX4 Ultra 1.4 BoosterJet Mild Hybrid AllGrip
Pricing: from £29,799
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol mild-hybrid
Transmission: six-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 233g/km
Combined economy: 47.8mpg
Top speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Power: 129hp
Torque: 235Nm
Boot space: 430 litres

What's this?

Itís Suzukiís answer to the sort of mid-size family SUVs you see pretty much everywhere these days. Think Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen T-Roc and Mazda CX-30 and youíre more or less there. But the old S-Cross tried (unsuccessfully) to compete with those established and highly competent cars, so what makes Suzuki think the new S-Cross will be any better?

For a kick-off, it looks completely different. Suzuki has ensured the S-Cross is more in line with its rivals by raising it up and giving it some inoffensive but fairly forgettable looks. Still, it now looks much like any other family SUV, rather than some sort of off-road hatchback.

Inside, itís all designed to look and feel more modern than any other Suzuki, but it doesnít really hit the spot. Sure, some faux aluminium trim gives it a bit more visual interest when you look at a picture, but it looks every bit as cheap as it feels when youíre up close and personal. Material quality has never been Suzukiís strong suit, and that has continued with the new S-Cross. Everywhere you turn thereís hard plastic and cheap-looking trim

That said, the build quality is quite impressive. All those naff plastics have been stitched together quite neatly, and all the buttons feel robust when you operate them. Even the rotary controls on the dash feel relatively solid. Like most Japanese cars, the S-Cross manages to look uninspiring and cheap, but it still feels rugged. No matter how many kids you chuck in the back, you know the S-Cross will cope.

However, there will be issues with chucking people in the back of an S-Cross Ė both from a legal and moral standpoint. In fairness, the back seats will take two kids in perfect comfort, but adults will be less content back there. Legroom is simply acceptable Ė no more and no less Ė but headroom will be very tight for anyone over about 5ft 8in. And the boot isnít massive either. At 430 litres itís about the same as a VW T-Roc or a Mazda CX-30, but the luggage bay in a Skoda Karoq or Seat Ateca will dwarf it.

One area in which the S-Cross does excel is the amount of standard equipment included in the £24,999 starting price. For that money, you get the entry-level Motion model, but it comes with lots of goodies. That means 17-inch alloy wheels, two-zone climate control and a reversing camera are all thrown in, along with front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, and heated front seats.

If you need more, you can move up to the Ultra model, which gets strange-feeling leather seat upholstery, a 360-degree manoeuvring camera and satellite navigation, as well as a panoramic sunroof and four-wheel drive as standard. The £29,799 Ultra also comes with a larger nine-inch touchscreen, usurping the seven-inch screen in the Motion.

That touchscreen is perhaps the biggest development for the S-Cross, looking much more modern than the clunky, old-school set-up found in the old S-Cross, the Vitara and the Swift. It isnít perfect, and it still feels a bit old-fashioned at times, but itís a vast improvement in many ways. It still isnít as good as the systems youíll find in a more mainstream model, made by a company such as Ford or Mini.

Overall, then, the S-Cross still feels old before its time. Itís a brand-new car, never seen before on UK roads. But it feels like an eight-year-old model thatís about to be replaced with a shiny new version. No sooner has it launched and weíre already awaiting the mid-life facelift. You know, the one where it gets new headlights and maybe some updated bumpers.

How does it drive?

For now, and to torture an old football cliche, weíll have to review whatís in front of us. Which is the new S-Cross in top-end Ultra trim with the 1.4-litre BoosterJet mild-hybrid powertrain, all-wheel drive and a manual gearbox. Suzuki has promised more high-tech engines, including a plug-in hybrid, will arrive at some point, but this is the only option for early adopters.

On paper, at least, itís all kinds of adequate, with a 0-62mph time of 10.2 seconds and a 121mph top speed that nobody will ever use. Perhaps more importantly, itíll do almost 50mpg, which isnít bad for a family SUV that drives all four wheels. But although the economy is decent, the figures are generally unremarkable, and that really sets the tone for the S-Cross in general.

The driving experience is pleasantly forgettable, with the engine proving relatively refined and offering acceptable performance, without ever threatening the realms of sportiness. Add in some light steering that inspires little confidence and plentiful (albeit well controlled) body roll, and this is a car that really doesnít encourage you to have fun.

That said, if you ignore the discouragement and take it by the scruff of the neck, it isnít too shabby on a back road. It feels nimble and light on its feet, while the suspension is surprisingly supple. The springs soak up all but the very worst bumps quite well, with only savage potholes making their presence felt. It does get caught on the hop over very broken surfaces, and the automatic versions feel firmer than the manual, but the high-speed ride is generally excellent.

Itís also decent in town, where the light steering makes it easy to park and allows you to thread the relatively compact S-Cross through narrow gaps. Those qualities Ė and the AllGrip all-wheel-drive system thatís standard on top-spec Ultra models Ė should also make the car a highly competent 4x4, although we havenít had a chance to test that yet. The inclusion of a locking differential and a ĎSnowí mode for extra traction are promising signs, though.

Verdict

The Suzuki S-Cross is destined to play a small part in the family SUV market. Although it has its charms, including the supple ride, all-wheel-drive capability and value for money, it isnít rounded enough to make waves among the best in this class. For most customers, a Skoda Karoq will be a better choice. But as a budget, utilitarian buy, the S-Cross will be a reliable, dependable performer.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 Exterior Design

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

0 0 0 0 0 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


James Fossdyke - 17 Jan 2022



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