Suzuki SX4 S-Cross ticks all right boxes

SX4 S-Cross combines Suzuki's small car and four-wheel drive skills to take it into the crossover ma

SX4 S-Cross combines Suzuki's small car and four-wheel drive skills to take it into the crossover market. - Credit: Suzuki

Suzuki's first crossover is a trendy new addition to this sector, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

In our younger, care-free days my wife set her heart on a Suzuki Vitara – the trendy little 4x4 of the day. But when we tried one it did not live up to the hype and she was disappointed.

Suzuki has come a long way since then, building its reputation on small cars and all-wheel drive and they come together in the new SX4 S-Cross – its debut into the popular crossover market and this one doesn't disappoint. It's the best Suzuki I've ever driven.

Don't confuse it with the SX4 for the S-Cross is bang on trend and stylish enough to have some people thinking it was the new Nissan Qashqai. With the Qashqai credited for starting the crossover movement, immitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If I had one complaint about the styling it is that even 17in alloy wheels look small and lost in the wheelarches.

Two 120PS 1.6-litre petrol and turbo diesel engines – the former with a CVT automatic option – are offered. The diesel is the best option with plenty of low-down pull, peaking at 1,750rpm, and maximum power at just 3,750rpm so you don't have to rev it hard to make progress, although tall gearing means dropping a couple of ratios rather than one for swift overtaking. On the upside it cruises comfortably and I never saw less then 50mpg in city driving, 55-60mg overall with a best of 64mpg on a run. The diesel gets a six-speed manual gearbox, rather than the petrol's five gears, and it can be notchy if rushed.

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With ground clearance higher than a conventional car, finding the right suspension set-up to balance ride and roadholding is a skill and the S-Cross is pretty much there. The low-speed ride is on the firm side so you are aware of some fidgeting over drain covers and patched-up city roads but it becomes more supple with speed although my test car had a slight buzz through the steering wheel and seat at speed on corrugated motorway surfaces and engine and tyre noise were more noticeable. The front-wheel drive S-Cross corners well with good grip and body control and well-weighted steering. SZ-T and SZ5 models can be had with Allgrip all-wheel drive and auto, snow, sport and lock modes.

The interior is not as exciting as the exterior with the cabin sombre and a mite dated with lots of dark plastic, much of it hard to the touch, but it is well built and durable.

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The fascia, given a lift with some brightwork highlights, works well with a logical, user-friendly layout with control clusters for the infotainment and heating and ventilation systems featuring straight-forward rotary knobs and large buttons and the SZ-T and SZ5's satellite-navigation system is simple.

Given the size of the S-Cross, the cabin is surprisingly spacious with loads of legroom front and back for tall passengers but headroom is at a premium, especially with the huge double sliding panoramic sunroof – standard on SZ5 – which might have passengers reclining the rear seat backs slightly to get some clearance. The driving position has lots of adjustment but I would like the driving seat to go lower with that sunroof.

The shapely boot has 430 litres of load space and you can remove the sill-level floor panel to gain a bit more depth. Fold the 60/40 rear seat backs flat and cargo capacity more than doubles to 875 litres.

Entry-level SZ3 includes seven airbags, stability control, tyre pressure monitoring, 16in alloys, cruise control with speed-limiter, air-conditioning and heated door mirrors. SZ4 adds 17in alloys, dual-zone climate control, front fog lamps, Bluetooth and roof rails. SZ-T adds sat-nav with DAB radio, rear parking camera and sensors and chrome styling pack while the SZ5 gets front parking sensors, leather seats, panoramic sunroof, brighter headlamps and LED daytime running lights.

The SX4 S-Cross marks a new era for Suzuki, a huge image-builder that can compete favourably with rival crossovers but the S-Cross has price on its side.

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