The new Suzuki S-Cross.
The new Suzuki S-Cross. Iain Curry

Suzuki S-Cross road test: Sporty and economical mix

PREPARE for a new genre. Perhaps most aptly named a "suatch".

Suzuki has delivered the S-Cross, and it's uniquely positioned as not quite a hatch, yet not a fully-fledged SUV.

While more expensive than the SX4 it replaces, the S-Cross is an all-new offering.

Most importantly for Suzuki, it's a vast improvement over the SX4.

The design meets modern standards and fuel economy is among the best in its class. That is ticking two major boxes for the style and budget conscience.

Entry-level models start at $22,990, which pits the S-Cross against the Nissan Dualis, Mitsubishi ASX, Skoda Yeti and Subaru XV, as well as sub-compact newcomers in the Peugeot 2008, Holden Trax and Nissan Juke.

Comfort

"Small" in stature doesn't translate inside. The S-Cross is spacious enough for a growing family.

Typically Suzuki, the interior is nicely laid out and feels tight as a drum.

There are some plastics worked in across the dash and doors, although, like the Swift, it's done we'll and only takes some minor maintenance to keep it looking good.

Cloth trim found in GL and GLX variants appears hard-wearing, and some may find it difficult to part with the extra coin and gain the plusher leather (and the gigantic sunroof).

The driver has telescopic steering wheel adjustment and can also jack the seat up or down to find a good spot at the helm.

GLX and Premium models also have a useful voice-activated, hands-free function.

By the press of a button on the steering wheel you can read text messages from your phone, change radio stations, listen to music on your external device, set a destination on the sat nav or change various settings just by talking.

Given the proliferation of fines being handed out by the boys and girls in blue for using mobile phones while driving, it's a very handy tool.

We did have issues with a few addresses causing confusion, as well as getting it to properly access Bluetooth, but they were only minor operational blemishes.

Travelling on the highway generated some wind noise and some extra sound insulation would be welcomed.

On the road

There is one powerplant across the range, a 1.6-litre four-cylinder which links with either a five-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic.

We tested the range topping model, which only comes with a self shifter.

The S-Cross proved to be confident and honest, although it could do with some extra zing.

Pounce on the accelerator and its met with more noise than action, as the CVT aims to catch up. This is typical of this kind of transmission and it requires lighter use of the throttle for best results.

Those seeking a keener response are best served by switching drive mode to Sport (only in all-wheel drive models). There is also a mode for mud and snow for improved traction, as well as Lock, which sends equal power to all corners for getting out of bogs.

Cornering flat and with composure, the S-Cross doesn't baulk at the bends and it proves surprisingly fleet-footed.

What do you get?

Base models come with 16-inch alloy wheels, four-speaker CD stereo, Bluetooth with audio streaming and cruise control.

GLX adds keyless entry/start, leather steering wheel, HID headlamps, automatic wipers and lights, dual zone climate control air-conditioning, seven-speaker sound system with USB ports and MP3 compatibility, 15.5cm multimedia touch-screen with sat nav, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, larger alloys, paddle shifters on automatic variants and auto dimming rear vision mirror.

Prestige also gets a big double sliding panoramic sunroof and leather trim. Suzuki expects a five-star safety rating, with stability control, anti-lock brakes and seven airbags in the safety mix across all models.

Running costs

Through highway and rural travels, we achieved just shy of seven litres for every 100km. That's impressively close to the official Suzuki figure.

The Japanese marque has an enviable reputation for longevity and quality, and it's backed by a three- year warranty - extended to five if serviced with a Suzuki dealer. Capped price servicing is also available.

Practicality

Each door has a spot for drink bottles, and the console can also house cups, along with other items like keys and MP3 players in square-shaped hubs. In front of the shifter is another excellent storage spot.

Rear seats fold nearly flat in a 60-40 split, while there is also a useful spot under the boot floor to keep items hidden.

There is about 400 litres of boot space; good enough for a set of golf clubs, or in our case two small suitcases and a small bike.

Funky factor

Suzuki has really made big strides with the design ... the SX4 was an ungainly beast.

It straddles hatch and SUV, and the alloys along with scuff plates all round give it an outdoorsy appeal.

Our test machine, finished in bright red, looked especially impressive.

The lowdown

Suzuki has a sound performer in the S-Cross. It doesn't set new performance benchmarks, but it does deliver in two key areas: modern styling and fuel economy.

The brand is well-respected for reliability, and combined with a strong warranty and capped price servicing, the S-Cross is a useful all-rounder.

The S-Cross officially goes on sale from February 1, but dealers are taking orders now.

What matters most

What we liked: Modern styling, excellent boot for a car in this genre, fuel economy.

What we'd like to see: Better CVT automatic, less wind noise on the highway, more engine punch.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty, which is extended to five years and 140,000km if serviced at a Suzuki dealer. Servicing schedules are every six months or 10,000km. Capped price servicing available for five years. Average service price over five years is $258.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Suzuki S-Cross

Details: Five-door two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive compact SUV.

Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder generating maximum power of 86kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 156 @ 4400rpm.

Transmissions: Five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic.

Consumption: 5.8 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 137g/km (m); 146 (a).

Performance: 0-100kmh in 11 seconds (m); 12.4 (a).

Bottom line: GL 2WD (m) $22,990, GL 2WD (a) $25,490, GLX 2WD (a) $29,990, GLX 4WD (a) $32,990, Prestige 4WD (a) $34,990.



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