The Suzuki S-Cross was something of a dull car for middle aged people when it was launched in 2013, and it just continued down the road to mediocrity, with 2WD only and a whining CVT gearbox.
When the new Vitara hit the market the S-Cross was left looking decidedly lumpish. That was a pity because the S-Cross had that all-important feature for many people, interior space. The S-Cross was 125mm longer than the Vitara and had more luggage space.
So for the 2017 update Suzuki revamped the S-Cross’ exterior with a new, more dynamic look. Rather more importantly the NZ$33,990 S-Cross Prestige tested here got a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine and six-speed automatic gearbox.
Now, that front grille might not be to everyone’s taste but I do like it. It’s a very Jeep-like vertical slotted toothy chromed affair. The big grille up the front is partnered with larger sharper profiled headlights which do give the front end a presence on the road.
It’s different on the inside, where everything seems to be constructed out of black plastic laid out in an extremely conventional manner. You do get Suzuki’s standard infotainment system though, which includes a touch screen that gives you access to both Apple Carplay and Android auto. Like most Suzuki’s the screen takes a variable amount of time to initialise and start up.
It’s not quite as spotty as the Ignis I drove earlier this year and you do learn to live with it by waiting a few seconds for it to get powered up. Unlike some other cars on the market the S-Cross does have satellite navigation fitted, rather than depending on the maps in your smartphone. As my phone is ‘smartish’ but not quite smart enough to work Android Auto properly, that’s a relief.
The turbocharged 1.4 litre engine produces 103kW and 220Nm, which isn’t exactly ground breaking, but as it’s connected to a quick shifting six-speed automatic gearbox the S-Cross can be punted along with a decent amount of verve. The handling is competent enough but as with most family orientated cars these days cornering ability rather quickly devolves into gentle safe understeer that can be corrected by lifting off the throttle. The S-Cross has as smooth ride but small ripples in the tarmac jolt their way through to the cabin. It’s a very European feel, which won’t come as much of a surprise as the New Zealand market S-Cross is tuned for Europe and is built in Hungary.
While the Prestige tested here is only available with 2WD the less powerful LTD model is available with either 2WD or 4WD, both with the six-speed automatic. It may seem counterintuitive to have the most powerful model available with 2WD only, but the power supplied by the 1.4 turbo is hardly a huge number, so it’s not really required.
The revised S-Cross makes a good case for someone wanting a mid-sized SUV. It’s larger than the Vitara, but not so large that driving it presents any sort of challenge to drive in tight urban quarters. The turbo engine and six-speed gearbox adds a bit of zest to the mixture and only the dull interior lets the car down.