Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.0 Boosterjet SZ-T

SINCE the arrival of the new Suzuki Vitara last year, the competent but rather drab-looking SX4 S-Cross has been largely ignored. It hasn’t helped, either, that the two models share a puzzlingly similar space in the crossover market. Now, though, Suzuki has given the SX4 S-Cross a significant restyle with the aim of making it look more like an SUV. It also benefits from a boost (in more ways than one) in the form of two new turbocharged petrol engines. We tried it with the smaller 1.0-litre Boosterjet unit to see if it can become a credible cut-price alternative to the Nissan Qashqai. The first thing that will catch your eye is the new front end.

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D-Cross now feels more agile than before, while the suspension has been tweaked to deliver more in way of comfort

The bonnet has been raised and the nose is more vertically slanted to give it a “stronger and bolder road presence”, according to Suzuki bosses. We’re not so sure; to our eyes that big chrome grille sits a bit awkwardly with the lights and bonnet, but we’ll concede that it’s undeniably more distinctive than the anonymous looks of the old car. That’s the main change to the exterior, but look harder and you’ll spot more. The lower body cladding and front air intakes are restyled, plus there are fresh alloy wheel designs, LED headlights and LED tail-lamps. Additionally, the suspension has been jacked up by a not insignificant 15mm – to further bolster the illusion that this is a fully blown SUV rather than just a hatchback on stilts.

Improvements – Inside, there are small improvements to the dash, with soft-touch plastics, gloss black trim surrounding the touchscreen and the option of some brighter materials. There are still plenty of scratchier materials on the doors, upper dash and many touchpoints, but it all feels well screwed together. Suzuki has also fitted the fresher infotainment system from the Vitara, which is bigger and easier to operate on the move than the dated old unit. It’s a pity, then, that the screen graphics already look a bit cheap. Overall, despite the improvements, the S-Cross is still more functional than desirable. That fits with Suzuki’s two-pillar structure, though, with each segment featuring two distinct models.

Entry -level turbo petrol has a five-speed manual gearbox, but it helps make the S-Cross feel eager and flexible - and there's enough power and torque for most people

Entry -level turbo petrol has a five-speed manual gearbox, but it helps make the S-Cross feel eager and flexible – and there’s enough power and torque for most people

While the Vitara is supposedly a crossover to covet, the S-Cross is pitched as being more practical. Still, that’s not the whole story, as there’s more to this Suzuki than meets the eye. For starters, it’s more spacious than most crossovers in this price bracket. There’s lots of room fora six-footer to sit behind a similarly sized driver and headroom is plentiful, while Suzuki has freed up another 10 litres of space in the boot thanks to a reclining backrest. It’s now up to 440 litres, which is also 10 litres more than in a Nissan Qashqai. It’s surprisingly enjoyable to drive, too. The HObhp 1.0-litre Boosterjet unit replaces the old naturally aspirated 1.6, and we think it’s the pick of the new range. It feels eager, mainly thanks to the S-Cross’s slim 1,160kg kerbweight.

As a result the car feels faster than its conservative 1.0-litre engine in a SEAT Ateca, but it’s flexible, willing to rev and sounds pleasant, too. Combine that with very competitive fuel economy figures and CO2 emissions, and the diesel engine makes much less sense than it did before. You can even spec this engine with Suzuki’s ALLGRIP selectable four-wheel drive for an extra £1,700. It handles well. Granted, a Mazda CX-3 is more composed, but the S-Cross feels more nimble than before. The body is stiffer, while the suspension has been tweaked to improve stability and comfort.

New wheel designs help give the S-Cross a fresh look, in addition to the revised grille treatment, raised suspension and LED lights. There's more cladding too for a true SUV stance

New wheel designs help give the S-Cross a fresh look, in addition to the revised grille treatment, raised suspension and LED lights. There’s more cladding too for a true SUV stance

Body roll is noticeable when you push a little harder, but it’s grippy and agile. Rough roads and sharp low-speed bumps occasionally unsettle it, however. The Suzuki’s real appeal lies in the value it offers. Despite being not far off a Qashqai in terms of size and interior space, it’s priced to compete with the smaller Nissan Juke. It starts from just £14,995, while our mid-spec SZ-T is £19,499 and comes with sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera, dual-zone climate control, LED headlamps and 17-inch alloy wheels.

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