Suzuki’s brand exposure is hitting new heights as a result of a pair of Geordies dominating the ad breaks on television. A bit like marmite, where some people absolutely love them, and others are in the hate camp, there’s no denying that they are two of the biggest British stars right now. For me, I can take them or leave them, and that’s pretty much how I felt about the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross. While the back of the car had strong Qashqai overtones, the front end was very nondescript and bland. And judging by the modest sales of 3,110 units last year, the buying public feel the same. But Suzuki bosses aren’t happy with that, and so a little over three years since the SX4 S-Cross went on sale, the company is hitting back with a bold new look, a range of new turbocharged petrol engines and upgraded materials for the cabin.
The Fiat-sourced 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine, also found in the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade, is carried over to the latest design, however. Most of the changes centre around the front end, with a bold American-esque front grille that is more upright than before, new intricately designed projector headlights, re-profiled front wings and bonnet, together with a fresh design for the bumpers, while at the rear there’s newly designed light clusters featuring LEDs.
A raised ride height completes the fresh new look. It is debatable whether the changes are pretty, but there’s no argument that Suzuki has banished blandness from the menu. Two diesel models are on offer, both powered by the same 1.6-litre DDiS engine. SZ-T trimmed editions are front-wheel-drive, while the SZ-5 model is paired to Suzuki’s All grip four-wheel-drive system. The latter boasts four selectable modes for use on different surfaces. It was, however, the SZ-T two-wheel-drive edition that we were able to get our hands on for this test. Priced at £20,999, and with a long list of standard kit, it’s a veritable bargain compared to the opposition. Standard kit on all diesel editions includes a navigation system, cruise control, parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, rear privacy glass, automatic headlights and wipers and dual-zone climate control. SZ5 versions also gain adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, heated leather seats and a panoramic glass sunroof.
From cold, the engine is a little on the chattery side, a characteristic of the Fiat-sourced unit. More soundproofing would be key to enhancing refinement, and isolating occupants from the noise. Off the line there’s sprightly performance, and a burst of power in the mid-range makes overtaking a joy. The manual gearbox shifts smoothly, with six nicely chosen ratios and a light, progressive clutch. The re’s good accuracy from the steering, which sufficiently light around town to make parking in a tight space easy. The S-Cross handles neatly and without drama, thanks to high levels of grip, with only a modest amount of lean when cornering. Ride comfort is improved compared to before, with all but the worst bumps soaked up with ease, and motorway runs a calm experience. Road noise can be quite intrusive, though, depending on the road surface, and there’s a little wind flutter from around the door seals. With a length of exactly 4.3 metres, there’s a surprising amount of space -much more than the dimensions suggest. There’s plenty of head and leg room up front, and the same for back seat passengers.
The driving position is nicely elevated, which gives a decent view along the bonnet, while vision all-around is aided by the standard parking sensors and reversing camera. The majority of the dashboard plastics are hard, save for a soft padded area across the middle, but there are a few scratchy surfaces here and the re. The touchscreen infotainment system looks smart and is easy to use, with good quality graphics. Storage space around the cabin is pretty decent, thanks to a big bin in front of the gear lever and a reasonable sized glovebox, though there’s only space to hold a bottle of water and a few thin items in the door pockets. Boot space is well up to class standards with 430 litres of cargo room, which is identical to the Qashqai, and a little larger than the Yeti.
Fold the rear chairs down and this space more than doubles to 875 litres, when measured up to the window line. The enhancements to the SX4 S-Cross are welcomed and will help to get the car noticed in the showroom. But Suzuki’s biggest problem is the in-house competition, as the Vitara is not only more eye-catching, but is also £3,000 cheaper in front-wheel-drive guise, marginally more fuel efficient and has a similar level of equipment. Suzuki salespeople will have their work cut out diverting attention back to the SX4 S-Cross, unless the buyers really need the extra space.