13/09/2013 17:00 | By Tim Pollard, managing editor, MSN Cars

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.6 Allgrip SZ5 review (2013 onwards)

We drive the new Qashqai rival from Suzuki: the cheapest and cleanest crossover yet

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Model: Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.6 Allgrip SZ5 (£21,549)
Bodystyle: five-door crossover
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, 120hp @ 6,000rpm, 115lb ft @ 4,400rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph in 12.0sec, 108mph top speed
Efficiency: 47.8mpg, 135g/km CO2 emissions

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Suzuki SX4 S-Cross: the rear view (© Suzuki)

What is the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross?

The new Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is the company's first fully fledged crossover. Suzuki is better known for its tough-as-boots Vitara and Jimny SUVs, but it has finally caved in and served up a crossover to rival the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Mitsubishi ASX and Kia Sportage. Yes, it's a friendlier kind of four-by-family, a sort of hatchback on stilts to remove some of the guilt associated with SUV ownership.

Don't be confused by the SX4 part of the name. There is a separate Suzuki called SX4 which will continue to be sold until around March 2014 - it's a smaller 4x4 co-developed with Fiat's Sedici. The S-Cross is an entirely different proposition. Prices start at a very competitive £14,999 for the entry-level 1.6 petrol model and sales begin in October 2013.

Where does the S-Cross fit?

Measuring 4300mm long, the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is slightly shorter than a Qashqai and has enough cabin space for four people comfortably, or five if you can squeeze in three children on the remarkably flat rear bench. It's comfy up front, but be warned about the panoramic glass sunroof standard on the top-line SX5; it may be the world's first twin-opening panoramic roof, but it demolishes headroom and even taller front-seat passengers will feel the pinch. Headroom in the rear is frankly very poor indeed in this class (though legroom, conversely, is very generous).

The S-Cross compares favourably with the best-selling Qashqai on boot space. Its 430-litre trunk is 20 litres bigger than the Nissan's (but don't forget a new Qashqai will be wheeled out in autumn 2013). There's an extra compartment below the flat floor and the boot is a good square shape, with the usual lashing points, hooks and charging points to keep family paraphernalia working.

Suzuki S-Cross (© Suzuki)

Is the Suzuki S-Cross for you?

Suzuki's S-Cross is the company's first proper crossover and as such comes with no baggage of an earlier incarnation. The design is - to these eyes - class competitive, if a little derivative. There's little here to send fashionistas' pulses aflutter and we're less keen on the anonymous front styling, but overall this is a thoroughly modern SUV shape.

The interior, however, sports a neat, sensibly arranged design. If you've driven a Swift or other recent Suzuki, you'll know that this is a brand which excels at good, no-nonsense cabins. The S-Cross's is comfortable, well arranged and logical, with easy-to-use dials and switchgear. The materials used are much improved in recent years and the S-Cross's cockpit feels hard-wearing, with a pleasing mix of utilitarian common-sense with enough quality touches to make sure you don't feel you've traded down to a poverty-spec option.

Suzuki is a brand which excels at good, no-nonsense cabins

Suzuki has quietly become a manufacturer to rival Audi with the number of four-wheel drive options. There are only two engines on offer - a brace of 1.6-litre petrols and diesels, both serving up 120hp - and both can be specced with the new Allgrip 4wd. It works seamlessly in the background and has a new controller to let drivers choose from Auto, Snow, Sport and Lock (for extracting yourself from a snow drift). Prod Sport, and you'll really notice the sharper throttle response and 500rpm higher redline. We weren't able to venture off-road in the S-Cross, but it should be perfect for towing, winter roads and light trail work, given Suzuki's provenance in the field.

What does the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross do well?

The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross's stand-out strengths are its price and its emissions. At £14,999, you're getting a lot of car for the money and it's cheaper than every similarly sized rival. And you won't skimp on equipment, either. Every model comes with seven airbags, electronic stability control, 16-inch alloy wheels, air-con and cruise control. Step up through four trim grades - SX3, SX4, SXT and SX5, reaching to £23,000 and beyond - for even more gadgets. Suzuki has finally joined the DAB digital radio revolution, and the integrated stereo and sat-nav unit is joyfully simple to use.

You'd expect a Suzuki to offer great value, but we're even more impressed by the S-Cross's competitive emissions. The two-wheel drive 1.6 diesel emits just 110g/km of CO2 and the cleanest petrol manages 127g/km. This means you'll pay just £20 a year for road tax in the UK in 2013/14 for the cleanest diesel. That's a fiscal triumph in a car of this size.

What's the secret to the S-Cross's cleanliness? Much of the credit must go to the flyweight mass of the car: the lightest version weighs just 1,175kg and even the four-wheel drive Allgrip models start at 1,240kg. A Kia Sportage, by comparison, weighs the wrong side of 1.5 tonnes and the lightest Qashqai is at least 1,392 kilos. Lightness is the secret to better emissions, economy, performance, handling, braking and more. It's a virtuous circle embraced by Suzuki.

Cabin in Suzuki S-Cross (© Suzuki)

What doesn't the Suzuki S-Cross do well?

The SX4 S-Cross doesn't have many faults, but there are a few annoying niggles: the headroom-robbing panoramic glass sunroof is supposed to be the range-topping jewel in the crown, but unfortunately ends up rubbing the crown of any taller passengers. We were also disappointed by the thick windscreen A-pillars, which can obscure the driver's vision around tighter corners.

Some of the fit and finish will disappoint if you're used to German cars; the paddles on the CVT auto transmission, for instance, couldn't be more plasticky if they were made by Lego. And there are some aftermarket touches like the black plastic unlocking button on the boot for models with keyless entry.

What is the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross like to live with?

Avoid the double sunroof - it severely restricts headroom

Crossovers have to be focused on the business of transporting families around, and the S-Cross makes a decent fist of this most practical of duties. The boot's a good size, children will be comfy in the rear, but we'd make sure you pick the trim of SXT or below to avoid the double sunroof.

The S-Cross serves up enough driving enjoyment to keep keener drivers satisfied, although rivals such as the Ford Kuga still hold the dynamic aces. The five-speed manual transmission on the petrol is snickety and light of touch - a reminder of the Swift Sport warm hatch's gearbox. The six-speeder in the diesel is a tad vaguer in its movement, but will reduce the revs usefully by a fulsome 1,000rpm at a 70mph motorway cruise, to just 1,750rpm.

The ride quality is around average for the class: it's not the most pampering of rides, jiggling a little over rough surfaces on the 17in alloys of our SZ5 test cars (no lower-spec models were available on the UK launch). But there's a pleasing pointiness to the handling and you can hustle the S-Cross along with aplomb.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross (© Suzuki)

How green is it?

As alluded to already, the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is admirably clean. The two-wheel drive diesel 1.6 DDiS gobbles a gallon of fuel every 67.2 miles and emits just 110g/km of CO2. That's great news for your pocket and for the environment. Spec the Allgrip four-wheel drive system, and those figures drop to 64.2mpg and 114g/km.

The petrol 1.6 varies between 51.3mpg and 125g/km in its most efficient guise (two-wheel drive and the parsimonious CVT automatic transmission), and 47.8mpg and 135g/km in its dirtiest (the Allgrip 4wd manual).

All diesels have stop-start as standard, cutting the engine when you're waiting at traffic lights and we managed a useful 45mpg in the petrol cars sampled during our road test and around 55mpg from the diesels. That's not bad under spirited driving on a mix of fast rural roads and around town.

Would we buy a Suzuki SX4 S-Cross?

The SX4 S-Cross is a little late to the crossover party, but has much to commend it. The keen pricing and surprisingly good emissions alone will ensure it falls onto the consideration list of many buyers, and they won't be disappointed.

There are a few niggles to consider before taking the plunge, but the S-Cross conforms to the modern Suzuki promise: here is a no-nonsense crossover, whose great value, tax, economy and emisisons will appeal strongly to the head. It just needs a little more to pull the heart strings and it'd be a sure-fire winner.


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