New Suzuki SX4 S-Cross first drive

 

Suzuki SX4 S-CrossSuzuki, apart from motorcycles and marine engines, is famous in the automotive for small vehicles and 4x4s but until October last year they didn’t have a new must-have fashionable mid-sized ‘crossover’ in their line-up, just the smaller supermini sized SX4 4x4 range.

 

 

Suzuki can now compete in the crossover sector with their aptly named SX4 S-Cross and it should increase their sales potential still further. It is estimated the new S-Cross will account for around 5,000 UK sales annually. In 2013 the brand achieved record UK sales again, up by 33% to 33,086 registrations. Having the right vehicles at the right price supported by a motivated dealer network has worked wonders for Suzuki, a Japanese brand which builds the S-Cross at its European production centre in Hungary.

 

The new sector of crossovers has been a huge sales success in the UK for the last year or so. They are vehicles with the elevated style and perceived status of an SUV but with much lower purchase price and running costs than a conventional 4x4. Some crossovers have 4WD models in their line-up but many do not or if they do they are significantly outsold by 2WD versions. The appeal to buyers is more about style and status than the practicalities of have an all wheel drive vehicle for all weathers and road conditions. ‘Urban- livers’ who rarely venture outside the ‘city limits’ where smooth and mainly well kept roads prevail, I appreciate would not pay the extra for a 4x4 over a 4x2. But outside towns and cities, given the recent weather and long-term deteriorating road surfaces, I think the modern crossovers with 4WD are definitely cars for all seasons and most conditions and not just for Winter.

 

Suzuki SX4 S-CrossSuzuki SX4 S-CrossThe Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is all-new and competes in the C-segment of the crossover market against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Mitsubishi ASX, Peugeot 3008, Hyundai ix35 and Kia Sportage. But competition is strong from the smaller and cheaper new B-segment compact crossovers such as the Peugeot 2008, Vauxhall Mokka, Nissan Juke and the budget priced Dacia Duster to name just a few. Is the crossover sector just a fad? Not likely for a few years it seems as Ford is about to enter the B sector crossover segment with their Fiesta based EcoSport, BMW and Audi are reported to have similar products ready to unveil, Skoda will introduce the new Yeti soon and Nissan, arguably the creator of crossover with their Qashqai range, is soon to launch the new generation Qashqai so 2014 will see crossovers ‘crossing over’ from being niche models to become mainstream ‘must-haves’.

 

The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross five door, five seater range has prices starting from £14,999. There is a choice of 1.6-litre petrol or 1.6-litre DDiS turbodiesel engines and both engines are available with 2WD or 4WD drivetrains.

 

Both engines have a power output of 118bhp. With the price led petrol unit and 2WD this version officially returns 51.3mpg in the Combined Cycle with CO2 emissions of 127g/km so VED road tax is £0 for the first year and then it goes up to £105 for year two onwards.

 

The 1.6-litre diesel costs a hefty £2,000 more than its petrol counterpart but with 2WD the fuel consumption is 67.2mpg with CO2 emissions of 110g/km so road tax is £0 for the first year and then only £20 for year two onwards.

 

Even when the £1,800 4WD option is taken the petrol unit officially returns 47.8mpg with a CO2 figure of 135g/km and the 4WD diesel returns 64.2mpg with just 114g/km of CO2.

 

The petrol engine has a 5-speed manual gearbox and the added option of a CVT automatic transmission for both 2WD and 4WD versions. The diesel has a 6-speed manual gearbox with no auto option.

 

There are SZ3, SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5 levels of specification depending on the engine chosen but the new lightweight AllGrip 4WD system is only available on the top SZ5 spec level for the petrol manual/auto versions and on the SZ-T and SZ5 for the diesel powered manual gearbox variants. Prices range up to £23,549 for the 1.6 DDiS SZ5 AllGrip manual version which was my trusty transport over the weather battered Christmas and New Year period. The same engine with the same specification but only with 2WD reduces the price to £21,749.

 

The SX4 S-Cross is a fusion of Suzuki’s experience with compact cars and sports utility vehicles. Basically Suzuki takes all that we expect from a well equipped, sharply handling, five door family hatchback with a lightweight but torsionally rigid and strong platform with a five door bodyshell and then elevates it to improve ground clearance, access and visibility and then adds two fuel efficient engines with the choice of two or four wheel drive. The overall length is still compact at 4,300mm so it is easy to park and the 1,575mm of height causes no problems in multi-story car parks or the domestic garage. For good measure there are 430-litres of load space with the rear seats in use and this grows to 875-litres with the rear seats folded which is not the largest in this sector. For those who tow the diesel models have a braked towing capacity of 1,500kg and the petrol versions 1,200kg.

 

The basic SZ3 specification is competitive with central door locking, 60/40 split folding rear seats, seven airbags, electronic stability programme, tyre pressure monitoring, daytime running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, electrically operated windows and door mirrors, air conditioning, protective skid plates for the front, rear and side sills, wheelarch extensions and temporary spare wheel.

 

Suzuki SX4 S-CrossThe spec increases through the range and at various levels additions include Bluetooth, rear privacy glass, roof rails, 17-inch alloys, rear parking camera and front fog lights. The top of the range SZ5’s additions include DAB radio, navigation system, front parking sensors, leather seat upholstery, heated front seats, a double sliding panoramic sunroof, HID projector headlights with auto function and ‘signature’ LED daytime running lights.

 

Having recently stepped out of the revised 2014 model year Hyundai ix35 crossover and into the all-new Suzuki SX4 S-Cross it was good to compare the two. The S-Cross looks more of an elevated five door hatchback than the ix35 which looks like a scaled down SUV. That difference is felt in the on-road handing. The S-Cross is sharper in that department responding well to steering input and with noticeably less cornering bodyroll. The ride comfort was firmer although the seats offer better support and the front seats have a larger seat squab. The interior quality and specification is comparable but you get marginally more with the Suzuki but then the Hyundai’s five year warranty is better than the three years of cover for the S-Cross.

 

The 1.7-litre diesel engine of the ix35 is significantly more responsive and flexible during acceleration from low speeds than the 1.6-litre diesel unit of the S-Cross which has ‘taller’ fifth and sixth gear ratios. This produces better fuel economy and low CO2 emissions which of course produces lower running and tax costs. Whereas the ix35 had a very slick 6-speed manual gearbox, the 6-speeder Suzuki unit was notchy especially when cold after start-up.

 

The big-letdown regarding the 1.7-litre ix35 was the fact that it is only available with 2WD drive even though the price is more or less the same as the 1.6 diesel 4WD S-Cross. If you want the 4WD version of the ix35 then it comes with a 2.0-litre diesel power unit and a comparable top spec model will cost £3,000 more than the diesel S-Cross.

 

Taking everything into account the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross would be the better financial package for me as I would want the 4WD facility and I could live with its high gearing but at a much lower price than the ix35. On the subject of figures my 1.6-litre diesel S-Cross with 4WD is officially able to return 64.2mpg in the Combined Cycle. In reality, as is most often the case, real-life driving produced much less impressive figures. Overall my test car returned exactly 50mpg for all types of driving conditions, wet and windy weather, fast and slow driving conditions and a bit of driving on muddy tracks. Going off-piste though I was careful to check the ground clearance of the S-Cross because the front approach angle looks a bit too low for a crossover off road in the country.

 

On the subject of getting a grip Suzuki’s new 4WD AllGrip system has four modes which the driver can select by using a simple push and turn dial on the centre console. The Auto mode prioritises fuel economy with the front 2WD default setting but will immediately switch to 4WD if wheel spin is detected. Sport mode is ideal for fast twisty road work making maximum use of 4WD cornering and acceleration grip. This mode at low to medium speeds also sharpens the engine power and torque response. Snow mode is for full 4WD grip in slippery road and off road conditions optimising power distribution to each wheel in accordance with the grip available. Lock mode is used to maximise grip getting the vehicle moving again in deep mud, sand or snowy conditions. All very user-friendly and logical.

 

Overall the SX4 S-Cross is a vitally important new model for Suzuki due to the demand for such crossover vehicles. It is a good family car, it looks smart, it’s nice to drive in all weathers and relatively cheap to run so owners will find it very easy to live with.

 

Happy New Year’s motoring.

 

MILESTONES. Suzuki SX4 S-Cross SZ5 1.6 DDiS AllGrip manual. Price: £23,549 (range starts from £14,999). Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection turbodiesel, 118bhp, 236lb ft (320Nm) of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual, on demand 4-mode, all wheel drive. Performance: 108mph, 0-62mph 13.0-seconds, 64.2mpg Combined Cycle (50mpg on test), CO2 114g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £30 per annum year two onwards, BIK company car tax 17%. Insurance group: 19A. Warranty: 3-yrs/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,300m, W 1,765mm, H 1,575mm, ground clearance 165mm, 5-seats, boot/load space 430 to 875-litres, braked towing weight 1,500kg. For: Competitively priced against the competition, low running costs and taxes, well equipped, easy car to live with, sharp handling, must-have Allgrip 4WD function. Against: Tall 5th/6th gearing dulls engine acceleration and response, no auto gearbox option for the diesel models, panoramic sunroof restricts rear seat headroom for adults, notchy gearchange when cold, limited ground clearance off-tarmac.   Miles Better News Agency

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