2015 Suzuki Sx4 S-Cross first drive

Suzuki Sx4 S-CrossSuzuki are well respected for being the brand for supplying well equipped cost effective small cars and small and medium sized 4×4.

In 2014 they enjoyed another record year of UK sales with 37,395 registrations, a 13% increase over the previous record year in 2013. 

2015 will be another big year for the brand with the new Celerio A+ segment five door small car to be launched in February at prices starting from £7,999. Sitting between the A segment for city cars and the B segment for superminis the Celerio replaces the Alto and Splash models. 

In the spring comes the new Suzuki Vitara, a five door compact crossover with two and four wheel drive versions with prices expected to start at around £14,000. On the downside the Grand Vitara medium sized three and five door 4×4 SUV range is deleted from the line-up due to falling sales as customers have moved away from hard-core 4x4s to more fuel efficient, lower CO2 emission lightweight crossovers. This move will hit some loyal Suzuki 4×4 owners hard as the Grand Vitara was a full blown 4×4 with two/four wheel drive and high and low gear ratios and was a capable family vehicle or country user’s work-horse. 

So what can former Grand Vitara owners buy from the range if the smaller new Vitara doesn’t meet their needs? It will be the SX4 S-Cross, five door medium sized crossover with two and four wheel drive versions and he choice of 1.6-litre, 120hp petrol or 1.6-litre DDiS 120hp turbodiesel engines. Petrol models are available with the choice of a five-speed manual or a CVT auto transmission, the diesel version has a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. Both petrol and diesel manual gearbox models are available with the Allgrip 4WD traction system. 

Suzuki Sx4 S-CrossThe S-Cross entered the UK market in October 2013 and demand has proved strong with their 2014 sales target of 5,000 units having been met. For 2015 the S-Cross range has been revised in terms of model availability following UK buying trends. This is an important strategy because the huge growth in B and C segment sized crossover models has made the SUV/crossover sector the third largest in the UK’s new car market. With more new models entering this segment the growth is forecast to be significant and in 2014 it was the fastest growing segment in the UK’s new car market. The main players include the Nissan Qashqai/Juke closely challenged by models such as the Peugeot 2008/3008, Renault Captur, Ford Kuga/EcoSport, Vauxhall Mokka, Mitsubishi ASX, Mazda will be introducing their CX-3 compact SUV, Fiat will bring their 500X to market, Honda will launch a small SUV and Audi is reported to be considering introducing a Q1 to compete against BMW’s compact X1 crossover. 

The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross now starts at £15,499 for the 1.6 petrol SZ3 variant, an increase of £500 over the outgoing 2014 version but at the other end of the scale the highest price of £23,549 remains the same for the 1.6 DDiS SZ5 Allgrip variant. Some DDiS diesel models have received a £250 price reduction resulting in the customer’s cost of choosing a diesel model over a petrol version reducing to £1,500. Suzuki GB has also added petrol engine 1.6 SZ-T CVT automatic and SZ-T Allgrip versions to the range. The SZ-T models have been introduced specifically with fleet and business customers in mind although retail customers wanting a high spec S-Cross are also being attracted to these new versions. It is expected that 70% of S-Cross UK customers will choose the SZ-T or SZ5 spec levels and both are available with the choice of the petrol and most popular diesel engine options. 

All 2015 S-Cross models have a comprehensive level of equipment including electronic stability control, daytime running lights, alloy wheels, cruise control, speed limiter, air con, heated door mirrors, electrically operated windows and black protective skid-plates and wheelarch extensions. The new SZ-T level adds sat-nav, DAB radio, 17-inch alloys, dual zone climate control, front fog lights, Bluetooth, sliver coloured skid plates, rear parking camera and rear parking sensors. Over and above that spec the SZ5 additions include, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, double sliding panoramic sunroof, HID projector headlights with washers, automatic headlamp levelling, LED daytime running lights, rain sensing wipers and a different grille with chrome accent. 

During the Christmas and New Year period when British weather can be fickle it makes sense, as a country dweller, to have the use of a 4×4. Drive forward the Suzuki SX S-Cross 1.6 DDiS Allgrip SZ5 priced at the range topping £23,549. The only downside for some potential owners of the S-Cross who want a diesel engine, is no availability of an automatic transmission which is only available for the 1.6-litre petrol models. 

At least my test version had the Allgrip 4×4 system which proved very valuable given the weather we had dealt us high up in The Cotswold. Everything from gales, rain, severe frosts, black ice and roads with standing water and thick mud, ideal testing grounds for the S-Cross which now has to take over the role of Suzuki’s medium sized 4×4 following the demise of the much-respected Grand Vitara. 

Unlike the Grand Vitara with its high ground clearance, hard-core 4×4 running gear and upright boxy styling, the S-Cross does not appear to have as much ground clearance and its crossover design makes it look more of an elevated estate/five door hatch than a tough off-roader. It has a relatively long front overhang for a crossover which is not ideal for off-road driving, a low-ish bonnet and the roofline is lower than most SUV style crossovers. 

Suzuki Sx4 S-CrossSuzuki Sx4 S-CrossSuzuki Sx4 S-CrossBut with five doors and seating for five it is what today’s customers want although I suspect some owners would prefer it to look a little more SUV like. SUV styling is popular even though the majority of customers then choose to buy the front wheel drive versions because they are cheaper to buy and to run. It is definitely style over substance that prevails in this fast growing market segment. 

Inside the design and layout of the many controls is acceptable but the appearance is certainly not as uncluttered as some of the newer crossovers. But I would much rather have these easy to use simple switches than having to venture into a fiddly ‘tablet’ style control panel and then scroll through various pages just to adjust the heater or sound system. There is an acceptable combination of textured plastic trim which matched the black leather upholstery, both can be described as durable rather than plush. 

With the Allgrip option, I consider it to be a must but a town dweller might not, the operation of it is simple. Basically it is Suzuki’s latest lightweight 4WD system designed to reduce traditional 4×4 running costs. It has four driver selectable modes – auto, sport, snow and lock. A centrally positioned simple to use push and turn dial selects the mode wanted. Auto mode priorities fuel economy using 2WD by default and will switch to 4WD if wheel spin is detected. Sport mode does the same only with more engine response. Snow mode uses 4WD by default; lock is used in snow, mud or sand to give maximum grip to the wheels that have it. With a six speed manual gearbox standard fit with the diesel engine the gearing is relatively long in fourth to sixth gear ratios to maximise fuel economy but the ‘grunt’ or torque from the engine makes it responsive for acceleration mid range and the high ratio sixth gear allows for quiet and relaxed cruising at motorway speeds. It is economical as well with 48.4mpg overall recorded on my longer than usual test drive period covering icy temperatures, local trips to town plus one longer motorway journey. 

The ride is compliant and comfortable and its low estate car ride height does away with cornering body roll. There is plenty of grip during cornering even without engaging the 4WD facility although I found it prudent for early morning icy rural road conditions to engage the snow mode. 

Overall it is a competent vehicle with the sure-footed Allgrip specification, very well equipped and easy to drive. For occasional lightweight off-road driving it will suffice but for more testing conditions I would prefer to have had more ground clearance and so it will not totally replace the abilities the now defunct Grand Vitara offered but it is a better vehicle for on-road 4×4 use. 

MILESTONES: Suzuki Sx4 S-Cross 1.6 DDiS Allgrip SZ5. Price: £23,549. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection turbodiesel, 120hp with 320Nm (236lb ft) of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual with Allgrip selectable driving modes. Performance: 108mph, 0-62mph 13.0-seconds, 64.2mpg Combined Cycle (48.4mpg on test), CO2 114g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate and £30 for Year Two onwards, Benefit-in-Kind company car tax rate 18%. Insurance group: 19A. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,300mm, W 1,765mm, H1,575mm, ground clearance 165mm, braked towing weight 1,500kg, boot/load space 430 to 875-litres. For: High level of specification, well priced, competitive running costs, easy to drive, competent handling on-road, relatively roomy. Against: Does not have the off-road driving capability of the Grand Vitara which it now replaces, unsettled ride over poor road surfaces, no automatic gearbox option for diesel powered versions. Miles Better News Agency 

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