I say it time and time again, but in the world of family cars; the Crossover is king. But what frustrates me is when a crossover is purely style, with no capability to back it up. That’s where the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross comes in. I have tested one previously, and found it to be a no-nonsense 4WD family car. There’s a facelift version out now, and it arrives sporting new engines as well as revised styling. So would it still manage to bring capability to the party, and would the facelift give it more kerb appeal? I grabbed a SZ5 for a week to put it to the test. Read on to see what I thought.
Looks – 5/10
The SX4 S-Cross has been facelifted, but this may a case for the American reality show Botched. I can’t really dance around the subject; this is an ugly car. The front end is flat-faced, and the oversized grille looks like its snarling chrome teeth at you. The bumper and headlights have some nice angular features, but all you can see is that grille. Down the side the plastic cladding adds a rugged edge, and the 17-inch polished alloy wheels sit nicely in the arches. The smooth line from the front headlight turns into a sharp, protruding line by the time it reaches the tail light. The rear is a little more conventional, with a smooth bumper and more plastic cladding down below. Silver roof rails and a panoramic sunroof complete the exterior styling.
The interior on the SX4 S-Cross also leaves a little to be desired. The seats are leather, yes. But the quality of said leather is somewhat lacking. The plastics are scratchy, and create a sea of black in front of the driver. There is a flash of gloss black here, and a touch of silver trim there, but it does little to detract from the overall feel of the cabin. There were also a fair few squeaks from the trim when on the move. It’s not all doom and gloom though. The multimedia screen sits nicely in the centre of the dashboard and, being a touch-screen system, avoids a cluttered feel with buttons everywhere. The dials are nice and simple; black with a blue accent. The aforementioned panoramic roof also helps alleviate the darkness of the plastics by letting a great deal of light into the cabin.
Handling/Performance – 7/10
The engine in my test car was the same 1.4-litre Boosterjet petrol engine found in the Vitara S, a car I rated rather highly. And on paper you may wonder why. It produces 140PS and 220Nm of torque. Through the 6-speed automatic gearbox that equates to a 0-62mph dash of 10.2 seconds and a top speed of 124mph. It doesn’t sound all too inspiring, but this engine is actually a gem. It loves to rev, and feels pretty nippy when you cut it loose. But it has a tall 6th gear, and that keeps revs down on the motorway. But even at low revs, and with the little 1,400cc unit under the bonnet the SX4 S-Cross doesn’t feel underpowered. I really like this engine, and pray that Suzuki plans to explore its capabilities some more. Give it 170-180PS and stick it in a Swift… now there’s an exciting prospect.
So how does the SX4 S-Cross drive? This is a tall car, and it feels it from behind the wheel. There is a degree of lean into the corners. The steering is a little on the numb side; lacking both weight and responsiveness in its feel. But despite this, you can always point the Suzuki exactly where you want it. The ALLGRIP 4WD system is very capable, and maintains the highest level of traction whatever the conditions. Even on the wettest roads you would struggle to slip a wheel. The Suzuki is a comfortable cruiser, with a supple suspension setup and a decent depth to the tyres. You get 180mm ground clearance, and I daresay that the SX4 S-Cross could handle itself on a cross-country trail. But (as is the case with most crossovers) it will most likely never see more than a gravel car park. I’d be interested to properly test the limits of the ALLGRIP system. All I need is a ski slope…
Economy – 9/10
You will, by now, have seen the various stories about how diesel cars are limiting life expectancies in the major cities to 32 years, and how they are single-handedly making East Lancashire wetter. The whole anti-diesel movement seems especially pointless when it was the government (along with environmental beardos) pushing them in the first place. Nevertheless I digress. Smaller, turbocharged petrol engines will be increasing in popularity in the near future, so the 1.4-litre Boosterjet unit in the SX4 S-Cross is just right for the job. With the 6-speed automatic it will achieve combined fuel consumption of 49.5mpg and with CO2 emissions of 128g/km road tax is currently £160 in the (free first year). Considering this is a sizeable car with 4WD those figures are respectable, and ensure the Suzuki is kind to the old purse strings.
Practicality – 7/10
It doesn’t take long behind the wheel to realise that the SX4 S-Cross is designed with easy living in mind. There’s a decent boot for family possessions. The ALLGRIP 4WD system is a very good one, with a specific mode for snow. And because I tested the SZ5, my test car was certainly fully loaded. Satellite navigation, DAB radio, heated front seats, keyless entry and go, adaptive cruise control, reverse parking camera and radar emergency braking are just some of the features. So on paper at least, the SX4 S-Cross should be an ideal companion. But unfortunately I can’t stop there. The legroom in the back isn’t fantastic. And what’s more, the panoramic roof- with its retractable blind- limits headroom. Significantly. A car like this should be able to fit even tall adults in the back, and the SX4 S-Cross might struggle. This, and the squeaking interior trim, just take the edge off the Suzuki being the ideal family car.
Fun – 4/10
The Boosterjet engine is a lot of fun. It feels faster and more powerful than the paper figures suggest. I revs well, urging you to stretch the Suzuki’s legs. The 4WD grip means you can push the limits on even wet, slippery roads. But despite this, the SX4 S-Cross never feels like a driver’s car; the steering is numb and there’s a degree of roll in the corners. And then, to ruin it completely, you’ll drive through a town and catch your reflection in a shop window. It’s a scary thought. There’s a no-nonsense feel to the Suzuki, and that lack of frills translates to a lack of thrills. It will be a tough sell to your friends in the pub, and once they lay eyes on it you can all but guarantee you will be on the receiving end of some ‘banter’.
After spending a week with the Suzuki, I have to admit to being a little underwhelmed. The new styling is, I’m sorry, awful. The front end, in particular, is vomit-inducing. Inside the no-frills cabin feels cheap, and the squeaks and rattles from the trim become a nuisance on a longer drive. On the other hand, the Boosterjet engine is a gem, and is the right blend of power and refinement for a car like the SX4 S-Cross. The 4WD system ensures there is adequate grip whatever the weather, and the list of standard equipment is comprehensive to say the least. The SZ5 model I tested came in at £25,349. That is cheaper than rivals (the Seat Ateca I tested a few weeks ago was £35k), but it is also expensive enough to demand higher levels of build quality. For more information head over to the Suzuki website, or see a local dealer to arrange a test drive. And I will leave on this; the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is an unusual beast, opting for substance over style.
Total Score – 32/50