It's a crossover that's actually practical and sensible
Charm and character are conspicuous by their absence
What is it?
This is about as strait-laced as crossovers get. A few years ago, Suzuki aimed to rationalise its range a bit, and effectively tackle a handful of different segments with two cars apiece: one that’s fun and stylish, and another that’s a bit more pragmatic. So where the Suzuki Vitara was its bright training shoe of an SUV, the S-Cross was a practical winter boot to sit sensibly alongside.
But while Suzuki’s approach has shifted again, and the S-Cross’s other sensible range-mates have left UK showrooms, leaving the fun ones behind (just try conjuring up a Celerio or Baleno in your head), this one’s stuck around. Originally launched in 2013, its lifespan is already longer than the six to seven-year norm on Planet Car.
Perhaps such longevity is the virtue of playing things so straight. You’re looking at the ready salted crisp of the crossover world, a car that’s not trying to rock the boat. It’ll be solid, dependable and fuss-free. If that’s all you’re asking of your car, then great.
What’s new here, then?
There’s been a couple of facelifts and updates in the S-Cross’s life, the latest coming in 2020 when the whole Suzuki range went hybrid. But only just: this is a 48v mild hybrid, so you won’t be plugging it in to charge points or feeding cables through your kitchen window, nor will you be creeping around startling elderly folk in silent EV mode. It’s the same combination of 1.4-litre petrol turbo and e-power as the Suzuki Swift Sport, in fact.
Yep, it’s an SUV with a hot hatch engine. But the Swift is now one of the meeker hot hatches on sale, so that translates into 128bhp and 173lb ft peaks. The engine powers either two or four wheels (four-wheel drive being optional) through your choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. The quickest 0-62mph time on offer is 9.5secs (add another 0.7secs for the 4WD) while its top speed is 118mph.
Those aren’t the figures that Suzuki priorities these days, though. Of more pertinence is the 127g/km of CO2 emissions and 50.1mpg fuel economy (or 139g/km and 45.7mpg if you require 4WD). They’re not outright startling – especially for a car with ‘hybrid’ badges splashed across it – but for a sturdy family crossover, they’re on the money. Especially given the spunky little Jimny 4x4 had to be axed from Suzuki’s passenger car range on emissions reasons. This stuff matters, like it or not.
What else is going on here?
The S-Cross still looks like a first-gen Nissan Qashqai – there was surely one parked outside the designer’s office when this was being sketched out – though subsequent facelifts have added chrome and slightly melancholy eyes. It doesn’t look especially dynamic in a world of stockily wheeled, slashily styled SUVs, but that gives it something of a USP, we suppose – here’s something you’ll merrily chuck down a muddy lane with nary a concern.
It’ll take it, too. Like a cut-price Land Rover, Suzuki is a brand that engineers proper off-roadability into anything it sticks a 4x4 drivetrain under, however relevant (or not) it’ll be to buyers. Even a dinky little Ignis or Swift.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Remember the kind of straight-suited, big-warrantied cars the Korean marques sold us in the early Noughties? That’s the kind of space the S-Cross inhabits now that Hyundai and Kia have fully embraced the world of big wheels and dazzling LEDs. Style and allure live pretty far down this Suzuki’s priority list, with utmost pragmatism and ease-of-use right at the top. Happily, driving dynamics don’t dwindle at the bottom and its light weight lends it some pleasing agility.
It’s not the bargain it used to be, but if you want an SUV to eschew hapless ride quality from silly alloys – with a dose of proper 4x4 ability if that’s something you actually need – then you could do significantly worse. It will never be an enthusiast’s choice, but those of us who like cars can still marvel at some of the efficient engineering that’s gone into it. Just be aware Suzuki makes effectively the same car in a much more palatable suit – the Vitara – and sells it a little cheaper, too. We’d ultimately stick with that.