Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.4 Boosterjet SZ5 AllGrip - Road Test

  • Top-spec SZ5 version with 1.4-litre Boosterjet installed
  • Claims of 50.4mpg, 127g/km but performs eagerly
  • Reasonable at £22,849, but 1.0 SX-T is better value

While the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross launched back in 2013 was a competent crossover it looked disappointingly insipid.

Sure, it handled well enough, proved to be reassuringly reliable and was packed to the double-sliding sunroof with equipment, but as the kids who it was designed primarily to ferry about in safety and comfort would say, the styling was a bit “meh”.

Three years on and Suzuki’s design team has upped the S-Cross’s ante, citing that the growing number of compact SUV buyers wanted something that had real presence up front. With its spangly new grille and glitzy headlights it’s certainly more distinctive but is the package appealing enough to tempt buyers away from the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti?

Toughened-up SX4 S-Cross styling

Suzuki’s pulled off a clever trick here because the new-look SX4 S-Cross features a minimal amount of freshly-stamped metalwork.

There’s a curvier bonnet meeting that higher-set, perpendicular grille, plus the bumper below is chunkier, hinting at an off-road prowess that’s not really there. And that’s it.

Fiendishly those new headlights sit within the same front wing cut-out meaning that the overhaul’s been cost-effective, allowing Suzuki to keep the pricing startlingly competitive.

Elsewhere you’ll (maybe) notice the rear lamps have different graphics and the ride height’s been jacked-up by 15mm to 180mm, making it look more imposing and SUV-like.

Boosterjet turbocharged engine

Out goes the S-Cross’s previous 1.6-litre petrol engine, replaced by two Boosterjet turbo motors: there’s a peppy 1.0-litre from the Suzuki Baleno and this 1.4-litre unit shared with the semi-sporty Vitara S.

The SX4’s a relatively light car at 1,240kg, so you’d expect the 140hp and 220Nm of torque on tap from a diesel-esque 1,500rpm to bless it with junior hot hatch degrees of performance, but it comes up a little short, requiring 10.2 seconds to crack the 0-62mph acceleration test. That’s only 0.8 seconds quicker than the three-cylinder 1.0-litre Boosterjet alternative.

It’s a flexible, revvy unit though, and that low-down seam of torque means you don’t have to stir the slick-but-light six-speed manual gearbox too frequently when you need to press on. It certainly feels faster than the raw performance stats suggest.

Where the SX4’s lightness does have a tangible benefit is in the sphere of efficiency; Suzuki claims an average of 50.4mpg, while our test drive yielded an indicated 43mpg. Emissions are quoted at 127g/km of CO2, equating to a VED cost of nothing for the first year and £110 annually thereafter at 2016/17 rates.

Competent handling doesn’t excite

Safe, predictable and easy to manoeuvre – there’s little that’s going to cause any consternation about the way the Suzuki handles to someone moving to their first crossover. In most regards it behaves similarly to a regular family hatchback – just with an elevated seating position.

Body roll isn’t too pronounced and the traction offered by the AllGrip all-wheel drive system is reassuring. It’s a part-time arrangement meaning for the most part it’s a conventional front-driver, but depending on if they begin to spin under acceleration, or one of the modes selected using the centre console dial, power’s diverted seamlessly to the back wheels.

The only disappointment is the steering – it’s especially light compared with its rivals' although you do experience it weighting up progressively, but it’s virtually devoid of any feel to such a degree that you’ve more chance of knowing what the front wheels are up to via telepathy.

Flagship SX5 trim wants for little

Given how well-specified the mid-range SZ-T specification is with dual-zone climate control, rear privacy glass and a multimedia system with sat-nav and Apple CarPlay, the SX5’s got its work cut out offering much in the way of differentiation. Key features on this top-of-the-range model are:

  • Leather seating with heating elements for the front pair
  • A double-sliding panoramic glass roof
  • Adaptive cruise control – which worked very well on test
  • An additional speaker bringing the total up to seven

All that means this SX4 S-Cross tips the scales at £22,849, plus a further £430 if you fancy the Energetic Red metallic paintwork of the test car.

Verdict

There’s still little that appeals to the heart about the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross but as a pragmatic choice it’s much easier to justify as a competitively-priced alternative to Nissan’s Qashqai.

Well-made, bristling with kit, frugal and with a reliability record that most manufacturers can only dream of, the bolder, butcher new S-Cross is a car that should be on your shopping list. Just not this one.

We think the smart money should go the way of the front-wheel drive 1.0-litre Boosterjet version in SX-T trim. Costing £3,350 less than the version tested here, suddenly it becomes very compelling.

Parkers rating: 3.5 stars