Suzuki S-Cross vs Vauxhall Mokka X vs Kia Sportage

  • Three popular family-sized crossovers do battle in petrol form
  • All three of these SUVs are specified with four-wheel drive
  • Should you choose one over a two-wheel drive or diesel?

Crossovers are very popular with family buyers - the rugged SUV looks, more space and a greater sense of safety chief among the appeal. But what if you actually need something with a modicum of off-road ability, or at least with four-wheel drive to help out in slippery situations?

We’ve gathered three in petrol form to see if they can possibly make sense in a sector traditionally associated with diesel - the Suzuki S-Cross, Vauxhall Mokka X and Kia Sportage? Are these cars good enough to help persaude to make the switch away from the green pump?

 

Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi GT-Line DCT

The Kia Sportage is bigger and more expensive than the other two crossovers in this test. £25,905 buys you a 1.6-litre T-GDI GT-Line with a DCT automatic gearbox (the manual version costs £1,300 less).

It has greater ground clearance and more of a genuine off-road feel in terms of road presence and driving position. However, its gearbox is indecisive and inefficient – this is our long-term test car, and you can read more of our experiences with it by clicking here.

The Sportage seems secure and stable on the road, while proper off-road features like Hill Descent Control are available. But the all-wheel drive system doesn’t distribute power as effectively as we'd like – it easily spins its front wheels pulling away at greasy junctions.

 

Suzuki S-Cross 1.4 Boosterjet SZ5 AllGrip

Recently updated, the Suzuki S-Cross is available with four-wheel drive in combination with all engines in the range, but it’s the most powerful 1.4-litre Boosterjet with 140hp that we have here.

It’s a perky engine and the four-wheel drive system has a dedicated “lock” function, as well mud and snow modes. Or you can leave the system to sort itself out by using the Auto setting.

While it doesn’t have sufficient ground clearance for any serious off-roading, the Suzuki feels rugged and has supple suspension that seems well equipped to deal with lumps and bumps. This example is in plush SZ5 trim with lots of kit, and the 1.4-litre turbo is capable of around 40mpg in mixed driving.

 

Vauxhall Mokka X Design Nav 1.4 Turbo 4x4

The Mokka X has the makings of a good crossover with a high-driving position, black plastic cladding and silver scuff plates, but the 140hp 1.4-litre turbo feels flat and strained, and despite their identical power outputs, nowhere near as lively as the Suzuki.

Its fuel economy isn’t as impressive either – we managed mid-30s mpg in our time with the car – and it's less involving to drive. There are no switchable modes for the four-wheel drive system either, and its ground clearance is much less than you’d expect. It does have Hill Descent Control, but you're best sticking to muddy fields rather than serious off-road routes.

The Mokka X claws back some ground with a superior cabin and lower list price (£19,940 to the Suzuki’s £22,849).

Which of these is the one to go for?

All have their merits, but are by no means the best examples of their wider model ranges. The Kia is much better with a diesel engine and manual gearbox fitted, while the Mokka X feels like it needs more power – or at least have it delivered in a better way.

That leaves the Suzuki to take the honours here. It’s good to drive, feels rugged and is priced between the two. However, if you must have four-wheel drive then there are cheaper versions of the S-Cross available – namely the 111hp 1.0-litre Boosterjet – which still feels urgent despite its lower power output.

Other questions to ask yourself

Do you really need four-wheel drive? It’s the first thing you should ask yourself if you’re looking at this kind of car. They’re more expensive to buy and run than two-wheel drive counterparts, and they’re not best suited to proper off-roading.

If you need something to deal with slippery situations on occasion then they’re fine, but a petrol engine under the bonnet isn’t the most efficient way of getting around in one of these cars.Diesel alternatives will deliver more miles per gallon, though they may also cost more to buy in the first place.

If you do prefer petrol, consider a cheaper, more efficient two-wheel drive version, and consider investing in a set of winter tyres for when the weather turns colder. In road-driving these are usually more useful than four-wheel drive anyway.

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