We test Suzuki’s evergreen S-Cross SUV, which has been treated to a 48-volt mild-hybrid boost…
Electrification is the current buzzword in the automotive industry. One day (maybe as soon as 2030 in the UK), all new cars will be fully electric.
For now, petrols and diesels still make up the bulk of sales, but EVs (electric vehicles) and hybrids (part combustion engine, part electric) are making significant inroads.
In some ways, Suzuki is leading the charge. Every model in the brand’s range is now electrified. We’re not talking full-fat EVs or even plug-in hybrids, which can run on pure electric power for around 30 miles.
For now, the focus is on CO2-reducing mild and self-charging hybrids. The former assists the engine, boosting performance and improving fuel economy. Self-charging hybrids do much the same, but the battery can also be used to power the vehicle in low speed traffic or during parking manoeuvres for instance.
In the case of the mild hybrid S-Cross, the addition of a 48-volt lithium ion battery under the passenger seat has resulted in a claimed 15% improvement in fuel economy and as much as a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions.
Priced from £20,999, the S-Cross is also now fitted with a new version of the impressive 1.4-litre petrol turbo “Boosterjet” engine, which also powers the Swift Sport.
Available with front-wheel drive or as an “AllGrip” 4×4, elsewhere the S-Cross is unchanged.
It’s fair to say that it’s not the best-looking crossover on the market, but where it loses out on kerb appeal, it gains in practicality, comfort, equipment and value for money. Add Suzuki’s hard-won reputation for reliability and customer service and it becomes a much more tempting proposition.
Our four-wheel drive test car in range-topping SZ5 trim (there are also SZ4 and SZ-T specs) came in classy Sphere Blue and was fitted with manual transmission.
Equipment included autonomous emergency brakes (AEB), adaptive cruise control, a rear parking camera, hill hold control, LED headlamps, rear privacy glass, keyless entry and DAB radio.
On paper, the engine produces 127bhp, takes 10.2 seconds to reach 62mph from standstill, with fuel economy of 45.7mpg and 139g/km CO2 emissions.
The reality is that this already excellent unit is punchier and smoother than ever and seems a good deal brisker than the official figures suggest, while the six-speed manual gearbox has a slick action.
The hybrid system works quietly in the background, harvesting energy otherwise lost to recharge the battery during braking and coasting, then assisting the engine during acceleration and cruising.
There’s plenty of grip and traction on looser surfaces, but I suspect the slightly cheaper two-wheel drive version will do just fine for most buyers, while 50mpg is very achievable.
Unlike some SUVs, on more spirited drives it stays fairly flat in corners and it’s quite possible to have more fun than you might think in this unassuming car. What’s more, light steering and good visibility make it an easy SUV to drive in the city.
The basic S-Cross model has been on sale since 2013, but it’s ageing well thanks to a major facelift a few years ago. Inside it’s comfortable and there’s plenty of space for adults in the rear. Boot capacity is a useful 430 litres, expanding to 875 litres with the back seats flipped down.
The dashboard is more functional than futuristic, while the infotainment system doesn’t look flash, but it does the job. Generally, there’s more hard, scratchy black plastic than we’d like, but it’s definitely durable.
The S-Cross features four drive modes – Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock.
Auto is the default. It uses two-wheel drive, switching to four wheels if it detects wheel spin. Sport makes the S-Cross more dynamic, maximising grip when necessary, altering engine response and cornering performance.
Use Snow for the obvious and other slippery conditions, while Lock is for extricating the car from snow, mud, or sand.
And you can take our word for it, the 4×4 version of the S-Cross is very handy off-road.
Verdict: Economical, practical, easy to drive and great value for money, the Suzuki S-Cross is still a great package, but the addition of hybrid technology has given it a real boost in a competitive market. This car should definitely be on your compact SUV shortlist.
Review in association with www.automotiveblog.co.uk