2014 Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross First Drive

Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross drivingSuzuki SX-4 S-Cross on the roadSuzuki SX-4 S-Cross offroadingSuzuki SX-4 S-Cross interiorSuzuki SX-4 S-Cross city drivingSuzuki SX-4 S-CrossSuzuki SX-4 S-Cross luggage compartmentSuzuki SX-4 S-Cross rear seatsSuzuki SX-4 S-Cross front seatsSuzuki SX-4 S-Cross dashboard instruments
We are living in an era where the automotive industry has a fixation for filling all possible niches with a minimum effort while hoping to push millions of new cars on the market each year, This is a strategy most automakers adopted. Some manage pretty well with it, others find themselves a bit behind schedule and we can almost include Suzuki in the last category.
Suzuki’s problem wasn’t actually related to the niche segment-filling; it had the SX-4 long before Nissan figured it out with the Juke. Same went with the Vitara or even Grand Vitara which got forgotten quickly when the Nissan Quashqai and the Volkswagen Tiguan came and started to sell like hot cakes.

But if Suzuki had cars in these niches before its competitors, how the heck did it manage to fail? The answer is simple and it’s all about how you “wrap” your merchandise to make it sell better.

The only thing Suzuki did wrong was failing to implement a more youthful style to all its models. The Swift was pretty good, but the SX4 and Vitara still look like they’re coming out from the early 2000s.

Suzuki then decided to come up with the SX-4 S-Cross. It has a tricky name because it isn’t replacing the old SX-4, but fill a niche between it and the bigger Grand Vitara. So to reduce the possibility of confusing you, we’ll refer to it simply as the S-Cross.

Styling wise, the new Suzuki S-Cross is currently the only model in the automaker’s lineup that will truly make you want to stare at it for a second time. Especially if its finished in that nice Crystal Lime Metallic shade, which we didn’t get on our tester, unfortunately.

Instead, we got the more sober Bison Brown Pearl Metallic, which is nice too in the sunlight, but once the dark falls you can swear it’s just a boring black car.

The model we had was actually the fully loaded Elegance Top version and it was powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox making 120 hp and 156 Nm (115 lb-ft) of torque. The other option was a 1.6-liter turbocharged diesel engine making the same power but 320 Nm (236 lb-ft). A CVT was also on the list, but regarding their usual behavior, we were happy we got to change gears for ourselves.

Speaking about the transmission, we have to mention our Suzuki S-Cross was also coming with the ALLGRIP 4WD, so the power was sent to the rear wheels in certain conditions. Still, you can almost feel no difference unless you're stuck in mud or snow.

The electronically controlled diff is linked to a little drive selection knob on the lower central console, which comes with 4 settings: Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock. The first one is practically killing the acceleration pedal, because you’ll barely feel the car going up to speed. However, it’s better to use it in the city to help you with fuel consumption. The car also tells you when it's safe to shift in a higher gear to keep the engine at low revs to improve consumption - the gearing allows you to easily coast at 50 km/ h (31 mph) in 5th gear.

Rotate the dial to the right and the multi information display will say you’re in Sport mode. Don’t worry, the car didn’t grew a turbocharger under the hood, nor did it alter the suspension; it simply changed the way the gas pedal responds.

You can now feel the real “kick” of the engine, especially between 2,000 - 3,500 rpm. After that, it will only make noise while the scenery will keep going almost at the same speed around you. Zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) takes around 11 seconds if you really want to know. It’s obvious what Snow and Lock mode will do, so we won’t discuss these here.

Well, the S-Cross is not quite a machine built to freak you out with tremendous accelerations and G-pulling around the corners, so it must excel at the part regarding the way it takes you from A to B.

This brings us to comfort and conveniency. Starting with the ride, we can tell it’s just spot on for a car that will mostly travel on urban roads and occasionally on some unpaved gravel trails. We wouldn’t suggest attacking something more challenging that that, because the car is not that high off the ground, Besides, it doesn't come with strong underbody protection elements.

You also get the best-in-class rear legroom and luggage space, so a trip with the family/friends won’t raise any problems. Having the top equipment level, you benefit from leather seats, with the first row also being heated. moreover, you receive dual climate control, electric windows and rearview mirrors, leather-wrapped fully adjustable steering wheel with shortcut buttons, Start-Stop system, keyless entry and push-button ignition. The list is topped off by a large panoramic roof which opens almost completely towards the rear passengers’ heads.

Bad parts? You don’t get a touchscreen infotainment system and the standard audio unit is absolutely killing you with its lack of user-friendliness. It can get frustrating when you try to pair a smartphone with it and stream some music. The small monochrome display is not helping you at all and you can easily miss most of the menus and settings because you can see only one or two text lines at a time.

So pairing the audio system with the phone via Bluetooth requires extra attention. After you press the phone button on the steering wheel, the display will tell you there is an error, because there is no phone connected with it. Well, Captain Obvious, thank you, but it would have been much helpful to also ask me if I want to pair one. The menu for doing this is as hidden as an easter-egg. In theory, when the error message appears, you need to quickly rotate the right dial and you will enter the connectivity menu. Still, after managing to pair the devices, you discover you cannot stream your music via Bluetooth.

Luckily, if you open up the central armrest, you’ll find an USB port. Nonetheless, trying to use it for playing music from you phone is pretty much like gambling, because the system won’t work with the newer Android smartphones due to an interface incompatibility. A Samsung Galaxy S4, for instance, failed to get detected by the audio system. However, Apple products, older phones and USB memory sticks will work just fine.

The other major stress-giving lack-of-feature is the fact you cannot command the multi information display from the steering wheel, a thing that unually works on most vehicles today.

In order to play with the trip computer, you'll have to turn to the two slim sticks protruding from the side extremities of the gauge cluster. “Is this it? Neah, it can’t be... What year is this?” Note: you can both push and rotate them to select and navigate through the menus. Brilliant!

Our short drive included city, highway and some country lanes driving, on which we received an average fuel consumption of 7 l/100 km (33 mpg US / 40 mpg UK) with the AC on.

The typically electric assisted steering was very soft at low speeds and got more resistive as the speed needle showed bigger numbers. There’s no road feeling in it at all and it’s just like driving from home on a gaming console. This, however, is in the spirit of the vehicle.

And here comes the suspension which feels pretty stiff and tight at first, but go over a bump or pothole and it will manage to cut a lot of the impact. Nothing to comment about the comfort level you get inside regarding the vehicle’s class and that panoramic roof sure knows how to sweeten the pot.

Well, leaving those issues pass along, the S-Cross will rapidly grow on you.

Don’t get us wrong here, the Suzuki S-Cross is not bad at all, but the thing that makes you turn away and scream is its price. Depending on the market, you can get the fully loaded S-Cross at around €23,000 - €25,000, which is well over the edge for just a decent Japanese, Hungarian-built car that takes you to the destination in a medium-ish quality interior fitted with a panoramic roof and having a 4x4 system you’ll probably never use.

If you think you’ll spend more time on rough terrains, you can easily go with the €5,000 cheaper new Dacia Duster. It will still be fully loaded (well, in its low-budget limit) and you still get a better infotainment system and a real 4x4 system.

Or, if you’re the funky mom mostly driving around the city, a new Renault Captur, coming at around the same price as the Duster, will ditch the useless four-wheel drive and push the visual appeal a bit more than both of the above, inside and out.

The only options you won’t get in the Duster or Captur is the panoramic roof. So if you have a special attraction for that, go ahead, spend almost the price of an entry-level Dacia Sandero on it.
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