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Crossovers and SUVs could do more to help the environment. After all, their lofty stance and box-like proportions don’t make it easy for an engine to punch a hole in the air for them to pass through. The answer for the here and now is hybridisation – albeit mild – says Suzuki. So, is it? Time to find out. 

S-CROSS: A QUICK RECAP                

This Volkswagen T-Cross rival first arrived in showrooms back in 2013 before it went under the knife for a rather hefty frontal nip and tuck three years later. This introduced a new grille, raised clamshell bonnet, reprofiled front bumper and fresh headlamp design. Less obvious was the 15mm increase in ride height – a move intended to add a rugged edge to the S-Cross’s demeanour. Little has changed in the styling department for the 2020-year-model except, now, every S-Cross receives LED projector lights and wheels measuring 16- or 17-inches in size depending on trim. While this Hungarian-built soft-roader’s profile makes it an acquired taste, optional all-wheel-drive is a unique selling point. 

WHAT IS NEW, THEN?     

The 1.4-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged ‘Boosterjet’ petrol engine that musters 127bhp. That is 11bhp fewer than the motor it replaces, but it does deliver more torque (173lb ft versus 162lb ft). Another significant difference is the battery. Placed below the front passenger seat, the 48-volt unit harvests energy that would otherwise be lost as heat to braking. From there, it is dispatched to a belt-driven integrated starter/generator during stop/start driving. The regenerative braking sensation is discreet and the end result allows the S-Cross to idle and coast at speeds below 10mph on electric power alone, a trick that apparently cuts emissions and increases fuel economy by a fifth. 

DOES IT WORK IN THE REAL WORLD?

Having a larger pool of potential energy from the battery helps to gloss over the dip in engine power as the extra shove can torque-fill under acceleration to compensate for any turbo lag. Flex your right ankle from a standing start and progress feels brisker than the quoted 0-62mph time of 10 seconds. In-gear performance is more than adequate in and around town, and when you enter a rural setting the hushed motor is as flexible when paired to the six-speed- manual which itself has a solid, positive throw action. Economy-wise, we struggled to match the quoted 45mpg; our best return was 39mpg.

HOW DOES THE S-CROSS RIDE AND HANDLE?                

In short: remarkably well. That is especially true if you plump for the range-topping ‘SZ5’ – the only model that can be had with Suzuki’s ‘AllGrip’ all-wheel-drive. It guarantees consistent traction in the wet or dry, with ‘Snow’ – one of four modes selected via a small rotary knob in the lower console – acting as an extra layer of security when littles ones are on board. Listless steering aside, the chassis allows for tidy if uninspired handling and a body that resists pitch and roll. On the larger wheels the S-Cross has a tendency to fidget – particularly on nuggety surfaces – and the soft springs struggle to iron out sunken or broken Tarmac. The low-speed ride is notably brittle and can quickly turn crashy. 

WHAT ABOUT THE S-CROSS’S INTERIOR?                      

Mid-life refreshes can only move a seven-year-old car like the S-Cross forward so much. Therefore, some aspects appear dated compared to newer, albeit more expensive, alternatives. Still, buttons and switches are presented in an easy-to-fathom manner – a welcome change in an age where those designers working for mainstream car companies seem infatuated with putting form over function. Yes, the majority of plastics on show are hard to the touch and have a nasty, scratchy surface, but each corner of the spacious cabin has a real solid, built-to-last feel. There is no shortage of goodies, either, as all models feature a digital radio and CD player, Bluetooth and dual-zone air conditioning, automatic lights and wipers, electric windows, adaptive cruise control and a whole suite of airbags.

JUST HOW PRACTICAL IS IT?         

Measuring 4.3m nose to tail means this is a very accommodating car for the price. Those sitting up top have oodles of space and the same goes for those travelling in the back where shoulder, leg and head room are just-so. What is more, access to the S-Cross is easy because the doors open nice and wide and the seats are positioned at the perfect height when entering or exiting. A boot measuring 440-litres with the split-folding rear seats in place is equal to the Nissan Qashqai, whilst a false floor in the boot where valuable items can be stored safely away from prying eyes, and a luggage net, are both in keeping with the competition in this crowded segment. 

PROS & CONS

+ Engine is linear and refined         
+ Effective four-wheel-drive
+ Spacious and family friendly       
Interior is underwhelming
Looks will not suit all tastes
Better rivals for similar money

ENGINE: Suzuki has reworked the 1.4-litre petrol motor so you now have to rev it less to access the strength of its performance. Smooth and quiet at cruising speeds, and with just enough shove to cover all bases, it is well-suited to the new S-Cross. Achieving the miles-per-gallon figure quoted by Suzuki can prove a tall order, even with the 48-volt battery acting as a leg up under acceleration. 

ENGINE

STYLING: Our test car was the range-topping ‘SZ5’ model which gets two-tone polished 17-inch alloy wheels, aluminium-effect roof rails and rear privacy glass in addition to piercing LED projector lights, front and rear skid plates and protective body mouldings. A fully opening panoramic glass roof is also standard but optional ‘Sphere Blue’ metallic paint helps to push the final list price up by some £500. 

STYLING

INTERIOR: All bar entry-level cars get a 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, although the system is slow to respond and has an aftermarket look to it. Thankfully, you can bypass this because it now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The cabin may not be a byword for quality but sturdy fit and finish should help it withstand the rough and tumble of daily family life. 

INTERIOR

PRACTICALITY: An area where the S-Cross really shines is packaging; space in rows one and two is good and the leather seats are comfortable over distance. No load lip makes bundling items into the 440-litres of seats-up boot space straightforward but real effort is required to close the tail-gate due to its size and weight. The load area grows to 875-litres when the rear chairs are folded forward.  

PRACTICALITY

SPECIFICATION

Price: £28,049 (as tested) 
Engine: 1.4-litre, 4cyl turbo petrol            
Power/torque: 127bhp/173lb ft    
Transmission: 6-speed manual, four-wheel-drive         
0-62mph:  10.2 seconds 
Top speed: 118mph               
Economy/CO2: 45.7mpg/139g/Km

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