From £17,5507
Crossover gets new 48V mild-hybrid system to go with upgraded petrol engine, promising 17% better economy

What is it?

When KERS – that’s kinetic energy recovery system – was introduced to Formula 1 back in 2009, it seemed an excitingly forward-thinking innovation. In fact, its complexity made it so expensive that the teams agreed not to use it for the 2010 season.

Just over a decade later and not only are F1 cars now full hybrids with KERS systems that can contribute 160bhp, but also KERS technology is rapidly being fitted to everyday road cars. 

And perhaps surprisingly, it’s Suzuki – a mainstream manufacturer less suited to billion-dollar motorsport you couldn’t find – that has become the first to apply it to every car in its UK line-up. So yes, that encompasses the Swift supermini, the Swift Sport hot hatch and the crossover trio of Ignis, Vitara and SX4 S-Cross, the last of which we’re driving here.

Of course, this system is far from as comprehensive as that you’ll find in Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, but it is an upgrade on that pioneered by Suzuki in 2016, with 48V electrics over 12V.

The basic idea is this: energy that would otherwise be lost under braking and throttle-off cruising is harvested and then sent to a small lithium ion battery under the front passenger seat. From there, it’s dispatched to a belt-driven integrated starter/generator (ISG) during stop/start driving. 

Another feature, which isn’t yet common among so-called mild hybrids, is that the 48V Suzukis can idle and even coast below 10mph on electric power. When you’re stationary or depress the clutch pedal at around 1000rpm, fuel injection makes way for the electric component to control engine idling.

The end result of all this, according to Suzuki, is considerably more torque, an improvement of up to 15% in fuel economy and as much as a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions, at the penalty of only an almost insignificant extra 15kg in overall weight.

Indeed, the peak torque output of the S-Cross’s turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine has risen not insignificantly from 162lb ft to 173lb ft. However, you may be surprised to see that power has actually fallen, from 138bhp to 127bhp. 

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That’s because this car has not merely had a mild-hybrid system bolted on but also introduces the latest evolution of the Suzuki K-series engine, which contributes to the efficiency improvements made. 

What's it like?

Despite this, it doesn't feel that much different out on the road. The engine pulls from low revs with more than enough strength for town work, with a 0-62mph time of just over 10sec. And it certainly isn't out of its depth on faster roads, either, because it’s commendably flexible when hooked up to the six-speed manual gearbox – no doubt partly thanks to helping hands from the ISG.

Indeed, you can only really detect that this S-Cross is electrified when you lift off in lower gears, thanks to the usual sensation of engine braking being noticeably stronger as energy is captured. Don’t get us wrong: it’s no Nissan Leaf – you still absolutely need to use the central pedal – but the sensation of regeneration is present, unlike with Suzuki's old 12V set-up.

As for the actual benefit of this, we averaged 38.7mpg over 200 miles of mostly motorway but also some town duty (not at all congested, for obvious reasons), during which time the computer says the electric idling saved me a cute 0.06 gallons of fuel. 

That figure is admittedly short of the official 45.4mpg, but it would no doubt be higher if it had not spent so much of its time at 70mph – and those 12V Suzukis have an impressive track record in my experience.

The biggest weakness of the S-Cross continues to be its suspension. The primary ride is nothing to write home about, but you might put pen to paper in complaint about the way that small intrusions are dealt with. The car feels rather brittle at low speeds, alerting you to potholes and such, fidgeting all the while. All of the family will feel much more comfortable in something like the Skoda Karoq.

The flipside of this is that the S-Cross actually corners rather tidily, without excessive body roll or a desperation to show you what understeer is. While we’d still point you towards the nimbler Seat Arona if you want a low-cost crossover that can provide some fun on a country road, the S-Cross isn’t quite a domestic appliance.

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It should be said that the Arona has nicer steering as well, but that’s not to say the S-Cross’s isn’t consistent and well weighted; it’s just not one to inspire confidence.

The powertrain of this car may be new, but this S-Cross is fundamentally the same one that came out seven years ago. This means it remains spacious enough up front, provides acceptable rear head and leg room for adults under 6ft and has a boot on a par for the segment.

It also means the interior feels quite old-school, with a lot of hard and scratchy plastics throughout and an infotainment touchscreen that could have been bought from an aftermarket car parts supplier, with dated-looking graphics and a propensity for lagging.

At least nothing feels flimsy and everything is positioned where you would expect to find it, while you get the requisite tech features of a DAB radio, Bluetooth and sat-nav, plus Apple and Android smartphone mirroring to get you away from that native software. 

Best of all, though, top-rung SZ5 trim gets a proper full-length sunroof that actually opens. When did you last see one of those? Lovely.

Should I buy one?

Suzuki should be praised for the speed with which it has managed to act in electrifying its model range so as to reduce its CO2 emissions. 

The theory behind its new 48V mild-hybrid system appears to hold water, even if the economy improvement over the old 1.4-litre S-Cross might not quite hit the claimed 17%, and every little helps for manufacturer, customer and environment alike.

The downside is that this is predicted to add another £2000 or so to the list price across the board, which would dent the recommendability of a car that in other ways has not changed.

You see, there are a number of similarly priced crossovers around now that also employ mild-hybrid tech, and the best of them by far is the Ford Puma, which is genuinely enjoyable to drive – no caveat. So even if you’re not bothered about the mild-hybrid tech, that’s the direction we would now point you in.

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A unique selling point for the S-Cross, then? Well, countryside dwellers might well be swayed by the fact that it offers lockable four-wheel drive.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.4 Boosterjet Hybrid Allgrip SZ5 specification

Where Sussex, UK Price £27,500 (est) On sale After the lockdown Engine 4 cyls, 1373cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 127bhp at 5500rpm Torque 173lb ft at 2000rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1285kg Top speed 118mph 0-62mph 10.2sec Fuel economy 45.7mpg CO2 139g/km Rivals Ford Puma, Seat Arona, Skoda Karoq

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Comments
16

6 April 2020

I have driven the stable mate Vitara with the identical mechanicals, and have had a Mokka X and currently driving a company Captur. Without a doubt, the Vitara was head and shoulders above both these other models for ride quality. Not to mention the "get up and go" engine, something sadly lacking completely on my 1.4 Captur (with abysmal CVT), and only found on the Mokka X after passing a certain number of revs.

If parting with my own money, it would be Suzuki by quite a margin, not least beacause of superior realiablity and great dealer reputation.

6 April 2020
The older version was a bit bland so they hit it with the ugly stick instead, just for fun and got this, especially the Daewoo style front which is disgusting and amazingly Suzuki has stuck with it!
It works minutely better in dark colours which explains the demo car. but in a lighter colour its foul.

6 April 2020
28k fora glorified hatch!
When did we let them sting us for ordinary cars?

6 April 2020

They're all at it - I'm just wondering why no motoring magazines have run a story on car price inflation as it has been HUGE in recent times - in addition to regular price hikes, when a model is replaced, it then jumps further thousands when launched!

More safety kit / emissions regulations / in car tech doesn't cut it as excuse either when you're paying close on £20k for a tiny, entry level supermini these days.

Just wondering how these greedy manufacturers hope to sell any cars when everyone is skint after Coronavirus.

6 April 2020

To save around £200 a year in fuel (at Suzuki 15% est), Whoope do, in 10 years time it'll have paid for itself, lets just hope nothing goes wrong in that time.

6 April 2020
xxxx wrote:

To save around £200 a year in fuel (at Suzuki 15% est), Whoope do, in 10 years time it'll have paid for itself, lets just hope nothing goes wrong in that time.

6 April 2020
Why the response didn't show I don't know, but I was agreeing as I worked out similar when I bought a new car in 02, the salesman wanted me to buy the diesel, but using local fuel prices and the manufacturer fuel figures I showed him I'd need to do 90k miles to recoup the outlay. The residuals were predicted at similar %, so I bought the petrol, I didn't and still don't do enough miles to justify the outlay for the diesels savings.

6 April 2020
xxxx wrote:

To save around £200 a year in fuel (at Suzuki 15% est), Whoope do, in 10 years time it'll have paid for itself, lets just hope nothing goes wrong in that time.

6 April 2020

I can't see the point of all the extra gubbins to go wrong outside of warranty for the sake of a few extra mpg (less in real world driving) and extra weight.

Just like the Swift Sport that's just gone hybrid, and got a lot more expensive, as well as heavier and slower as a result, it just stinks of meeting pointless emissions targets that don't really change anything apart from making the cars themselves worse (when cars are tested for emissions on real roads, it's more driver behaviour than the car itself that makes a difference to what comes out the exhaust).

Only going full EV will address exhaust emissions from the cars themselves (which have their own challenges of course).

6 April 2020
gavsmit wrote:

I can't see the point of all the extra gubbins to go wrong outside of warranty for the sake of a few extra mpg (less in real world driving) and extra weight.

Just like the Swift Sport that's just gone hybrid, and got a lot more expensive, as well as heavier and slower as a result, it just stinks of meeting pointless emissions targets that don't really change anything apart from making the cars themselves worse (when cars are tested for emissions on real roads, it's more driver behaviour than the car itself that makes a difference to what comes out the exhaust).

Only going full EV will address exhaust emissions from the cars themselves (which have their own challenges of course).

Agree, these are too expensive, but hybrid tech in Toyota's and Honda's has proven very reliable so there is no reason to assume this won't prove likewise, and it weighs only 15kgs, so isn't the weight penalty you imply. My Honda insight was great, the ima worked like an electric booster, and whilst it was CVT only, many don't like them, a manual crz (had one and it too was great) and civic was done so could have been repeated I guess. The car worked as advertised, Honda said when it was launched that as a 1.3 it had lower emissions and better fuel economy than an equivalent 1.6, which it has the power and performance of. And it did, it was a lot more economical than a mates 1.6 golf and had much lower emissions and as such a cheaper rfl bill, but was easily as quick if not quicker as the motor boosted torque and made it feel stronger than his golf. So in principle a small hybrid should be as effective as a downsized turbo and probably even less complicated.

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