Deft-handling Suzuki brings verve and value to the Qashqai class, but it's not overly refined or practical

What is it?

The new Suzuki S-Cross, just landed on British roads. Technically it’s an SX4 S-Cross, but even Suzuki admits that the prefix is a bit of a red herring. Because this new car is going head-to-head with crossovers in the class above: the Peugeot 3008, Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage.

Nobody does ‘cheap and cheerful’ quite as consummately as this Japanese outfit. So often, cars at the budget end of the price spectrum seem worthy and one-dimensional dynamically: amid the cost-cutting, the driving experience gets either forgotten or banished to the bottom of the priorities list.

Never in Suzuki’s case, however. And not in the SX4 S-Cross’s, either.

What's it like?

Our first UK taster came in a range-topping four-wheel-drive diesel which, at £23.5k, might seem like something of a deserter to Suzuki’s value-first philosophy. In fact, it sits at the head of a range that undercuts equivalent Nissan Qashqai prices by almost £2000.

This particular model is the first car that Suzuki has ever offered with a DAB radio, sat-nav, a reversing camera and a cruise control as standard equipment.

The S-Cross is quite low-rise by crossover standards, but has a raised and convenient driving position and a big split-level boot. It isn’t the most muscular or aggressive-looking pseudo-4x4, but the styling’s neat and inoffensive: probably spot on for the brand’s retiring demographic.

Inside, the car’s fairly roomy, but not huge. In equipment-rich SZ5 trim, the panoramic sunroof does eat into second-row headroom quite a bit; so much so that you wouldn’t want to put taller adults back there.

With a normal roof, passenger space is competitive – but lags behind what’s available in a 3008 or even a Skoda Yeti. Cabin quality is a bit ordinary, with only a few ritzy soft-touch finishes, but it’s all functional, hard-wearing stuff. It’s unadorned, sure – but for the price, it’s more than acceptable.

And broadly in line with what we found on the European test drive, the Suzuki handles well: cleanly, with admirable precision and even a little zest. The power steering’s quite direct and feels substantial, and spring rates are slightly higher than the crossover norm, for a nicely clipped B-road ride.

An occasional bit of thumping harshness in the ride at low speed comes as the trade off, and between that, some wind noise and the slight gruffness of the diesel engine, you certainly wouldn’t call the S-Cross particularly refined. But it’s nicely damped, and handles better than it needs to for the money.

Performance from the 1.6-litre Fiat-sourced diesel engine is good, and economy likewise. We saw better than 50mpg from the trip computer, on a cross-country route and with the four-wheel drive system engaged for a good chunk of it.

Experience suggests that’s a good deal better than an equivalent 3008 or Vauxhall Mokka will serve up – and the official CO2 claims seem to confirm as much.

Should I buy one?

It’s worth a test drive. The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is a likable device that makes up with some charm, poise, efficiency and value what it gives up to some on interior decoration and passenger space.

Back to top

It’s not the most civilised crossover on the block, nor is it the most stylish or desirable – but across the range as a whole, it is good value.

And if you’d rather sacrifice on those areas than on handling, performance, equipment or 4x4 usability, it could be just the functional all-season family car for your driveway.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.6 DDiS Allgrip SZ5

Price £23,549; 0-62mph 13.0sec; Top speed 108mph; Economy 64.2mpg; CO2 114g/km; Kerbweight 1305kg; Engine 4cyls, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power 118bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
kcrally 3 October 2013

Where's the styling

Where's the styling department, gone ? Pretty low ground clearance, too.

Lanehogger 3 October 2013

Could be a Chinese copy were it not for the badge

Is this not a Chinese copy of the Qashqai with a Suzuki badge slapped on? The similarities between the SX4 and Nissan are remarkable, particularly when viewed from the side.

fadyady 3 October 2013

Underwhelming and overpriced

Lanehogger wrote:

Is this not a Chinese copy of the Qashqai with a Suzuki badge slapped on?

My thoughts exactly.
Compared with Nissan Qashqai, the SX4 is underwhelming, under-styled, underpowered, underequipped, hence it undercutting the former makes little difference, if any at all.

A34 3 October 2013

Tragic performance?

0-62 in 13secs? That makes it good for the well-retired demographic, not retiring!