It’s plain and simple – and that’s a compliment: the Suzuki S-Cross eschews the fads and fancies of many of its rivals trying to mimic their bigger and more expensive brothers in the car-cum-wagon world.

The new Suzuki crossover has its eyes firmly focused on fuel economy and value for money, the latter given a recent boost by sharper driveaway pricing. Not that there is anything cheap and nasty about the Japanese hatch.

Suzuki S-Cross comes in GL, GLX and GLX Prestige specification. It is common for car companies to offer the media one of the top dogs in the model range for testing. But Suzuki seems to have so much confidence in its S-Cross range that we were given the entry-level GL manual, which comes onto the market for a $22,990 driveaway to evaluate. The company’s confidence was not misplaced.

The Suzuki S-Cross comes with a 1.6-litre petrol engine updated for fuel saving performance across the rev range. Friction has been reduced and weight saved through the use of lower tension piston rings, lighter pistons, connecting rods, crankshaft and bearings.

Suzuki_S-Cross_sideWeight has also been shed with a lighter exhaust manifold, higher efficiency fuel pump, new exhaust pipe, revisions to the engine mounts and a lighter radiator and cooling fan.

The GL front-wheel drive comes with a five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission, the GLX with two-wheel or all-wheel drive with CVT transmission, while the Prestige has the lot – CVT and all-wheel drive.

While aerodynamics are important for fuel economy, the S-Cross exhibits the bold looks of a crossover, with dynamic lines and the latest design features combining to create a distinctive look.

Up front are LED lights which link with contoured shoulders and sides. The roofline slopes downwards towards the rear which incorporates two-part combination lamps. Low-drag 16-inch wheels and door mirrors play their part in cutting fuel costs.

In the cabin, soft-touch surroundings add a premium touch to generous space for both occupants and cargo, the latter a class-leading 430 litres in the rear with the seat backs upright; 875 litres with them folded.

The command driving position and plenty of glass, including an expansive rear window, make for great visibility all round for up to five occupants.

The simple dashboard meter cluster consists of a large speedometer and tachometer flanking a multi-information display that clearly shows fuel consumption, outside temperature and time of day.

Steering wheel-mounted audio controls and Bluetooth with audio streaming are standard throughout the S-Cross range.

Suzuki S-Cross relies on the experience of engineers who worked on Swift development with passive safety coming out on top with seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knees.

Active components include electronic stability control, anti-lock braking with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. It also has Suzuki’s grandly named Total Effect Control Technology, which provides an occupant safety cell incorporating high tensile material and energy absorbing design. Needless to say, the S-Cross earns the top five-star ANCAP safety rating.

With the 1.6-litre motor not reaching maximum pulling power until well into the rev range, 6000 rpm to be exact, the S-Cross takes time to get into its stride. But once there it runs smoothly, exhibiting some gruffness only when pushed hard.

Recommended gearshift points flash up on the instrument panel directly in front of the driver. In line with the vehicle’s frugal fuel philosophy these err on the side of economy rather than performance.

The test vehicle showed fuel consumption of 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres during day-to-day driving around the suburbs. On the motorway this was trimmed to a very low 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres. That’s impressive for a petrol engine.

Despite the prefix SX4, Suzuki is quick to point out that the S-Cross bears no relationship to its predecessor which came out in 2006. Fit and finish are of a high quality.

More savings can be made with Suzuki’s price-capped servicing plan.

For those on a tight budget the Suzuki GL manual ($22,990) has enough to get by, while there is plenty to pick from for others who want the pleasures of driving life so long as they are prepared to pay up to $36,990.

S-Cross GL: 2WD: $22,990 (manual), $25,490 (CVT automatic)
S-Cross GLX 2WD: $29,990 (CVT automatic)
S-Cross GLX AWD Prestige: $36,990 (CVT automatic)
Note: These are driveaway prices.

ABS brakes: (standard)
Driver’s knee airbag: (standard)
Vehicle stability control: (standard)
Cruise control: (standard)
Power windows and door locks: (standard)
Bluetooth with audio streaming: (standard)
Keyless entry and start: (GLX)
Dual zone climate control: (GLX)
Rear view mirror dimming: (GLX)
Double panoramic sun roof: (option)
Rear parking sensors: (GLX)
Reversing camera: (GLX)
Leather steering wheel: (GLX)
Sat-nav, touch screen: (GLX)

SPECIFICATIONS (S-Cross 1.6 GL 5-speed manual petrol engine)
Capacity: 1586 cc
Configuration: Four-cylinder petrol, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing
Bore x Stroke: 78.0 mm x 83.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Maximum Power: 86 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 156 Nm @ 4400 rpm

Transmission: 5-speed manual / continuously variable transmission, paddle shifts / all-wheel drive

Length: 4300 mm
Width: 1765 mm
Height: 1580 mm / 1575
Wheelbase: 2600 mm
Track: 1535 mm (front)/ 1505 (rear)
Ground clearance (unladen): 170 mm / 165 mm
Kerb weight: 1085 kg / 1125 kg
Gross vehicle weight: 1730 kg
Cargo capacity: 430 litres; 875 litres (rear seat folded)
Fuel Tank Capacity: 47 litres
Towing capacity: 1200 kg (braked) / 400 kg (unbraked)
Maximum ball weight: 75 kg
Turning circle: 10.4 m

Suspension: McPherson strut (front)); torsion bar (rear)
Brakes: Ventilated disc (front); solid disc (rear). ABS anti-skid with electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability control, traction control.
Steering: Electronic power steering
Wheels: 16in alloy, space saver spare
Tyres: 205/60 R16

Acceleration 0 to 100 km/h: N/A
Top speed: N/A

Fuel type: 91 RON unleaded
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 5.8 litres per 100 km. CO2 emissions 137 g / km

Greenhouse Rating: 8.0 / 10
Air Pollution Rating: 6.5 / 10

3 years / 100,000 km

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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