Japanese automaker Suzuki has a bit of a tradition when it comes to building small, quirky cars and that is exactly what their SX4 S-Cross happens to be.
The ‘SX4’ moniker first appeared back in 2006, but over time the model grew old and so Suzuki produced a second generation, added ‘S-Cross’ to the name, and released it in 2013.
This compact SUV is based on Suzuki’s nimble ‘Swift’ hatchback and is manufactured at Suzuki’s own plant in Hungary.
Two engine options are available for the SX4 S-Cross; one diesel and one petrol - and both are 1.6-litres in size. The only engine to go for here is the 1.6-litre diesel. Both engines are rather loud, but the petrol, in particular, needs to be really pushed in order to get the best out of it.
Doing that is no good for economy figures though, and so choosing the diesel engine with its extra pulling power will give you the best balance of performance and economy. It will also be good for your bank statement, costing just £20 a year in road tax while being capable of over 64mpg.
There’s a choice of two gearboxes too; the diesel comes with a six-speed manual as standard but you can also get a ‘CVT’ automatic, but it only comes attached to the petrol engine.
Ride and handling
Normally a compact SUV isn’t much to write home about when it comes to handling, but you may be surprised with the SX4 S-Cross. Being based on the agile and enjoyable Swift hatchback, it’s relatively sharp in the corners and has more grip than you might otherwise expect.
The ride itself is relatively firm, but it still manages to deal competently with abrasions in the road surface. In most forms the S-Cross will be front wheel drive, but extra grip in difficult conditions can be had by seeking out a model equipped with the four-wheel drive system.
It offers various settings for different conditions including a snow setting for slippery scenarios, and a ‘lock’ setting for real off-road action. The steering itself is light and this, combined with excellent manoeuvrability, means it’s very easy to get in and out of tight spots – especially when parking.
Suzuki is a manufacturer that traditionally undercuts most of its rivals. As usual, the cost savings show up in the quality of the interior. The materials on offer in the cabin are not particularly special and it’s a rather bland and dark design.
Suzuki has, however, fitted the S-Cross with very comfy seating. A lack of practicality was one of the biggest criticisms levelled at the last generation of SX4, and so Suzuki has corrected that by greatly expanding the boot space out to 430-litres.
The S-Cross can now easily swallow up the assortment of items needed for a family day out at the beach. Upfront, there are is now extra storage space in the cabin too.
Unfortunately, headroom for taller adults in the back of the S-Cross is far from ideal, though avoiding the pretty panoramic sunroof found in higher trim levels will help free up some more headroom.
The S-Cross scored superbly in Euro NCAP safety testing, achieving a full five-star rating with a particularly high score of 92% in adult occupant protection.
What to know before you buy
Despite a much publicised issue with its new ‘Celerio’ supermini recently, Suzuki has a strong reputation for reliability. If the Celerio issue demonstrated anything, it’s that Suzuki responds quickly and responsibly to any issues regarding its cars.
Reliability of a second hand S-Cross should not be a concern, and owners have not reported any faults that seem to form a theme with the car.
The SX4 S-Cross is one of the better handling compact SUVs when it comes to cornering, so the car should feel firm and stable. Any loose feel or unnatural body roll mid-corner indicates a problem that will need looking at.
The biggest problem for the S-Cross lies in its two biggest rivals - The Skoda Yeti and the Nissan Qashqai. The Yeti’s impressive rear seating arrangement (that allows the rear seats to be removed entirely) adds extra practicality and also comes with a greater array of engine options – as well as a better automatic gearbox.
Nissan Qashqai, meanwhile, is a far better car to drive, proving more comfortable and more refined with a slightly superior interior. Both of these cars have a better image than the S-Cross, beating it hands down in battle for style.
To have either of its admittedly superior rivals you’ll have to give up more of your hard-earned cash. For the price, the S-Cross is not a bad proposition at all, especially now it’s more practical than before. It’s simply not as good an all-rounder as its biggest competition.
Suzuki’s SX4 S-Cross is never going to be the most attractive proposition in the compact SUV market. It represents good value for money, though, and for many buyers that will be a big draw.
It’s deceptively capable, more practical than ever before, and cheap to run. If you’re on a tight budget, the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross could well be the one for you.