What's it like?
First impressions are rather disappointing. Press the starter button on the dashboard and the three-cylinder engine wakes in a gruff manner, introducing a slight vibration into the cabin. It’s not offensive by any means, but it’s simply not as refined as Skoda's or Ford's equivalent 1.0-litre units.
However, first impressions don’t always tell the whole story, and so it is with the S-Cross. Once underway, the engine smoothes out and settles down into an almost imperceptible three-cylinder thrum. Around town its hushed tones make it a far more relaxing drive than the gruff sounding 1.6-litre diesel we tested previously.
Push the engine harder and it will emit a distinctive growl, but this is backed up with impressive performance. And unlike some of the other downsized triples, Suzuki’s motor doesn’t have a noticeable step in its power delivery. It’s happy to pull from below 2000rpm and continues to do so until it hits its soft limiter at around 5500rpm. Granted, a 0-62mph time of 11.0sec doesn’t sound particularly quick, but impressive roll-on performance helps the S-Cross feel rather sprightly in the real world.
Chassis wise, aside from the added ride height and revised damper settings, the latest car remains virtually identical to the model it replaces. However, this is no bad thing as we’ve always been rather fond of the Suzuki’s dynamics. The steering is direct, albeit lacking in feel and the body control is on a par with the Qashqai. Push harder and predictably there is some body roll, but it’s well controlled, and the S-Cross never feels out of its depth on demanding B-roads.
However, the car is still let down somewhat by its low-speed ride quality. The revised damping has certainly improved the S-Cross’s primary ride - large compressions are handled with aplomb - but around town the Suzuki still feels a little too fidgety and harsh. For day-to-day comfort, Nissan still has the edge.
Inside, the S-Cross is also relatively unchanged from the previous model. Minor updates include a new soft-touch dashboard pad, a piano black finish for the centre panel that surrounds the infotainment unit and newly designed seat fabric for SZ4 and SZ-T models. The changes add to what is already a pleasant enough interior design, but as we found with the previous generation, the quality of the materials could be better.
That said, everything feels well screwed together, and given the generous amount of standard equipment, we predict that most buyers will be able to forgive Suzuki for the smattering of hard-touch plastics. For example, our test car, the mid-level SZ-T, came with satellite navigation, a rear parking camera, front and rear parking proximity sensors, climate control, and rear privacy glass as standard.
Ergonomically, the Suzuki is still a mixed bag. Forward visibility is good, the driving position is high and commanding and the front cabin provides plenty of space for tall adults. However, rear head room is compromised due to the design of the C-pillars and sloping roofline, as is rearward visibility.