► Refreshed S-Cross with Boosterjet power tested
► New chrome grille attempts to oust blandness
► A competent, kit-laden car for sensible money
No, you’ve not accidentally stumbled into the spy shots archive to see a never-launched small Buick crossover proposal from 2002; this is the latest Suzuki SX4 S-Cross – the Japanese brand’s Qashqai fighter.
I didn’t realise the S-Cross was still on sale. Is this one an all-new car?
See past – if you can – the mid-Pacific grille treatment of the S-Cross and you’ll spot that this SUV is a clever facelift of the version launched back in 2013. While the bonnet and bumper are new, the front wings are carryovers.
You’re forgiven for not remembering the original, as it was sleep-inducingly bland to look at, the only talking point being its sad face that appeared to have melted like a Cornetto abandoned forlornly in the summer sun.
Not so with the chrome-tipped visage it now sports, flanked by twinkly LED-rich detailing (providing you go for at least a mid-spec SZ-T like this) and a suitably beefier bumper treatment.
By Suzuki’s own admission, the pre-facelift version didn’t look tough in the way crossover buyers crave, so corporate fingers are crossed that the revisions will invoke an increase in demand.
Is that it? A new grille?
No, of course not. The rear lights have been tweaked, but the bigger changes are of a mechanical nature. While the Fiat-sourced DDiS diesel rumbles on, Suzuki’s ousted its home-grown 1.6-litre petrol – along with the laborious CVT that could be paired to it.
In the powerplant’s place is not one, but two of the brand’s new downsized, forced-induction Boosterjet motors. There’s a larger 1.4-litre shared with the semi-sporty Vitara S, while the 1.0-litre triple under scrutiny here also has a home in the Baleno.
The world’s gone three-cylinder mad! Has it got enough oomph to shift the S-Cross?
While 109bhp isn’t much to write home about, at 125lb ft it’s torquier than the old naturally aspirated 1.6, and the (relative) slew of grunt’s on song from 2000rpm, meaning you don’t have to give it a good thrashing to extract the surprisingly sprightly performance on offer.
The S-Cross, which tips the scales at a featherweight 1160kg, will reach 62mph from a standstill in 11 seconds – and press on to a top speed of 112mph. Not even lukewarm hatch-quick, but adequate enough for most.
Power’s sent to the front wheels via slick-shifting five-speed manual gearbox, but you can also specify AllGrip all-wheel drive with that ’box or a new six-speed conventional automatic.
Why the 1.4’s six-speed transmission isn’t on offer here isn’t clear, but it’s not a major issue – even at motorway speeds it’s pleasantly hushed, with little evidence of the familiar triple thrum experienced in other similarly propelled cars.
Is it a hoot to drive, like a jacked up Swift Sport?
Well, it’s not the kind of car that’ll make you get out of bed at 5:30am to take a 35-mile long-way-round drive to buy milk for your Frosties, but it’s comfortable and competent in a way that will reassure typical family car buyers who’ve little interest in clipping apexes or lift-off oversteering for kicks.
Traction’s a strong point – even without the AllGrip gubbins – but don’t expect much in the way of feedback through the wheel; it’s as though the steering rack’s been laced with lidocaine.
Bodyroll’s not too noticeable and even over harshly surfaced roads the SX4 is adept at maintaining its composure – without floating along in a way that will blight back-seat youngsters with nausea.
There’s a refreshing honesty about the SX4 S-Cross that Suzuki should be applauded for. Detroit-esque grille aside it’s unpretentious, reliable, fit-for-purpose family transport with a standard kit roster in SZ-T form that embarrasses other players in the market.
Just remember to stick with this trim and engine, and save £1800 by leaving the AllGrip version alone – treat yourself some winter tyres and a city break instead.
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