► S-Cross with 140bhp Boosterjet tested
► Eye-wateringly ugly to look at…
► ... but surprisingly enjoyable to drive
When we recently drove the facelifted S-Cross in 1.0-litre guise, we gagged at its stomach-churning new looks – but once we climbed on board and spent plenty of time behind the wheel, we fully appreciated its honesty, decent dynamics, generous specification and versatility.
It wouldn’t have its mainstream rivals on the run, but it certainly delivered a driving experience greater than the sum of its parts. So, we were keen to see if the punchier 140bhp 1.4-litre model in range-topping SZ5 trim – with Allgrip all-wheel drive, which is standard on all 1.4 petrol models – could pull off the same left-field trick.
It’s still a monstrous eyesore, isn't it?
Well, yes. If the goal of the facelift was to make the S-Cross more distinctive, the Suzuki’s designers – and we should perhaps use that term rather loosely in the context of this mid-life refresh – succeeded, and then some. That chrome-lipsticked toothy grille and googly headlamps conjure up images of the good Dr Lecter about to about to tuck into an all-you-can-eat meal of liver and fava beans. The rest of the design is pretty generic, but far less offensive. Nose aside, it’s neat and tidy.
As with the 1.0-litre model, the solidly constructed but flair-free cabin majors on the kind of plastics that could shrug off a direct hit from a Brimstone missile. Sure, it’s the type of interior that would leave Audi designers in a sniggering heap of derision – but what it lacks in tactility and style, it makes up for with family-proof toughness and an extensive list of standard kit that stretches to Adaptive Cruise Control, Radar Brake Support, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, LED headlamps, and leather.
It’s pretty spacious and comfortable too, with a big boot, although rear headroom is a little light for taller passengers.
What’s the Jetson-sounding Boosterjet engine like?
It’s a bit of a gem. It’s very smooth and refined, serves up surprisingly zesty performance and takes the smallest sips from the fuel tank. With a handy 162lb ft standing to attention at just 1500rpm and not standing down until 4000rpm, the 1260kg S-Cross can be punted along at a surprisingly brisk pace.
Never underestimate the joy of using an ugly Japanese SUV to badger BMW drivers out of the outside lane. And despite not hanging about in traffic, we notched up a real-world 43mpg, which compares favourably with the 49.5mpg official combined figure.
Is the rest of it all soggy and dull?
Not at all – the rest of car does an admirable job of playing along. Switching the Allgrip selector to Sport effectively turns the Suzuki in to a front-wheel drive hatch (until the on-board electronics that monitor wheel slip kick the rear wheels into action), and sharpens the throttle response for a satisfyingly zippy driving experience.
The feel-free but alert steering gets the front wheel pointing where you want them to, body control is impressively taut, the gear lever snicks cleanly through its gate, and the brakes feel strong and capable. The ride occasionally feels brittle and under-damped over craggy surfaces, and wind and road noise filter a touch too readily into the cabin, but by and large the S-Cross dishes up easy day-to-day drivability with an unexpectedly large dash of dynamism.
Quirky. That’s arguably the best word to sum up the S-Cross. Yes, that nose is grotesque, but the unexpected competence of pretty much everything else makes it a little more forgivable. Agreed, it’s badge lacks car-park kudos, mainstream rivals will have it licked in the marketing stakes – ‘You bought a Suzuki? Didn’t even know they made cars, mate. Pass the chianti.’ – and in top-spec £24,199 trim as tested, it’s gate-crashing a relatively glitzy party.
Bear in mind, though, that price does mean you get kit levels that would leave buyers of more premium rivals applying for a second mortgage. Few shoppers in this segment will, to their detriment, give the S-Cross a second glance. But those buyers that do enter the field and turn to their left, will be surprised to discover just how quirkily competent the S-Cross is.
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