THE Suzuki brand doesn't always produce a winner but occasionally, it does manage to roll out a small but clever car. Take, for example, the Wagon R and Swift - a minivan and hatchback respectively - which amply demonstrate the marque's expertise in efficient packaging.
The Japanese manufacturer has also enjoyed success with the small SUV, like the Jimny and first-generation Vitara. Its latest model, the S-Cross, marks a return to that segment although the model doesn't really look like an SUV nor appear as diminutive.
Suzuki calls the S-Cross a compact crossover. With its inoffensive styling and car-like handling, this COE Category A car looks and drives more like a tall hatchback.
Made in Hungary and aimed primarily at the European market, it has a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine to either drive the front wheels or both axles. The four-wheel-drive version, called the Suzuki S-Cross 4WD, features proprietary All-Grip 4WD technology for all-weather, all-terrain performance.
It offers four driving modes - Auto mode, which is mainly front-wheel-drive to maximise fuel efficiency but switches to all-wheel-drive when slip is detected; Sport, where engine and transmission response are heightened and when more torque is distributed to the rear wheels for improved cornering performance; Snow mode, to enhance traction on snowy or slippery surfaces for optimum stability; and Lock mode, which modifies the ESP electronic stability program and distributes torque to help extricate the car out of snow, mud or sand.
In normal conditions, the S-Cross behaves just like a Japanese hatchback would except that it feels European, with well-weighted controls and a nice meaty steering.
Maximum torque of 151 Nm is not much but the relatively low kerb weight (about 1,200 kg) and seven-step continuously variable transmission with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles make it a smooth drive. Progress is more than adequate, while engine noise levels are acceptable for this class of car.
The equipment level is high, with seven airbags, cruise control, auto headlamps, climate control and Bluetooth telephony. A double sliding panoramic sunroof, said to be the world's first, is an option and allows for a very large opening.
At 4.3 metres long and 1.58 metres tall, with a wheelbase of 2,600 mm, the interior is sufficiently spacious. Because the rear occupants sit upright, head and legroom are good. Boot size is also generous, with 60:40 split rear seats to extend the cargo area and a privacy cover that allows access to the boot from within the cabin.
The Suzuki brand has maintained a low profile here in recent times. But the S-Cross should help it to revive interest again.
Suzuki S-Cross 4WD
Transmission 7-step continuously variable
Max power 118 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Max torque 151 Nm @ 4,400 rpm
0-100 kmh 13.5 secs
Top speed 165 kmh
CO2 emissions 146 g/km
Average OMV $21,000
Price from $109,900 (with COE)
Distributor Champion Motors
Tel: 6631 1118