Suzuki S-Cross First Drive Review: Pleasant Surprise

By benchia, 10 August 2023

2023 Suzuki S-Cross First Drive Review: Pleasant Surprise

Singapore - Many years ago, I had the pleasure of taking one of the Suzuki S-Cross’s predecessors, the SX4, out for an extended weekend test drive. I remembered it as a really rather pleasant car to drive and to live with, and several years later I ended up buying a second hand one for myself.

I therefore approached the new S-Cross with vested interest, and some anticipation. Would this new model still be as appealing as its forebears, or has it grown to become one of the many humdrum crossovers that dominate the automotive landscape today?

At first glance, the new S-Cross doesn’t seem particularly outstanding, The styling is fairly nondescript, with a slight passing resemblance to its distant cousin, the Toyota Corolla Cross.

Visually, it seems rather sizable, although Suzuki says that the new car actually shares the same dimensions as the outgoing model. The large and imposing front grille and transparent-look tail lights try to add a bit of design flair, but otherwise the S-Cross is as anonymous as they come.

Step inside though and you'll feel like you’ve travelled back in time, to about a decade ago. That’s not necessarily a bad thing actually, because the simplicity of the S-Cross’s cabin does feel like a breath of fresh air compared to today’s tech-laden and screen-heavy car interiors.

When was the last time you saw a manual handbrake, for example? Or an analogue instrument panel? They’re all here in the S-Cross, and it reminds you of a time when things were simpler and less complicated.

That said, the S-Cross is not without some new-age niceties. The 9.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, while small by modern standards and not quite as slick in operation, does come with wireless Apple CarPlay and a 360-degree camera.

There’s also a whole suite of driver assistance features such as adaptive cruise control, front collision warning and lane departure assist, so it’s not all entirely old-school here.

It is a curious mix of old and new, but in my opinion, it just adds to the charm of the S-Cross, somewhat akin to having a new-age fusion food stall nestled within an old coffeeshop.

It’s probably not intentional of course, because ultimately the S-Cross is still a practical family crossover, and it achieves that objective relatively well, with decent space for passengers and cargo with its good-sized boot.

Probably the only failing is the lack of rear aircon vents, but that’s just nit-picking really.

The biggest surprise though comes in the way it drives. On paper, the S-Cross’s figures don’t seem too impressive, with its 1.4-litre turbo 4 producing 129hp and 235Nm of torque, allowing it to slot nicely under COE Category A.

0-100km/h is quoted at a leisurely 12.7secs, but the car does feel a lot quicker than the numbers suggest. The engine is sprightly and energetic, and there’s even a semblance of turbo lag, with the boost kicking in after you rev past 3000rpm, making for a rather entertaining experience.

The unit is mated to a 48V mild hybrid setup with an integrated starter generator (ISG), and is the exact same setup that you’ll find in the Swift Sport, which perhaps goes some way towards explaining its perky character.

Its primary purpose though is to help with efficiency, and the S-Cross claims to be able to achieve an average fuel consumption figure of 5.7l/100km.

We got around 6.7l/100km over our week-long test drive, but then again we did indulge ourselves a bit given the spirited nature of the drivetrain, so perhaps someone with a lighter right foot could find themselves hitting closer to the mark.

In the corners, the S-Cross feels rather middling, with its lightweight steering lacking in feel and feedback. Then again, this is a car that was designed and engineered for family duties, so sharp handling probably does not rank high on its list of priorities.

Ride quality is average too, not the most comfortable but not unduly stiff either. It copes well on most smooth roads, and only gets slightly unsettled when you hit big bumps or potholes.

All in all, the new S-Cross proves to be a pretty pleasant surprise. Its old school charm harks back to the days when analogue was still in vogue, and yet still offers enough modernity to keep up with the new world.

Add to the mix a rather entertaining and peppy drivetrain, and you get a car that holds plenty in store for those looking for something that’s fuss-free and yet enjoyable to drive. I certainly wouldn’t mind one of these myself, if I’m honest.

PHOTOS Clifford Chow / Lionel Kong

2023 Suzuki S-Cross

Engine 1373cc, inline4, turbocharged
Power/rpm 129hp / 5500rpm
Torque/rpm 235Nm / 2000-3000rpm
Transmission 6spd auto
0-100km/h 12.7secs
Top Speed Not stated
Fuel consumption 5.7l/100km

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