Suzuki puts SUV stamp on revised S-Cross but price too close to Vitara
People said the Suzuki S-Cross didn't look enough like a SUV. So they've gone and made it look more like one.
Only the thing about the S-Cross is that, well, not that many people know much about it.
The company is trying to remedy that with this major facelift - all the exterior work has been focused on the front 'SUV' look - and they have added a couple of genuinely interesting petrol engines.
Getting the looks the way they wanted them was the easy part really. Getting people to buy this compact Crossover with a 1-litre 3cyl turbo petrol or its 1.4-litre Boosterjet equivalent is another matter entirely given the presence of a popular 1.6-litre diesel.
And to really complicate matters the car is priced in such a way that there is only a €1,000 gap between it and the better-known Vitara.
The S-Cross now starts at €20,995 which is a increase of €500. The Vitara begins at €19,995. The SZ-T mid-spec at €24,995 is the more likely choice (Vitara equivalent is still €1,000 lower). And the 1.6-litre diesel starts at €26,995.
It is a bigger car inside than the Vitara - noticeably in the rear seats. Its competitors, they claim, are the Skoda Yeti, Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai Tucson etc. The Vitara's rivals would therefore be the likes of the Renault Captur.
As well as that, they regard the S-Cross more as of a vehicle for families. They say sales show the Vitara is being bought by young couples or singles.
I don't know how many will be swayed from one to the other after all this, but they reckon the S-Cross will tempt quite a few from current hatchbacks too.
All I know is that the car looks much better at the front (no real change at the rear). They have also marginally improved the facia centre with softer plastic.
But most of all, the two new petrol engines are the exceptional additions. The 1.4-litre Boosterjet (140bhp, 6spd) gave us 38.5mph after heavy and harsh driving around north Wales, while the 1-litre (111bhp) confirmed our previous enthusiasm for it (in the excellent Baleno supermini) as we later wended our way towards Manchester.
I didn't think it would be up to shifting the larger frame of the S-Cross, but with a 5spd gearbox it hummed quietly on the motorway at 2,500/2,500rpm at 120kmh - and gave us 51mpg.
Overall the S-Cross is a better proposition than before but there is no doubt the recognition factor remains a big challenge.
And, key question, will people switch to either the Vitara or S-Cross petrols from diesel? Not in a mad gallop, I'd suggest, while there is a diesel option. But if ever there was a case for lower-mileage users buying a petrol this is one of the strongest I've come across.
As is their wont they tend to equip their cars well and standard in this are seven airbags, air con, Bluetooth, DAB digital radio, 16in alloys, cruise control with speed limiter, heated door mirrors.
Mid-trim SZ-T adds sat nav, 17in alloys, LED lights, rear parking camera, dual zone air con, front fogs, front/rear parking sensors, silver rear skid plates.
And top-of-range SZ5 has Radar Brake Support (RBS), leather upholstery, heated front seats, panoramic sunroof and aluminium roof rails.
The marque is building a bit of momentum; we'll see the new Ignis at the Paris show this week - a mini crossover rival for the FIAT Panda 4x4. And there is an all-new Swift due next summer with new engines too.