With a combined fuel economy of 64.2mpg, the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is the most economical non-hybrid 4×4 you can buy.
It wasn’t too long ago when 4x4s were seen as the reason why all life on Earth was about to end. But now we have a 4×4 that also has a combined economy figure of 64.2mpg – which is better than some superminis.
This 4×4 is from Suzuki, a company that has a great reputation for manufacturing motorbikes, but somehow the car division has never been able to break through into the mainstream. As is generally the case for small Japanese manufacturers, Suzuki likes to focus on building cars that are decent to drive, but that won’t break the bank.
Suzuki has attacked the highly competitive but potentially lucrative crossover segment. It’s generally agreed that the Nissan Qashqai is the number one – especially with the latest model – and Suzuki appears to be employing the sincerest form of flattery by sticking very closely to the size and shape of the Nissan.
There’s also a lot of the (previous generation) Qashqai in the design of the S-Cross, especially in terms of the side view. Perhaps Suzuki will also do what Nissan did with the last Qashqai, and implement a very effective mid-life facelift to slim down the rather large headlights.
The interior of the S-Cross is best described as workmanlike rather than boasting the latest technology and high quality materials – although this model is reasonably well equipped with luxuries such as satnav, a touch screen, heated seats and a large sunroof.
Despite being a touch shorter than the last Qashqai, the S-Cross boasts more boot space, with a healthy 430 litres boosting everyday practicality.
Unlike many 4x4s that we test, the S-Cross had a spare wheel, even though it’s a space saver. Even with a spare, there’s still an extra storage compartment under the boot floor.
The Fiat-sourced 1.6-litre diesel engine, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, provides decent shove thanks to 236 lb. ft. of torque at 1,750 rpm, but it also enables excellent fuel economy. The engine is linked to a new generation four-mode all-wheel drive system. In ‘Auto’ the S-Cross is front-wheel drive until grip is lost, when it becomes four-wheel drive. ‘Sport’ optimises the system to reduce understeer, and ‘Snow’ is four-wheel drive by default but allows torque to be moved front and rear as required for traction. ‘Lock’ is designed to get you moving if you do get stuck off the tarmac.
The Suzuki delivers the sort of driving experience that you would expect from a compact, economical 4×4. In other words, this is not a low-slung, sporty, performance car – it offers reasonably spacious family transport with the relatively high driving position of an SUV, and the promise of extra grip, yet also low running costs.
There’s a button to start the engine, but you can’t see it as it’s hidden by the steering wheel. Once you’re moving, the engine can be noisy, and the gearbox isn’t the slickest shifting of units. In the face of potholes and other imperfections in the road the ride isn’t the most cosseting of experiences.
One area where we get a bit upset about 4×4 manufacturers is in the area of tyres. We don’t see any point in offering a 4×4 SUV for sale if the tyres aren’t capable of transferring the potential traction of the 4×4 system to an off-road surface, and the S-Cross is guilty in this department. We always test cars with off-road pretensions off-road, and the standard road tyres don’t offer much assistance in an off-road situation. The same would be true if faced with snow and ice. If you’re planning to buy an SX4 S-Cross for the reassurance of all-wheel drive all year round, then either fit all season tyres or make sure you swap to winter tyres by November.
The trump card of the S-Cross is impressive economy – it has an official combined figure of 64.2 mpg – equating to emissions of 114 g/km CO2. During our week with the car we averaged 52.3mpg – although this was predictably short of the official figure, this is good for real-life economy for a 4×4.
The only diesel 4×4 to offer better official economy is the Peugeot 508 RXH, with 68.9mpg. This is a diesel hybrid and it costs £34,145, so is more expensive than the Suzuki, and in our experience the real-life economy of the 508 RXH falls a long way short of the official figure.
The most economical petrol 4×4 that you can buy – apart from the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid, which has a slightly unrealistic 148mpg official figure – is also a Suzuki SX4 S-Cross, with 49.5mpg. If you don’t cover high mileages, the petrol engine may make more sense in terms of overall running costs.
Although prices start at £14,999, the SZ5 spec of the SX4 S-Cross as tested costs £23,549 (plus Cool White Pearl Metallic paint at £430); it’s the top of the range model. At this price it does look expensive but that’s because Suzuki has decided to only make the ALLGRIP diesel available in a high specification; once the spec is taken into account it actually looks better value.
The SX4 S-Cross comes with 1.6-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel engines. There are three models available with ALLGRIP all-wheel drive: the petrol SZ5; the diesel SZ-T and the top-spec SZ5.
The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross makes complete sense if you want a practical car that can fit the family, and which also offers the extra traction of all-wheel drive, as well as promising low running costs. However you’ll need to fit winter tyres to make sure its 4×4 system can translate its ability to the road all-year round.
The SX4 S-Cross is competent to drive, but there are rivals that are better, and which also offer a higher quality interior, as well as a more exciting exterior.
The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is awarded a Green-Car-Guide rating of 7 out of 10.