Suzuki rather cheekily claims that the 2022 S-Cross is “all-new”.
Certainly at first glance, you’d be fooled. The designers have been busy with the crayons, coming up with a sharper, more modern look for its family SUV contender. It’s not the most eye-catching design but it’s a step up for the badge, with a squarer, chunkier look, and a big bold grille.
Behind the new-look grille, however, things haven’t changed that much.
A full hybrid model is on the way but until it arrives there’s the same 1.4-litre mild hybrid setup carried over from the previous generation.
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Designed to offer big-engine performance with small-engine economy, it will take between 9.5 and 10.2 seconds to reach 62mph and offer between 46.3mpg and 53.2mpg, depending on the specification.
The on-paper acceleration of the 128bhp unit doesn’t sound like much but Suzuki has kept the S-Cross’s weight down, so it actually has a decent amount of pep and feels pretty responsive at lower speeds. The 48V hybrid arrangement is the same used in the Swift and Ignis and doesn’t provide any EV-only driving. Instead it’s there to boost the torque at low revs, helping reduce strain on the engine and improve economy.
Standard cars come with a six-speed manual and front-wheel drive while our test car had all-wheel-drive and a six-speed auto which, while smooth in operation, has a tendency to shift down too eagerly and hang on to gears too long, creating some unnecessary noise. At a motorway cruise that fades to be replaced by some quite apparent road and wind noise.
On the positive side, Suzuki hasn’t gone chasing any lap times with the S-Cross, instead tuning the new car’s suspension for comfort. What it lacks in body control, it makes up for in being able to soak up most road surfaces.
And despite lacking much side support, the part-leather seats are surprisingly comfortable on a long drive. The basic cabin layout is straightforward and user friendly, with big physical heater dials and even an old-fashioned handbrake for those of us not convinced that everything needs to be controllled via touchscreen or telepathy.
The interior, however, is still cursed by a very conservative design and Suzuki’s scratch ‘n’ sniff plastics. When other Japanese and Korean brands have largely managed to leave the shiny brittle materials in the bin marked “1990s stereotype”, Suzuki still struggles to keep up with them and other mainstream European brands.
That wouldn’t be so bad if the S-Cross was positioned as a budget model but our test car is more than £30k, where you’ll find plenty of alternatives with much to recommend them.
At its entry price of £25,000, you can make an argument for the S-Cross as a more spacious, more capable alternative to compact B-SUVs like the Vauxhall Mokka or Ford Puma. But north of £30,000 you’ll find larger options such as the Ford Kuga, Nissan Qashqai or Kia Sportage start to appear.
In fairness to Suzuki, the Ultra trim is very well specified and features the brand’s well-respected all-wheel-drive system with selectable drive modes plus an optional automatic transmission. It’s also true that a high-spec, all-wheel-drive version of those C-segment rivals can run to £40k, but they all offer better looks, refinement and far nicer, more spacious interiors.
Unless you need all-wheel-drive, the cheaper Motion trim brings most of the equipment you’ll want, from keyless entry and a generous suite of driver assistance systems to heated seats and adaptive cruise control. The all-wheel drive aside, Ultra’s biggest additions are a panoramic sunroof, larger touchscreen with sat nav and a 360-degree camera.
As with previous iterations of the S-Cross, this latest model is once again a marked improvement over the previous generation. But you wouldn’t expect any less. The issue is that it feels a little adrift in a packed sea of cars.
Lower-priced Motion models make sense when considered against similarly priced B-SUVs, where they offer more space and spec for the money. But in the higher Ultra trim it starts to compete against some serious C-segment players, where buyers might sacrifice all-wheel-drive and some gadgets for better space and quality.
Suzuki S-Cross Ultra
Price: £31,149 (£31,699 as tested); Engine: 1.4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol; Power: 127bhp; Torque: 173lb ft; Transmission: Six-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive; Top speed: 121mph; 0-62mph: 10.2 seconds; Economy: 46.3mpg; CO2 emissions: 139g/km