The compact Suzuki S-Cross SUV now comes with a full hybrid powertrain but can it stand out in the crowded market?
3.0 out of 5
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The Suzuki S-Cross Hybrid is a neat compact SUV that’s packed with plenty of kit at a competitive price, while its option of four-wheel drive is relatively unique in the sector. However, rivals offer more space, while the Hybrid model’s ponderous automated manual gearbox means it’s not very smooth to drive. It’s a decent effort, but we’d only recommend it if you must have an automatic gearbox – the Boosterjet engine is a better car overall.
The arrival of the Suzuki S-Cross Hybrid now gives buyers two options to choose from within the line-up of the firm’s compact SUV. The existing 1.4 Boosterjet model with 48-volt mild-hybrid tech continues as a manual, but this full-hybrid S-Cross replaces the automatic version, and features a 1.5-litre engine along with a larger battery that’s designed to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy even further. All S-Cross Hybrid models come with Suzuki’s AGS automated manual transmission as standard, rather than a conventional or CVT automatic.
There are two versions of the S-Cross Hybrid available. Motion trim starts from £26,749 and features front-wheel drive, or there’s the top-spec Ultra model driven here. At £31,549 it’s a big price step over the Motion model, but then it does also add Suzuki’s Allgrip four-wheel drive system.
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The S-Cross is very well equipped for the money. Standard kit on all models includes 17-inch alloys, automatic LED headlights, keyless entry and starting, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as a full suite of safety equipment.
Go for the Ultra, and as well as four-wheel drive, you also get leather seat trim, sat-nav, a twin sliding sunroof, a larger nine-inch touchscreen and a neat 360-degree camera system with bird’s eye views of the car and its surroundings. It’s also worth noting that if you’re in search of this kind of kit on the Suzuki’s rivals (the firm has cars such as the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008 and Kia Sportage in its sights), then you’ll have to pay a lot more for admission.
However, while the S-Cross looks smart, is well equipped and roomy enough up front, it can’t quite match its rivals for space in the back. Rear-seat occupants will find legroom is tight, while the 293-litre boot is smaller than you’ll get in some compact hatchbacks.
Some people will appreciate the S-Cross’s compact dimensions, and this is one SUV that’s easy to manoeuvre. Light steering and a nimble chassis mean the S-Cross feels eager to change direction, while the hybrid running gear only adds around 73kg to the car’s kerbweight (taking it to 1,378kg), helping retain the agile feel.
The Hybrid system is claimed to offer combined fuel consumption of 48.7mpg in Allgrip guise, which is an improvement over the old auto and slightly better than the 47.8mpg achieved by the Boosterjet manual, too. The naturally aspirated Hybrid is less powerful than the turbocharged 1.4, though – 113bhp, compared with 127bhp – and torque is down, too.
That’s not too much of an issue in everyday driving, but that’s largely because the gearbox will be causing frustration instead. Automated manuals have always been a bit of an acquired taste, and the one in the S-Cross is no different.
Fire up the car, select drive and release the handbrake (the S-Cross has a manual lever, which is unusual for a hybrid such as this), and when you press the accelerator, not a lot happens. The transmission is slow to react to your inputs, while throttle response is variable.
Sometimes it delivers the power that you need, but on other occasions the hesitation from the transmission encourages you to press the throttle harder, only for the car to react and lurch forward as the power comes in. Then on other occasions – such as when slowing to enter a roundabout – you can attempt to dial in the same amount of throttle to get back up to speed, only for the car to leave you floundering with no power at all.
The transmission delivers slow shifts, and it feels as if the clutch is dragging with every change, too. If you’re accelerating to higher speeds – when joining a motorway, for example – the car lurches back and forth as the next gear is selected. You can overcome some of the gearbox foibles by adapting your driving style, or you could select Sport mode. This largely shuts down the hybrid system apart from the stop-start, though, negating the benefits of the set-up, while the slightest press of the throttle sees the engine revs soar as the gearbox downshifts.
Suzuki’s technical partner Toyota has developed its hybrid tech to offer refined efficiency, but Suzuki still has some catching up to do. The 1.5-litre engine is always audible when it’s running, while there are distinct whooshes and whines from the electrical part of the hybrid system when slowing down.
One benefit of the automated manual is that it feels like a conventional manual when you do slow, and this helps to recoup a decent amount of energy back into the battery. However, the S-Cross doesn’t rely on its battery as frequently as some other hybrids, with the engine largely taking over when traveling at more than 60mph. This really is a hybrid that does its best work at lower speeds and around town.
Suzuki S-Cross 1.5 Hybrid Ultra Allgrip
1.5-litre 4cyl hybrid
Six-speed automated manual, four-wheel drive
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