Suzuki's S-Cross now has an extra way to attract you. Jonathan Crouch checks out the Hybrid version.
Electrification is a fact of automotive life these days and one day soon, every model from every brand will feature it in some way. For the moment though, only one manufacturer has applied electrified power to every car in its line-up and its identity might surprise you: Suzuki. This sounds all very forward-thinking but first you need to appreciate a few caveats. We're not talking about full-electric or plug-in models here; Suzuki doesn't have any of those. It doesn't even have a Prius-like full-Hybrid powertrain.
'Hybrid' in this case means what other brands call 'mild hybrid' technology. With this, unlike with those other forms of electrification, the car can't ever run on electric power alone at normal driving speeds. But harvested electrical energy can be used to marginally improve efficiency. The brand introduced this tech in 12-volt form back in 2016 with its little Swift and Ignis models. Now, it's uprated the system to 48-volt status and fitted it to its slightly larger cars, including the S-Cross compact SUV, which is our subject here.
You may be familiar with the way that mild hybrid engines work but just in case not, here's a quick re-cap. Basically, energy that would otherwise be lost when braking or cruising off-throttle is harvested via a kinetic energy recovery system and sent to a small lithium-ion battery that here has been placed beneath the front passenger seat. This is used to drive a belt-driven 'ISG' unit (an 'Integrated Starter/Generator') and power the engine's stop/start system. Suzuki's old 12-volt mild hybrid package didn't do a lot more than that but this improved 48-volt set-up can also deliver a couple of other important benefits. The first is something quite unusual amongst current mild hybrids - the ability for this Suzuki to idle and even coast on full-electric power, though only below 10mph.
The other fresh benefit here is something supposed to be now quite common amongst mild hybrid models - the ability to 'torque-fill' under acceleration to compensate for turbo lag. Which is just as well because this S-Cross Hybrid's new 'K14D'-series 1.4-litre Boosterjet petrol engine has less power than the unit of the same size it replaces (127bhp rather than 138bhp), plus the car's electrified tech adds 65kgs of extra weight (in the case of the ALLGRIP 4WD version). But there's now more torque (up from 230 to 235Nm). The 62mph sprint takes 10.2 en route to 118mph. There's an auto gearbox option. And that proper lockable ALLGRIP 4WD system is optional on the top-spec 'SZ5' variant.
Design and Build
There are no visual changes with this S-Cross model's switch to Hybrid power. It's been on sale since the end of 2013 and the version we have now is the model that was facelifted at the end of 2016. It remains a mid-sized 'Qashqai'-class SUV that's a little larger than the norm, 4,300mm in length but somewhat forgettable in looks. Suzuki has its similarly-sized but slightly more dynamically-styled Vitara SUV if that's an issue.
Inside, the generous 2,600mm wheelbase length frees up plenty of interior room (the 430-litre boot is one of the biggest in the class) and there's very decent rear seat space too. Though the bench doesn't slide, the backrest reclines though a choice of two angles. The twin sunroofs of the top SZ5 model do rob a few centimetres of headroom though.
Up front, it's an inoffensive but not unpleasant piece of design and the fixtures and fittings feel well screwed together from the Hungarian factory, although some of the materials are a bit scratchy. The centre-dash infotainment screen still has graphics that look a bit after-market but it certainly includes quite a lot, with sat nav and 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring as well as a DAB tuner and Bluetooth.
Market and Model
Pricing is quite a bit higher than it used to be for the S-Cross, sitting primarily in the £21,000-£28,000 bracket. That's partly because going forward, Suzuki doesn't plan to offer smaller, more affordable engines than this 1.4 Boosterjet Hybrid unit in our market. Partly it's because the car these days features a higher standard of spec (Adaptive Cruise Control on all models for instance). And partly it's reflective of the cost of the extra mild hybrid technology. At the time of this test, Suzuki was offering a £3,000 price reduction, bringing the starting price down to just over £18,000. There's an automatic gearbox option costing £1,350.
There are three trim levels, 'SZ4', SZ-T' and 'SZ5'. Even base 'SZ4' trim gives you LED projector headlights, dual-zone auto air conditioning, auto headlamps and wipers, 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear electric windows, heated door mirrors, seven airbags and 'Radar Brake Support' autonomous braking. Move up to 'SZ-T'-spec and you also get navigation, 17-inch polished alloy wheels, silver roof rails, skid plates, rear privacy glass, keyless entry and white-stitched upholstery. The top 'SZ5' trim level you have to have if you want the option of ALLGRIP 4WD gives you a panoramic twin-panel sunroof, heated front seats and leather upholstery. Across the range, there's a choice of six different paint shades, five of which are metallic finishes. There's no longer an automatic gearbox option.
Cost of Ownership
Suzuki reckons that the 48-volt mild hybrid tech has delivered improvements in fuel economy and emissions of up to 20%, though because of the switch from NEDC to WLTP cycle ratings, it's difficult to verify that claim with any real accuracy. The WLTP figures show a front-driven version of this model managing 50.1mpg and 127g/km on the combined cycle, while the ALLGRIP 4WD version delivers 45.7mpg and 139g/km. It helps that this remains one of the lightest cars 8in the crossover class. Even the ALLGRIP variant weighs in at only 1,220kgs. This car's insurance group is 25D - or 26D for the SZ5 manual. Its BiK tax band is rated at 30% (or 32% for the ALLGRIP variant). An owner would be paying £165 of VED for the first year of ownership (£205 for the ALLGRIP) and £140 of VED from year 2 on.
As with all Suzukis, this one is covered by a three year/60,000 mile warranty, plus a year of AA Suzuki Assistance, providing 24 hour UK and European roadside assistance, recovery and associated services. There's also a 12 year perforation warranty.
The prominent 'Hybrid' badging here might lead you to expect more efficiency benefits than are actually delivered. Suzuki's previous 12-volt mild hybrid technology certainly sometimes left you with that feeling. This S-Cross model's 48-volt mild hybrid set-up is an improvement on that previous SHVS system but its effect on everyday running costs, though welcome, will still be somewhat marginal.
But every little helps and the 48-volt tech is certainly a step forward in the way it better assists with pulling power and allows for fully electrified progress below 10mph. Whether it's enough to make customers interested in the S-Cross who weren't before is more debateable. But it gives this car an extra selling point - and that's never a bad thing.