We were deep in wine country – around Nasik – this weekend, sampling not only the best of Indian chardonnay derived indulgence courtesy Sula, but also Maruti’s newest offering, the S-Cross.
Maruti Suzuki S-Cross – What is it?
Maruti would like you to think of the S-Cross as a premium crossover. Largely based on the international Suzuki S-Cross, it comes to India with a choice of two diesel engines, mated to manual transmissions. At launch, no petrol power, or an automatic transmission will be made available. To be sold exclusively through Maruti’s new, up market “Nexa” (New EXclusive Automotive experience) dealerships, the S-Cross aims to revolutionize the car maker’s automotive retail – more on that in a separate post though.
Maruti Suzuki S-Cross Design & Styling
Straightaway, the S-Cross isn’t a particularly handsome car. Lost in translation from a large hatchback to a SUV, the S-Cross is a crossover in its truest automotive sense. The S-Cross is 4,300mm long, 1,765mm wide, and stands 1,590mm high, with a ground clearance of 180mm. To put that in perspective, it is longer, but not as tall and wide as the Hyundai Creta, which is set to be its arch rival.
The front end is characterized by the rather large headlamps and the “two-fin” grille, the latter being exclusive to the Indian S-Cross. International models get a three slat job. Of course, the market for this particular model being India, the slats are thoroughly dipped in chrome. The headlamps pack projector illumination along with LED daytime running lamps, making it the first Maruti to have a daytime lighting signature. Lower variants get to do with just conventional illumination.
The grille’s body-colored edges merge into the central air dam below, which is flanked by round fog lamps nesting deep in their chrome trimmed enclosures. The front bumper also sees some sculpting work, adding muscle to the front, by far the most powerful angle to view the S-Cross from.
The sides are strong, but most of its visual strength comes from the cladding below. Yes, being a crossover, the bodywork is accentuated with black cladding which runs around the whole car, wheel arches included. A flowing character line runs across the car’s length. 16 inch alloy wheels along with a swoopy roofline try to liven things up.
The rear is the weakest angle, and uses conventional elements, which in this day and age tend to look a bit dated. The S-Cross has its share of outdoorsy, exterior embellishments which include brushed silver finished scuff plates all around, including the sides, with the trendy looking roof rails topping up the go-anywhere appeal.
Scuff plates all around and roof rails aim for that macho look.
“Two fin” grille is India specific.
Large headlamps offer automatic HID illumination and LED position lamps.
Split rear combination lamps are sharply styled.
Apart from Urban Blu, the S-Cross os available in Caffeine Brown, Pearl Arctic White, Premium Silver and Granite Grey.
Top variants get 205/60 R16 JKTyre Elanzo-NXTs wrapped around 16″ alloy wheels.
Electrically foldable outside mirrors get integrated turn signals.
No Maruti badges to be spotted anywhere, just Suzuki and S-Cross badges around.
180 mm ground clearance is enough for an occasional trip to the farm.
Maruti Suzuki S-Cross Interior
The interiors are quite well appointed and feature an all-black theme with brushed silver inserts on the steering wheel, centre console and door panels. Most part of the dashboard is wrapped in a soft touch material that radiates class, while the piano black trimmed, hexagonal centre console houses Maruti’s Smart Play infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, navigation, smartphone and Bluetooth connectivity, along with six speakers. The screen also doubles up to display rear parking camera feed. Higher variants also get brushed silver bordering for the centre console, adding to the premium feel.
Switches and knobs for the climate control are finished nicely, and levels of quality all around are unlike any other Maruti on offer, apart from the stalks and power window buttons, which have been lifted from the parts bin of existing models. The lower portion of the centre console comprising the A/C panel culminates into a tiny storage space clubbed with the 12V power socket. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is crowded with buttons for cruise control, audio and telephony. Reaching the horn pad can be a chore while driving.
Both front and rear seats are accommodating as well as nicely bolstered. Higher variants come with black leather upholstered seats with white contrast stitching. Seating comfort is unquestionably good, both at the front and at the back. The manually adjustable front seats are also designed rather well, and offer excellent support too, both lumbar and lower back, along with decent under thigh support.
A wheelbase of 2600 mm allows for the generous interior room, and this can be clearly felt inside, with good legroom, shoulder room, elbow room and headroom. The rear seat has a 60:40 split along with a built-in armrest. Apart from 353 liters of boot space, interior storage is commendable too. Front central armrest features a cavernous storage space under its flip-open lid. The door panels themselves can swallow 1-litre bottles with ease, while the glove-box is plenty spacious too. What’s more, drop the rear seat backs, which require a mere touch of a lever, and the space opens up to a cavernous 821 liters.
The second row doesn’t benefit from AC vents. A speed sensitive door locking mechanism would have been a welcome addition too.
353 litres of boot space; 810 litres with the second row flat; luggage board with self holding mechanism for spare wheel removal.
The “premium” feels extends to the door panels; besides they swallow 1 litre bottles with ease.
Space is generous; both in front and at the back. In fact, Maruti claims best in class leg space.
The TFT screen between the dials shows instant fuel economy readouts based on throttle inputs; time; outside temperature; odo and trip meters.
Smart Play infotainment system with 7-inch (18 cm) touch panel display offers smartphone connectivity, navigation and a voice command function; touch sensitivity and response is decent, while navigation with pre-loaded maps works well.
Front seat occupants get pre-tensioner and force limiter equipped belts as standard, barring the basic 1.3 Sigma variant.
Automatic climate control chills to the bone; gets pleasurably finished, chrome trimmed knobs and relatively silent fan.
Leather wrapped steering wheel is tilt adjustable, and a little crowded with buttons. Dual airbags come as standard across range, except on the basic 1.3 Sigma variant.
The adjustable front center armrest lifts up to reveal generous cubby hole with USB connectivity.
Soft touch material on the dashboard feels nice to touch.
Driver’s side gets an anti-pinch power window.
Carpets get S-Cross branding
Six-speed transmission is a smooth affair.
Maruti have outdone themselves with the overall levels of quality in the S-Cross, which are top-notch.
Maruti Suzuki S-Cross Engine & Performance
We drove the 1.6 Alpha, which translates to the top end variant powered by the brand new, Fiat sourced, 320 DDiS 1.6-litre diesel engine, equipped with a variable geometry turbocharger. Power output stands at 118bhp, which, along with 320Nm of torque is potent enough for the 1.6 to accelerate from naught to 100 kph in 11.3 seconds.
Unlike international variants of the S-Cross, the Indian version doesn’t offer Suzuki’s AllGrip all wheel drive functionality, and makes do with a FWD layout.
On paper then, the S-Cross 1.6 makes the same amount of torque as the Tata Safari Storme! Performance is brisk, and the long-legged motor endows 1275 Kilograms of S-Cross to reach three digit speeds with utmost ease. But as with most mass market turbocharged diesel engines, there’s some lag. Below 1800 revolutions, performance is lazy, but once the tachometer needle moves beyond, all of Safari rivaling 320 Nm of twist strikes a heady wallop.
Once in the power band, the S-Cross 1.6 gets into its own, nudging serious speeds off with gusto. Mid-range is meaty and overtaking calls for just a little dab on the throttle. Let it rip and the S-Cross will top out at around 180 kmph, with the motor running out of breath close to 4,700 rpm – quite optimistic for a diesel sipping mill. The taller gearing allows speedy highway runs, with the S-Cross barreling deceptively at high speeds.
The 1.6 is an excellent cruiser, and settles into 120 kph in 6th gear with the tachometer needle sitting just shy of 2000 rpm. Resultantly, the TFT screen in the instrument cluster shows a pleasing instant fuel economy figure.
Those cruising capabilities have a downside too, though. Coming back to the turbo lag, a shove at the right pedal with low revs on the tacho leads to nothing more than an audible hum inside the cabin. The tacho needle acts rather lazy until it nudges the 1.8K mark, after which it comes to life. Higher gears at low speeds make the car squirmy too, with very poor low speed tractability. Only when the boost arrives, there’s shove, quite a bit actually, so much so that it might catch the uninitiated, spirited driver off-guard. The lack of linearity in the 1.6’s performance is the only fly in the ointment, but it makes up for it with excellent highway munching capabilities.
Shifts on the six-speed gearbox are smooth enough, but not hot knife-through-butter smooth. Considering I like a bit of mechanical feel to my shifts, I found nothing to complain about. The clutch is well weighted, and feels just right to the left foot. However, one has to work on it a fair bit in sticky traffic, as the lack of low end performance tends to bog the car’s vigor down.
Refinement levels are decent, with unwanted noises having been duly filtered out. Diesel clatter is well contained too, and the oil burner is never obtrusively loud.
There is one more engine on offer, but we didn’t drive it – the 1.3 is powered by the familiar 200 DDis 1.3-litre diesel engine with VGT, which in this trim produces 89bhp and 200Nm of torque. While the 1.3 promises a claimed fuel efficiency of 23.65km/l, the 1.6 has a claimed fuel efficiency of 22.7km/l.
Maruti Suzuki S-Cross Ride & Handling
The S-Cross rides well, and makes one feel like there’s a lot of car between the person and the road. That might not bode well for the hardcore purist, but if that’s what you are, you shouldn’t probably be looking here. The S-Cross employs McPherson struts with coil springs in the front and torsion beam with coil springs at the back, the whole set-up being tuned for a ride quality that’s marginally on the stiffer side. However, it never crashes or judders over bad roads, only flattening them with confidence. Low speed ride feel a little stiff, but as velocity increases, the S-Cross attacks and defeats ugly patches of tarmac with ease. Surprisingly, ground clearance doesn’t seem to have been significantly increased for India and is in fact the least in the segment. Even the SX4 sedan offered 10mm more. Nonetheless, off road antics are not advisable with the S-Cross.
High speed stability is commendable, and the S-Cross takes on long, sweeping curves with surprisingly less body roll. Steering feel isn’t the sharpest, though, and there’s vagueness at the centre which mars the connected feel by a fair bit, especially when the gusty motor is making quick progress. Even around mild corners, feedback isn’t the best. That said, it’s acceptable and miles ahead of what Maruti has to offer at the moment. We’re just being hardcore handling fanatics as we drill down into the dynamics of the car so much. The S-Cross, for all practical intents and purposes does its job well enough for what would be demanded of it in everyday driving conditions.
Braking performance is nice and the brakes have a confidence inspiring bite with disc brakes at all four corners (ventilated up front and solid discs at the back). Presence of ABS helps the cause too.
The S-Cross is a very promising, well-engineered product. It might not win any beauty pageants out there, but like what has been the case with most Mauti products, the customers can be expected to warm up to the styling in due time. The scuff plates, the roof rails and the cladding add visual punch, and purely as a marketing exercise, it works. If anything, that laggy engine may be the one thing that turns into the S-Cross’ Achilles Heel.
Rest of the S-Cross, however is tough to fault. A high quality, practical interior is unlike what we’ve seen on any other Maruti. The space inside is generous, refinement levels are high and comfort all around is commendable. The S-Cross witnesses the evolution of Maruti into a carmaker capable of turning out a really refined, well put together and tasteful interior. Being a Maruti, ownership experience should be a breeze, too – and that’s what really counts here in this market.
Of course, pricing will be an important factor, and considering the 1.6 drives with a fair amount of imported bits, it’ll be interesting to see how MSIL prices it. We’ll let our final verdict out once the prices are out. Stay tuned…