Maruti Suzuki S-Cross Petrol Review: Over 4-metres, at a great price

Once only available with a diesel, this premium crossover from Maruti Suzuki is now only available with a petrol!
Similar looks, fresh heart!
Similar looks, fresh heart! Photography by: Abhishek Benny

With the advent of BS6, Maruti Suzuki has been left without a diesel engine in its line-up. And cars like the S-Cross that were available exclusively with a diesel engine have had a change of heart. Literally. The Maruti Suzuki S-Cross has been given nearly the same treatment that we saw on the Vitara Brezza — having its 1.3 diesel replaced by the naturally aspirated 1.5 petrol engine. This has allowed it to get an automatic gearbox as well, while the interiors have been left untouched for the most part, there are some tweaks.

In and Out

Not much else has changed. On the face of it, the S-Cross looks the same right down to the hybrid badge since the diesel also had mild hybrid technology. Up front, it has an upright bonnet flanked by LED projector headlamps, with LED DRLs. The S-Cross’ face changed drastically in its last facelift, giving it a more upright bonnet to appeal to SUV buyers. It has a good amount of clearance and runs on 16-inch wheels shod in high profile tyres (215/60 R16). The S-Cross is 4.3 metres long, which makes space on the inside one of its strong suits.

On the inside, the only real change is to the infotainment screen. The new Smartplay Studio that has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, with an overall interface is far nicer to use. While it doesn’t get connected car features in-built, you can get the Suzuki Connect pack as an accessory with many of the same features. Another change that Maruti Suzuki has made for the S-Cross are the icons that indicate what the hybrid system is up to on the MID. On the Vitara Brezza, they were really tiny but they are larger and more clear on the S-Cross. However, you still need to take your hands off the wheel to toggle through the MID menu with the button on the cluster.

The S-Cross interiors are well appointed and it has a rather well-stocked features list. Automatic LED headlamps, auto wipers, automatic climate control along with dual airbags and hill hold assist. The quality of the materials used are rather good with soft touch materials on the dash and doors, and the seats feeling rather plush. The seating position is too high for my liking and that has been done in the interest of giving the driver a commanding driving position.

Behind the wheel

The engine is a familiar one, and one I have driven rather extensively on the Ciaz I ran as a long termer. It’s a naturally aspirated unit that displaces 1462cc, and puts out 103bhp and 138Nm. It comes paired to a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic, finally giving the S-Cross the option of the automatic. The S-Cross also comes with the mild-hybrid system across the model range, unlike the Brezza that only has it on automatic variants. The engine is actually rather nice! The 4-cylinder is refined and quiet at low revs, but enjoys being pulled to the redline. Being a naturally aspirated engine, it builds power linearly. That’s not to say it is dead at low revs, it is strong enough but there’s no kick like you would get from a turbocharged engine when it comes on boost — it gradually builds up power to the redline. The mild hybrid system also improves fuel efficiency and fills in torque under hard acceleration, though it is not something you can perceive from behind the wheel.

If you're looking for the Thrill of Driving, get the manual 'box
If you're looking for the Thrill of Driving, get the manual 'boxMaruti Suzuki S-Cross

Then there’s the automatic gearbox. The four-speed torque convertor has been the go-to automatic transmission for this engine. I’ll be honest, it feels quite archaic in a time where sub-four metre cars have DCTs. There are some things to appreciate about it, no doubt — the shift quality is good. It may not be the quickest, but it is smooth and is without the head toss effect that is so prevalent in AMTs. It crawls perfectly well and is effective in traffic, particularly when combined with the stop-start function. But then it has its drawbacks — the fact that there are just four ratios means it has to be spaced out very wide and that accentuates the lack of punch of the engine. Forget steering wheel paddle shifters, there’s also no manual override for upshifts or downshifts — you’ve got to control it on the throttle. Floor it for a downshift (and wait). Let off for an upshift. I seem to come to the same conclusion about every car with this engine-gearbox combination — if you’re keeping it restricted to the city commute, you’ll be fine but out on the highway, you’ll be left wanting.

Similar looks, fresh heart!
Which gearbox should your next car have?

The good thing about the S-Cross is that it comes with a manual gearbox, and doesn’t miss out on the hybrid system. Now we haven’t driven that combination in this car yet, but I am familiar with the set-up and it should be much nicer to drive. The shift quality is generally very good and the extra ratio, combined with the control you have over it makes it far more fun.

A highlight of the S-Cross is its ride quality. It feels really composed over bad roads and takes it all in its stride without any uncomfortable thudding in the cabin. The ride quality keeps it composed on the highway too — flattening smaller bumps while it never feels floaty and unwieldy. The steering is a bit heavy and that may make manoeuvring it in the city slightly cumbersome, but out on the highway, that weight lends a feeling of connectedness.

Maruti's 1.5-litre petrol is refined and efficient
Maruti's 1.5-litre petrol is refined and efficientMaruti Suzuki S-Cross

With prices starting at Rs 8.39 lakh, the base petrol S-Cross is now Rs 50k more affordable than the entry level diesel it replaces. And that makes it good value. The S-Cross isn’t trying to keep itself within the 4m bracket — something that so many other cars at this price point are, and that makes it rather roomy and feels like a large car. This particular variant comes in at Rs 12.39 lakh which puts it up against the Renault Duster and other SUVs, but lower variants and even the top-spec manual that costs Rs 11.15 lakh sits squarely in the sights of compact SUVs. The S-Cross’ space, refinement, ride and Maruti’s vast network are certainly what stand out, but I’d stick with the manual.

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