2015 Maruti S-Cross Test Drive Review
2015 Maruti S-Cross – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Maruti S-Cross Review

Car Tested: 2015 Maruti S-Cross

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 11.05 – 15.83 lakhs

The S-Cross offers a very practical cabin which is spacious and loaded with features

The compact SUV segment is booming big time in India and to leverage that growth, car makers are entering into this segment. Maruti Suzuki might not have a single SUV on sale in the country yet but things are set to change as India’s largest car maker turns its focus towards the popular category. However, the Swift maker isn’t bringing in a compact SUV but a premium crossover which is set to rival cars like the Renault Duster, Nissan Terrano and of course the Ford EcoSport. Maruti’s own compact SUV, YBA (codename) will arrive next year but till then, the S-Cross will be the Japanese automaker’s compact SUV rival in the growing segment. Does the ‘premium crossover’ cut it? A drive around Nashik helps us find out.

Motor Quest: The Suzuki S-Cross also goes by the SX4 S-Cross name globally as it is part of the second generation SX4 family. The vehicle was showcased in concept form in September 2012 while the production model made its debut in 2013. The Maruti Suzuki S-Cross was first showcased in India at the 2014 Auto Expo.

The Maruti S-Cross isn’t going to solicit a second glance because of its bland looks

Exteriors – There is a reason why Maruti Suzuki chooses to call the S-Cross a premium crossover and not a compact SUV. This is because the vehicle has a profile of a hatchback, rather than an SUV. While the compact SUVs in the segment aren’t as much SUV as one might believe, at least they look butch and carry the macho feel with confidence, the S-Cross doesn’t due to its lower height. Maruti has given the car black cladding all around, roof rails and faux skid plates, these being design elements often associated with SUVs. The car comes with 180 mm of ground clearance which is lesser than its rivals although more than enough for on-road driving. A strong look at the front will definitely remind you of the erstwhile SX4 sedan which was pulled off the market just last year.

While there are some SUV touches, the S-Cross simply lacks the SUV profile

The Maruti S-Cross looks more hatchback than SUV but is quite big in size

The headlights get HID projectors and parking lights which double up as daytime running lights (not on by default) which look good while the grille gets twin slats and not the metallic grey triple slate grille seen on the international model (the same was shown at the 2014 Auto Expo). The side profile reveals the hatchback like profile of the car and also reveals the almost Renault Duster like length of 4.3 metres. The vehicle gets 16-inch alloy-wheels on the top trims but the design isn’t impressive and ends up looking like a wheel-cap. The mirrors are mounted from the body like on the Fiat Punto and Ford EcoSport. The rear gets split tail lights and do resemble the ones on the EcoSport to some extent. There is an integrated rear spoiler with a stop lamp while reflectors are placed on the black bumper. There are 5 colours on offer – blue, grey, silver, brown and white. Overall, the S-Cross does end up looking more like a big hatchback on steroids.

The all black interior of the S-Cross looks sporty, has very good quality too

Interiors – The Maruti S-Cross does come across as average looking on the outside but on the inside, it impresses at first sight itself. The cabin is all black like the Swift but the layered dashboard gets brushed aluminium inserts which makes it look sporty. The dashboard has a nice layout (hexagonal shape on the centre for the SmartPlay audio system) with quality being the best we have seen on any Maruti till date, it also gets faux carbon fibre finish on it. Soft touch plastics dominate but some parts like the glovebox make do with hard plastics. The only fly in the ointment are the switches which are carried over from cheaper Marutis like the power window and mirror controls come from the Swift and DZire. The buttons under the right most AC vents feel a bit dated. The steering wheel too has been carried over from smaller Maruti cars but gets a leather wrap and more buttons (to accommodate cruise control) and thus feels nice to hold.

The 7-inch touchscreen is super responsive and the voice commands work brilliantly

While the doors auto lock, they don’t auto unlock when you turn off the car. The console doesn’t show exactly which door is open when the car is on but when you turn it off, it shows exactly which door is open on the multi-information display. The instrument cluster is easy to read and the multi-information screen doesn’t display much info other than what’s seen on the Swift like average fuel economy, range, instant fuel economy and average speed. The car does get a dead pedal while the horn pad is very hard and needs extra effort to operate. The glass area is generous thanks to the use of quarter windows front and back, and in spite of the all black cabin, occupants don’t feel claustrophobic at all. Storage spaces inside the cabin are good, there are large door pockets which can swallow a 1-litre bottle with ease, there are magazine pockets on both the front seats while twin cubbyholes are present near the handbrake (the front arm rest has storage too). The parcel shelf is quite huge too. Both the sun visors have a vanity mirror with automatic light next to it.

The rear seat offers excellent room, all the seats are very comfortable as well

Maruti has loaded the S-Cross generously and the cabin is very spacious

Maruti Suzuki has equipped the S-Cross with leather seats (gets premium looking double stitching) with the leather also extending to the door pads and gear knob. The seats are very supportive and we always appreciated the company for offering well cushioned seats on its cars, case in point being the front seats on the Swift. Where the S-Cross really surprises is the rear, there is ample rear seat legroom and although headroom is far from class-leading, it is enough to accommodate a six footer without his head touching the roof. Under-thigh support is good too. But a third passenger isn’t very welcome due to the transmission hump (design due to the car also being made in AWD globally) and protruding centre stack that surprisingly doesn’t have rear AC vents. There is an arm rest for both the front and rear occupants but there is no fifth headrest.

The boot has decent storage space and the cabin has many cubbyholes

The boot doesn’t sound big enough when you talk numbers (is smaller than the Jazz by a litre) but is very usable and putting in and retrieving luggage is very easy thanks to the low loading bay. Under the boot is the spare tyre which uses a steel wheel and the tool box in it. If you need more space, the rear seats split fold in 60:40 ratio. Maruti has gone all out by loading the S-Cross generously, the car gets automatic headlights, reverse parking camera with sensors (has guidelines but they are fixed), 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Bluetooth, USB, AUX, CD and navigation, 6-speakers, Smartphone app, keyless GO, push button start, climate control AC, electrically retracting rearview mirrors and automatic wipers. The audio system gets voice commands which is very intuitive to use and is able to recognise Indian accent instantly. Some of these features are offered on the top spec Alpha trim only.

The 1.3-litre diesel engine offers better drivability than the 1.6 oil burner

Performance – Before we get to the powertrains, let’s clear out one thing, there is no petrol engine, AWD or automatic gearbox on the S-Cross. In Europe, Suzuki does sell the S-Cross with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox but that’s offered on the AWD only. Since this segment sees majority of sales coming from diesel engines, Maruti Suzuki is offering two Fiat sourced oil burners on the S-Cross. The 1.3-litre MultiJet needs little introduction as it has been powering all Maruti diesel cars till the Celerio diesel was launched last month. This motor is badged DDiS 200 because it produces 200 Nm of torque. The power output is 90 PS and the claimed mileage is 23.65 km/l. It is matched to a 5-speed gearbox and has good punch in the mid-range, with performance being best once the turbo spools up which is post 1750 RPM.

Once the turbo spools up, the Maruti S-Cross takes off with a sure shot punch

The 1.6-litre MultiJet motor packs in a very strong mid-range

The big highlight of the Maruti S-Cross is the 1.6-litre diesel engine which Fiat themselves haven’t got to India yet. Termed as DDiS 320 because it generates 320 Nm of torque, the motor manages to produce an impressive 120 PS of power and is rated for a mileage of 22.7 km/l. As expected with any big diesel engine, the low-end is rather weak as there is considerable lag but when the turbo spools up at around 1800 RPM, the S-Cross acceleration in all its glory, giving you a nice surge, making the mid-range the strong point of this powerplant. Power delivery is abrupt when the turbo kicks in and that can be a task to handle in stop-go traffic. But out on the highway, the bigger diesel feels every inch power packed, having more than enough grunt to deal with quick overtakes.

The 1.6-litre mill lacks low-end performance and thus needs frequent gear shifts

The gearing is tall (120 km/hr in third) so one needs to really rev the motor and get it into the mid-range to tackle city driving. One also needs to work the gearbox more often when ambling around town. The motor has good NVH levels although it’s not pin drop silent like the 1.6-litre oil burner from Hyundai, it is also very vocal when you get into the top-end, redline coming in at 5000 RPM. The 6-speed gearbox is smooth shifting but not as slick as Hyundai’s 6-speed box and when doing the ton in top gear, it ticks the needle at 1750 RPM. The clutch is surprisingly light for an engine of this capacity and for the first time in a Maruti car, is a self adjusting type. In the real world, the S-Cross 1.6 should return a mileage of around 14 km/l.

The S-Cross handles well and is quite engaging to drive but the steering lacks some feel

Driving Dynamics – The Maruti S-Cross doesn’t get an independent rear suspension but uses the traditional torsion beam instead. It also uses on-off road tyres from JK called Elanzo-NXT. These tyres do offer good grip when you take the S-Cross off the tarmac but on the road, grip levels are just about average as the tyres tend to squeal quickly when you turn hard. The S-Cross has a very good ride quality and the suspension although on the stiffer side, does a fine job of absorbing bumps. Go over really bad roads and they can be felt in the cabin with a thud but on the whole, this Maruti gobbles up bad roads with the utmost of ease.

Ride quality on the S-Cross is excellent and it does a fine job of tackling bumps

The S-Cross is a very fun car to drive and the ride quality is very pliant

With the slightly stiffer set-up, the Maruti S-Cross remains supremely stable at speed. There is some body roll but it is very well contained and the handling is quite engaging, more towards a hatchback than SUV. The steering lacks feel at the straight-ahead position and although feedback levels are decent, it’s not as responsive as say a Renault Duster. Still, Maruti engineers have done a fine job with the steering as it feels so much better to pilot the S-Cross over the Ciaz (the Swift still has the best steering of Maruti cars). The balance between ride and handling is very mature and feels very different to other Maruti vehicles we have driven. Braking performance is good and except the base Sigma trim, all models get rear discs as standard, there is no ESP though.

Maruti has made a driver side airbag standard on all the variants of the S-Cross

Safety and After Sales Service – Maruti Suzuki and good after sales service are words which you always use together. The company has by far the largest sales and service network in India and you will find a Maruti service centre in remote areas too where there is no sign of food or water. However, the S-Cross will be retailed through a new Nexa dealership network which will start off with 20 outlets. This means you can’t buy an S-Cross at any Maruti dealer, limiting the sales points of the crossover. India’s largest car maker has equipped the S-Cross very well when it comes to safety as all models get a driver side airbag as standard while other than the base Sigma variant, all get ABS and dual airbags as standard. ASEAN NCAP gave the made in Hungary S-Cross a full 5-stars in its crash test but that model was equipped with side and curtain airbags which aren’t offered in India.

The Maruti S-Cross doesn’t win you on the looks front but is very practical

Verdict – The S-Cross will become Maruti Suzuki’s flagship product in India and the company has put in its best effort to make it a success. It doesn’t have the presence you expect from a car of this segment but does good to justify its premium crossover tag by being very loaded with equipment. The company has gone ahead and given the S-Cross a fantastic 1.6-litre diesel engine which is sure to please those who like to drive more frequently on the highway. With an excellent ride, excellent quality (by Maruti standards), generous space and good handling, the S-Cross comes across as a practical yet fun package. Maruti is expected to price it well but with heavy import content on the 1.6, the pricing can’t be too aggressive for the more powerful diesel. The new Nexa dealerships will redefine automotive retail but the reach will be limited and Maruti’s 1000+ sales outlet advantage won’t be in play. As a car, the Maruti S-Cross is very well engineered but will customers take to such a body style at a Rs. 11 lakh plus starting price? We doubt!

The Maruti S-Cross is a very practical product which scores high on interior space, equipment, ride quality and diesel engine performance (1.6L). While it isn’t attractive in design, it more than makes up for it by being a well engineered all round package.

The 1.6-litre diesel engine’s eager performance is the highlight of the S-Cross

What’s Cool

* Sporty interiors which are high on quality and feel good factor
* Generous cabin room results in utmost comfort for all passengers
* Strong performance from the 1.6-litre diesel engine on the highway
* Finely tuned suspension which gobbles up bad roads in its stride with confidence

What’s Not So Cool

* Looks a bit too bland, the design doesn’t stand out and does remind one of the SX4
* The 1.6-litre diesel has lots of low-end lag and thus the gearbox needs to be worked a lot
* Steering wheel not like the one on the Swift, lacks feel at the centre

Alternatives: Ford EcoSport, Renault Duster, Nissan Terrano

Being the flagship Maruti, the S-Cross will be a nice upgrade for existing MS owners

Maruti S-Cross Specifications

* Engine: 1298cc, 4-cylinder, DOHC, DDiS 200 (1.3); 1598cc, 4-cylinder, DOHC, DDiS 320 (1.6)
* Power: 90 PS @ 4000 RPM (1.3), 120 PS @ 3750 RPM (1.6)
* Torque: 200 Nm @ 1750 RPM (1.3), 320 Nm @ 1750 RPM (1.6)
* Transmission: 5-speed manual (1.3) 6-speed manual (1.6)
* 0-100 km/hr: 13.2 seconds (1.3), 11.3 seconds (1.6)
* Top Speed: 190 km/hr (1.3), 210 km/hr (1.6)
* Fuel Consumption: 16 km/l (1.3), 14 km/l (1.6)
* Fuel Type: Diesel
* Suspension: McPherson Struts (Front), Torsion Beam (Rear)
* Tyres: 205/60/16
* Brakes: Ventilated Discs (Front), Solid Discs (Rear), ABS
* Safety: Dual Airbags, ABS, Reversing Camera, Parking Sensors

Maruti S-Cross Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 4300 mm X 1765 mm X 1590 mm
* Wheelbase: 2600 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.2 metres
* Ground clearance: 180 mm
* Boot Volume: 353 litres, 810 litres (with rear seats folded)
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 48 litres
* Kerb Weight: 1180-1205 (DDiS 200), 1250-1275 kgs (DDiS 320)

If Maruti adds an automatic gearbox to the S-Cross, it will attract more buyers

Testers’ Note:

“I don’t worry much about the styling because it does grow on people with time. The S-Cross has pleasantly surprised me with its high quality interiors and the impressive cabin space. With good equipment on board, this car is sure to attract people in tier 2 markets where there is huge aspiration to own a crossover/SUV. Now only if I can get hold of that 1.6-litre engine and plonk it into a Fiat car!” – Faisal Khan, Editor, MotorBeam.
“The S-Cross is a terrific attempt by Maruti Suzuki and kudos to them for bringing in the 1.6-litre Fiat diesel to India. This is a car which appeals to those who think from their head. It’s big on space, comfort, equipment and performance. If Maruti gets the AWD to India, it will lure enthusiasts too who have been waiting for an off-road vehicle from India’s largest car manufacturer.” – Javeid Khan, Deputy Editor, MotorBeam.

Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta

Further Reading –

Maruti S-Cross vs Ford EcoSport vs Renault Duster