Home / Reviews / First Drive / Maruti Suzuki S-Cross 1.5 Petrol AT BS6 First Drive Review

 

Wondering how the BS6 petrol Maruti Suzuki S-Cross fares compared to the older diesel version of this crossover? Read on to find out.
Story: Sarmad Kadiri
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

The Maruti Suzuki S-Cross has a very prominent role to play in the larger scheme of things for India’s largest car manufacturer. It was the first car-model to debut at the upmarket Nexa outlets, helping the predominantly mass car maker to carve out a niche in the premium range of cars. In the last five years, over 1.1 million customers have driven out with brand new cars from the 370 plus Nexa showrooms. Not an easy feat and only a brand like Maruti Suzuki could have pulled this off.
Back then, the S-Cross was available with two diesel engines – a 1.3-litre and a 1.6-litre units. But now Maruti Suzuki have bid farewell to diesels and both of these have been chucked out of the window. The 2020 model sports a 1.5-litre petrol that’s equipped with SHVS mild-hybrid technology that promises to enhance power delivery and fuel efficiency. So here we are trying to see if these claims stand true, because we’re really going to miss that smooth and powerful 1.6 diesel.

Design
We’ve seen the car earlier this year during the Auto Expo 2020 and it does get some minor nips and tucks. You’ll notice the restyled projector lens headlamps with LED daytime running lights, a bolder chrome front grille with more prominent vertical slats and a well-chiselled bumper. These design makeovers are aimed to aid the S-Cross’ SUV aspiration and they do succeed to a fair extent. To add to it there’s a good dose of black side-cladding and a set of skid-plate like highlights to drive the sporty theme home. The changes in the rear include LED tail-lamps and some chrome accents. The overall silhouette hasn’t changed though, but these minor changes give the crossover a refreshing appeal but it isn’t really SUV-ish compared to its rivals.

Cabin
There’s slightly better use of materials in the cabin to make it appear more premium than before and with reasonable success. So you get generous use of leather, right from the multi-function steering wheel to the dashboard and the seat upholstery. It’s easily the most well-built car in the Maruti Suzuki line-up currently. And as before, the cabin remains nice and spacious, with comfortable seats and ample space for five occupants. No surprises, but the equipment list has also been updated and you get engine start-stop, a Smartplay infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, auto-dimming and anti-glare inside rear-view mirror, height-adjustable driver’s seat, automatic climate control, cruise control to name a few. But even this Nexa model doesn’t offer a sunroof – a feature most buyers rarely need but want so badly that often their buying decision depends on it.

Features
Moving on, I connected my smartphone to the infotainment system and through the Smartplay Studio App the car offered live traffic updates, voice recognition and access to curated online content through AHA radio. There’s even the Suzuki Connect feature that helps keep a track of the vehicle at all times. And before we set out to drive, a quick look at the safety kit had us pleased as the 2020 model offers dual front airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), driver and co-driver seatbelt reminder, ISOFIX child seat restraint system and the high-speed warning alert (much ‘loved’ by enthusiasts).
While driving, things that came most handy were the automatic rain-sensing wipers, auto projector LED headlamps and the cruise control which you can set to just under the speed limit to avoid the constant beeping of the now mandatory high-speed alarm. Thankfully these safety features are standard across all variants of the S-Cross Petrol.

Engine
We got to drive the petrol automatic version, though I was keener to get a taste of the five-speed manual version. But during the times of the COVID-19 related restrictions, we’re just happy to go out and test cars. Under the hood is the proven K15B which we’ve already experienced on the Vitara Brezza, Ertiga and the Ciaz. This BS6-compliant 1.5-litre petrol makes a decent 105 hp at 6,000 rpm and a peak torque of 138 Nm at 4,400 rpm. As mentioned during our earlier reviews of its sibling, this engine delivers power smoothly and is fairly refined. Adding to the driving pleasure is the hybrid system which can be seen working tirelessly throughout. Every time you brake the energy is transferred to the lithium-ion battery that can be later used during engine’s idle start-stop function to save fuel. If you’re in a tearing hurry the energy offers torque assists to add some more zing to the performance. Still, the 1.5 petrol isn’t the peppiest in the segment but it gives little opportunity to complain about during daily runabout.

Performance
What lets down the S-Cross’ performance is the relaxed nature of the four-speed torque-converter automatic. It lags behind the competition which has upgraded to silky CVTs and modern dual-clutch transmissions. This automatic cannot deliver the edge of the seat action as it takes a little time to sense the urgency of the situation. So, don’t expect quick shift downs or quick rev-ups during sudden accelerations. Instead, drive it gently and the automatic cruises around in comfort and ease. The other issue with the four-speed AT is that it isn’t extremely efficient either. If you have a heavy right foot then be prepared to stare at under 10 km/l readouts on the display, which is a far cry to the claimed 18.43 km/l. If you’re using it for a basic city commute, the efficiency improves and the subdued gearbox isn’t bothersome either. If you have other plans then better opt the five-speed manual. Like we’ve said numerous times before, Maruti Suzuki need a better automatic option to please the enthusiasts. And if the company’s product planning team is reading this, can we have the 1.6 diesel back, please?

Dynamics
But what does please the enthusiasts and others, is the excellent suspension set-up which finds a good balance between sporty dynamics and a supple ride. The great combination of the well-sprung suspension, good tyre selection and low centre of gravity makes the S-Cross not just engaging to drive but also feel more secure during a series of fast corners. All this, without making the occupants feel uncomfortable or dizzy. It’s really impressive how the Maruti Suzuki sails over road undulations without upsetting the car. Yes, some petrol-heads might dis the light steering and the thick A-pillar but it’s never a deal-breaker. No wonder the company has sold over 1.25 lakh units of the model so far.

Conclusion
The massive advantage this robust and well built Maruti Suzuki has over its competition is its pricing. Agreed that it might not have a few of the features others offer. But with a starting price of Rs 8.39 lakh and Rs 12.39 lakh (both ex-showroom prices) for the petrol automatic Alpha variant we’re driving, the S-Cross is great value for money. Not to forget the excellent easy-to-live-with track record that Maruti Suzuki cars boast of.

 

About the author: Sarmad Kadiri

 

 

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