Maruti Suzuki has proven its point in the budget segment for decades. Holding on to the #1 passenger car manufacturer title in India, the brand outsells competitor products in almost every segment. Having said that, Maruti Suzuki has already burnt their hands in the premium car space. Remember the Kizashi & Grand Vitara? Both these products failed miserably in the Indian market since almost nobody was convinced to pay over a million rupees for a Maruti. The perks of being in the #1 spot however allows you to experiment with new & different products; and this is going to result in Maruti Suzuki again trying a shot at the premium space yet again. By premium, it does’t mean cars costing over Rs. 10 – 20 lakh, but an overall package. The new ‘PREMIUM’ products from the brand will offer much more features, better build & most importantly, a better buying experience. For their premium customers, Maruti Suzuki is setting up new NEXA dealerships which will retail select products & not their budget range of Alto & Wagon-R. For now, the NEXA showrooms will hold on to just one product – the S-CROSS!
So what is this S-Cross? Well, remember the SX4? The S-Cross is just another iteration of the sedan, but in a crossover format. Don’t be mistaken though, the S-Cross has been built grounds up for the Indian market, and is an all-new product. It was made available globally a couple of years back, and the car has tasted moderate success. Why S-Cross for India? SUVs & crossovers are moving out of the showrooms much faster compared to conventional hatchbacks & sedans. The Indian buyer has started liking the butch looks of vehicles which pose as off-road friendly. The Maruti Suzuki YBA compact-SUV will be priced lower than the S-Cross. Maruti Suzuki claims that there is enough space in the market for such products which offer rough road compatibility while being compact in dimensions compared to full-blown SUVs. The brand is betting big and is engaging in marketing activities on a large scale so that they can push the S-Cross out of the NEXA showrooms. The S-Cross will enter a segment where it will rival the Renault Duster & the upcoming Hyundai Creta. So, is the S-Cross capable of picking up a fight with the Duster? Can it match the new benchmark Hyundai is going to set with the launch of Creta? Is it premium enough to demand a new dealership? We took the S-Cross for a spin around the scenic roads of Nashik to find out…
Honestly, the design is not the strongest talking points of the S-Cross. Styling although not really bad, feels like a generation behind when compared to fresher competition. Not that it is bad, it just lacks the wow factor completely. There would barely be anyone who would say that ‘I want an S-Cross just for it’s looks’.
The S-Cross measures 4,300mm in length, 1,765mm in width, 1,590mm in height, 2,600mm in wheelbase and has a ground clearance of 180mm.
At the front, the S-Cross reminds you of the SX4, but has its fair share of newness. The twin-slat chrome grille with black plastics in & around this section is a neat touch. What really stands out on the front end is the headlamp setup which gets HID + projectors & LED DRLs. Below, you get a round fog lamp with chrome accents around it. Bumpers get black plastic cladding which will surely be useful while driving over roads unknown & prevent situations like paint chipping. The air dam below the number plate is small & is pretty ordinary. Maruti Suzuki adds a silver plastic skid plate, to complete the SUV-ish looks. Front bumper also sports bold crease likes between the headlamp & fog lamp. Above, the bonnet gets crease lines only on the extreme ends.
Come to the side, and the S-Cross again looks slightly bland. Although Maruti likes to call it a premium product, it just doesn’t look the part. Most noticeable on the side is the black body cladding & silver accents within this cladding area. Alloy wheel are 16”, but the design is super boring. A small DDiS badge is placed conventionally on the front fender. ORVM’s get LED turn indicators & there is no turn indicator on the front fender. B & C pillar is blacked out. Driver & passenger side front door gets a request sensor for keyless entry. However this button feels very cheap & rubbery to touch. Wheel arches are subtly beefed up & there is a single crease line running above the door handles. On top, the S-Cross gets silver roof rails.
Come to the back, and we’re glad Maruti Suzuki did not place the spare wheel on the tail gate just for show. This way it looks far more contemporary. The tail lamp units somehow resemble to the Ford EcoSport, a bit larger in size though. No LEDs at the rear end. Maruti has also steered clear of making use of excessive chrome on the S-Cross and the number plate garnish is just a body colour plastic unit. Reverse camera is neatly tucked under this plastic panel. To open the boot, you again get a request sensor. On top, there is a small spoiler which also houses the stop lamp & a roof mounted short radio antenna. Below, black cladding covers major part of the rear bumper & thin reflectors are also placed on either ends. Reverse sensors are painted in body colour & placed above the cladding area. There’s a silver skid plate at the back as well & the exhaust pipe is visibly to an extent, to chrome tip though. There’s no Maruti Suzuki branding on the S-Cross at all. Just the familiar Suzuki logo along with a S-Cross & 1.6 (engine) badge on the boot lid.
In a country where customers directly relate chrome as premium, we’re amazed that Maruti Suzuki has offered very little of that on the S-Cross.
Paint quality is good. Panel gaps however are consistently large. Have a look at the bonnet shut line or at the back between the tail gate & tail lamps; panel gaps are noticeably wide.
Inside, the S-Cross sports all-black interiors with silver accents to give you that sporty feel. Beige interiors is currently not available, even as an option. Quality of plastics aside, we must agree that this is the most premium looking interior cabin offered in a Maruti Suzuki. Dashboard of the S-Cross is all-black, with silver accents around the AC vents, centre console, gear console & on the door pads. The face of the dashboard makes use of soft-touch plastic.
Maruti offers a 3-spoke steering wheel wrapped in leather on the S-Cross. Steering mounted controls include audio on the LHS, cruise controls on the RHS & telephone controls placed separately on the lower end. Instrument cluster gets white & blue illumination with a MID in the centre. MID displays information such as clock, outside temperature, DTE, trip meter, odometer, instant fuel economy, average fuel economy, average speed & speed. The engine start / stop button in placed to the RHS of the steering column, and gets a chrome ring around it.
Centre console looks good and there’s a touchscreen, colour display infotainment system surrounded by gloss black plastic. This ‘smartplay’ system comes pre-loaded with GPS navigation. Touch interface is good and the sound output from the music system is above average by OEM standard. You can also download an app on your smartphone which can allow you to replicate your phone display on the infotainment screen. Below, you have the automatic climate control switches with a white backlit display. AC performance was decent, but the blower was a bit audible on higher fan speeds.
Overall, the touch & feel of plastics used inside the cabin is average, and resembles the quality of other cheaper Maruti Suzuki products. For example, the high-beam / low-beam stalk constantly keeps making a click sound which turns out to be a bit annoying after frequent use.
The S-Cross in the top-spec variant comes equipped with black leather seats with contrast stitching. Seats are not only comfortable, but the leather makes them feel really good. Also, seats decently supportive. Adjustable lumbar support could have sweetened the deal. Seat height adjustment lever is a little tough to use, but finding your desired seating position is fairly easy. Driver also gets a centre armrest which slides forward. Gear knob is leather wrapped too. We would have appreciated if Maruti offered a chrome ring for the lever to lift & slot the reverse gear. Driver also gets a dead pedal to rest his left foot on long journeys.
The S-Cross is very roomy on the inside, and at the back, there’s amply space to stretch out. Behind a 6 feet driver, I was more than comfortable with almost an inch or two clearance between the seat & my knee. Seat back is flat & mildly bolstered on the either ends. Seats can be reclined, but only marginally. For the 5th occupant though, the seat is raised in the centre section & also the seat back protrudes a little, hence, not very ideal. Also, the floor hump & the driver armrest console takes away foot room for the 5th occupant. The rear window sill ends high, almost near your shoulders, but the window size is larger, and hence, allows ample light inside the cabin. The rear quarter glass also tries to bring in more light to avoid claustrophobia.
There’s plenty of storage spaces such as the glovebox, a storage cubicle under the AC controls, door pockets with bottle holders, 2 storage cubicles next to the handbrake, storage spot under the driver armrest, bottle holders on the door for rear passengers, front seat-back pockets & 2 more cup holders on the rear armrest.
Behind the rear neck restraints, you have a contoured parcel shelf to park your handbags or oddities. Boot space (maximum 375 litres) is good for 3-4 medium sized bags.
If you compare the interiors of the S-Cross to any of the cheaper priced siblings, it surely does feel premium. But compared to upcoming competition such as the Hyundai Creta, it might not be the best-in-class.
Engine, performance & handling:
Powering the S-Cross are two Fiat-sourced Multijet diesel engines. One is the very well known 1.3L Multijet while the other is the 1.6L Multijet which is making its Indian debut with the S-Cross. Maruti likes to call them DDiS 200 & DDiS 320; based on the torque figures.
The DDiS 200 engine is a 1.3L, Fiat-sourced Multijet unit producing 89 BHP of power & 200 Nm of torque matched to a 5-speed manual gearbox. This engine delivers 23.65 kmpl of mileage and performs a 0-100 kmph stint in 13.2 seconds.
The DDiS 320 engine is a 1.6L, Fiat-sourced Multijet unit producing 118 BHP of power & 320 Nm of torque matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox. This engine delivers 22.7 kmpl of mileage and performs a 0-100 kmph stint in 11.3 seconds.
Maruti Suzuki will not offer a petrol powered version on the S-Cross considering the markets inclination towards oil-burners in this segment. Also, an automatic or an AWD version is also not planned for India at the moment.
We got to drive only the 1.6L during this media drive.
Fire up the motor and the S-Cross feels refined. NVH levels are well contained and there’s not too much of diesel clatter heard inside the cabin while idling. On the outside though, it is made clear that there is an oil-burner under the hood. NVH levels on the 1.6L Hyundai’s is much better.
Slot it in first, and the DDiS 320 motor crawls with ease. Within the city, the 1st & 2nd gears are most useful along with 3rd which is a bit tall taking care of your traffic signal sprints. The clutch lever is light & also, gear gates are well defined along with short throws. The clutch lever is also of the self adjusting type, a first for Maruti Suzuki. Steering wheel is light as well. This makes city driving very easy & given the almost hatchback like dimensions, the S-Cross is easier to live with in traffic situations.
Out on the highway, the S-Cross when pushed hard sprints to triple digits with ease. 3rd gear is so tall, it helps the car achieve speeds well over 110 kmph. Engine on high RPMs is a bit audible, but that’s the case with almost every diesel motor. On 100 kmph in top gear, the S-Cross cruises lazily around 1,750 RPM. Moving much higher on the speedo is also easy & the engine doesn’t really feel strained doing so.
The downside of this 1.6L Multijet though is the turbo-lag. Below 1,500 RPM, there’s very little action. We tried roll-on acceleration from 55 – 60 kmph in 6th gear, and the S-Cross took more than 10 seconds to actually get going. Same in 5th gear as well. So when speeds drop, we recommend that you downshift rather than flooring the accelerator as that would do very little about your expectations. Also, the throttle response was a bit sloppy. The engine takes almost 0.5 seconds to respond to the tap of your foot, regardless of being in the power band or not.
Steering feedback from the EPS unit is average, and will keep users happy. Enthusiasts will also find it acceptable as it is much better than the vague units on the Hyundai’s. There’s no dead area in the centre though, so on high speeds, you need to keep a firm hand on the wheel as slight movement can change directions.
Ride quality of the S-Cross is really good & the suspension setup keeps the car composed at city & high speeds. We were driving out on the highways as well as on broken country roads, but the S-Cross managed to keep the jerks away. Suspension thuds however are audible. In comparison to the Duster though, the S-Cross is still lacking a bit. The Duster can simply glide over any terrain while you have to be a bit cautious while doing so in the S-Cross. Overall, the S-Cross has a mature ride & handling package.
Braking performance comes backed by all four disc brakes coupled with ABS. The stock JK tyres also work well in dry as well as wet surfaces with decent grip. However, they want to squeal at the slightest of opportunities be it a hard corner or hard braking.
So, should you buy the S-Cross? Well, if you want something which is exclusive & would be a rare sight, sure. A Maruti Suzuki demanding over a million rupees is not going to be as common as other budget products from the same stable. Also, if you’re a brand loyalist & want to upgrade to a bigger car, this is surely Maruti’s best & most powerful product which will be available in the market. Compared to the competition it does lack the wow factor, but then, to each his own. The downside of this buying process would be that you will have to visit the dedicated NEXA dealerships as regular dealerships will not be retailing the S-Cross. These NEXA dealerships will be limited to 100 touch points by the end of 2015-16. Ideally, if Maruti could undercut the Renault Duster by a fair margin, things could get exciting in this segment. Wrapping things up, this is surely the best packaged Maruti Suzuki product built till date.