Maruti S-Cross: First Drive Review
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Maruti Suzuki have taken multiple shots at the premium segment with the Vitara and the Kizashi. Both vehicles struggled hard to break-free from the Maruti = Cheap tag. And at the end of the day, sadly, both classify as market duds. Currently, it is only the Ciaz that can be called premium by definition. Maruti Suzuki is all set to take another shot at the premium car market with their crossover: the S-Cross. Will Maruti Suzuki be third time lucky?
The looks of the S-Cross instill a great sense of deja vu. There’s a certain feeling of ‘I’ve seen this before somewhere’. Eventually, you do realize that the S-Cross has borrowed certain styling cues from the long gone SX4 sedan. The S-Cross has a distinct ‘snout’.It bears large pulled back projector headlamps with daytime running lights, a large twin-slat chrome grille and some more chrome around the foglamp cluster. It gets a faux skidplate finished in dull silver too - something that has become the norm in the pseudo SUV segment.
In isolation, the headlamps look like the ones on the SX4, grille looks like the one on the first gen Ritz and the chrome accent on the foglamp cluster look similar to the one on the refreshed Dzire.
Thick black cladding envelopes the lower half of the car to justify its ‘Cross’ tag. What’s a ‘cross’ car without black cladding anyway? Round the side, you’d notice that the windows are large and the wheels look tiny to the beefy body. We wish the S-Cross retained the gorgeous two tone 17” wheels that it wears for the international market. The silver finish roof rails help the S-Cross’ attempt to look like an SUV.
Further, there’s a strong shoulder line emanating from the edge of the headlamp, which cuts across the door handles and meets the tail-lamps which themselves flow into the tailgate. The tail-lamps have this hint of Ecosport to them, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The rear bumper gets reverse parking sensors, a couple of reflectors and a dull-silver skidplate as well. The area between the tail-lamps forms a neat little hexagon, which helps add some character to an otherwise boring rear profile.
The S-Cross sits 180mm off the ground, is 1765mm wide and 4300mm long. On the outside, the S-Cross looks more like a grown-up hatch than a crossover or a compact SUV.
Remember the hexagon-ish shape on the tailgate? There’s an identical shape on the centre console that houses the AC vents and the touchscreen infotainment system which is identical to the AVN unit on the Ciaz.
The fascia of the interior is split into three parts with the middle portion being made out of soft-touch plastic. Much like the Swift, the all-black interior is complemented with dull silver accents around the centre console, air vents and the door pads as well. The quality of plastics could have been better, especially so on the switches for the power windows. The steering wheel is similar to the one on the Swift as well and gets buttons for the media, bluetooth telephony and the cruise control.
The instrument cluster has a blue-backlight and houses an MID sandwiched between two large dials - the rev counter and the speedometer. The MID displays information such as instantaneous efficiency, average efficiency, distance to empty, etc.
The seats, upholstered in black leather with contrasting stitching look premium and go well the all black theme of the dash. However, expect these seats to get quite hot in the summer sun. If you liked the front seats on the Swift, you will love the S-Cross too. The bolstering and cushioning is spot on. The rear bench is quite wide and can accommodate three adults with relative ease. The rear bench passengers, neither get a rear AC, nor do they get a charging socket. However, they do get an armrest with cupholders in the top-spec S-Cross. It is amongst the more spacious cars out in the market, legroom and headroom shouldn’t be an issue even for the taller folk amongst us. The rear bench does get a 60:40 split, adding in that extra bit of versatility.
Folding the rear bench away completely, takes the boot space up from 353 litres to 810 litres. The S-Cross can engulf a couple of large suitcases and then some.
The top-spec Alpha variant comes with keyless entry, push button start, cruise control, a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, reverse camera, automatic climate control - the lot! Maruti seems to have taken a leaf out of Hyundai’s books and have loaded the S-Cross with a lot of kit. The quality is definitely a couple of notches above the standard Maruti fare.
Engine and Performance
The S-Cross is available with two engine options, a 1.3 and a 1.6 litre DDiS engine. This is the only vehicle in the Maruti Suzuki portfolio to not have a petrol motor on offer. The two engines are dubbed DDiS200 and DDiS320 respectively, where 200 and 320 represent the torque these engines generate. Here’s a quick glance at the numbers:
|1.3 l DDiS200||90PS||200Nm||5-Speed MT||23.65km/l|
|1.6 l DDiS320||120PS||320Nm||6-Speed MT||22.7km/l|
The S-Cross will be available in 8 variants across 5 trims: Sigma, Sigma (O), Delta, Zeta and Alpha. The Sigma and Sigma (O) variants will only get the 1.3 litre engine.
We got our hands on the 1.6 litre version. The DDiS320 is a brilliant motor and has a nice punch, but only after 2000rpm. In fact, if you aren’t careful, you might even stall the S-Cross when you are cantering around under 2000 rpm. It needs frequent downshifts to keep it in the powerband, and this might be a slight issue in the city. The clutch is light and the gearshift action itself is slick, with the gears slotting in without any fuss. Once you understand how to work the gears and keep it in the powerband, the S-Cross can be fun.
Out on the highways, the S-Cross is a completely different animal all together. It is comfortable cruising at triple digit speeds at lazy rpms in 5th or 6th gear. 5th and 6th act mostly as overdrive gears and help extract extra fuel efficiency from the 1.6 litre mill.
The ride quality on the S-Cross is rather nice. The suspension is on the stiffer side much like the Swift, but it does manage to tackle potholes and broken roads relatively easily. It isn’t as bouncy as a Hyundai and definitely feels more sure footed when on the highways. The S-Cross manages to strike a nice balance between ride and handling. It isn’t uncomfortable and at the same time won’t deter you from pushing it into a corner. Speaking of pushing it into corners, the steering feedback is impressive. As is the case with most new Maruti’s, the S-Cross’ steering does feel direct. Stopping power is impressive too, thanks to disc brakes on all four corners.
The S-Cross does get a CVT gearbox in international markets. However, Maruti Suzuki has decided to offer only manual variants in India. The upcoming Hyundai Creta will have a diesel automatic variant and this might just dent the sales of the Maruti. What the Indian version of the S-Cross also skips out on, is Suzuki’s AllGrip AWD system.
The S-Cross is Maruti’s best attempt yet at making a premium car. In a sea of hatchback converted crossovers, the S-Cross stands tall as a ‘built from scratch’ crossover. Plenty of features, great engine, good overall interior quality and space make it an ideal car. Do not expect it to be a compact SUV or an off-roader though. Consider it as a well-equipped big car, and it makes sense. Maruti calls the S-Cross a ‘premium crossover’ and let’s face it, Maruti hasn’t had the best innings in the premium end of the market. However, Maruti Suzuki wants to change that. In a bid to break free from it’s budget car image, Maruti has opened new ‘Nexa’ dealerships that will sell MSIL’s premium offerings only. The first Nexa dealership opened up recently in Delhi and Maruti plans on opening 100 Nexa dealerships across the country this year.
The S-Cross will be the first car to be sold via the Nexa dealership and shall be joined by the YRA/Fronx hatchback. Future products like the new generation Grand Vitara could also join the S-Cross on the Nexa showroom floor. The S-Cross is all set to go against the segment leader - the Renault Duster, the Nissan Terrano, the Ford Ecosport and the yet to be launched Hyundai Creta. Pricing is extremely crucial for the S-Cross, more so considering the fact that the Creta is lurking around the corner. For a car that does not have a single Maruti badge on it, it remains to be seen how the product is positioned vis-a-vis the competition. We expect prices to start at around 8 lakhs for the 1.3 l Sigma variant, with the top end 1.6 Alpha breaching the 11 lakh mark. Watch out for the launch and a full blown review coming up soon!
Checkout the extensive S Cross Photo Gallery