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The S-Cross goes full hybrid! But can it compete against rivals from Nissan and Kia?
While most small SUVs have gone down the highly sculptured, futuristic route in terms of aesthetics, the Suzuki S-Cross has remained rather traditional in its appeal. And up until fairly recently, the same could be said for its powertrain line-up.
But seemingly overnight, Suzuki has gone from traditional combustion to mild hybrid, and now to full hybrid power. The Full Hybrid S-Cross represents an evolution of the mild hybrid system, of which is still available in the S-Cross range.
Powering the S-Cross Fully Hybrid is a 1.5-litre 115hp naturally aspirated petrol engine, which sits alongside a 24kw Motor Generator Unit and a 140V lithium- ion battery. Unlike some other hybrid systems, this one takes more of a backseat to the driving process - which is to say you won't find yourself cruising around for extended periods of time in full electric mode. The hybrid system in the S-Cross dips in and out, almost unnoticeably, supplementing the petrol power.
At first, I was a little unsure how effective such a seemingly sparse system would be. But after using up a full tank of fuel on a mix of urban and motorway roads, I was quite impressed with the average return of 47mpg. If you want a hybrid that does not feel like a hybrid, the S-Cross will fit the bill.
Further adding to the S-Cross' non- hybrid-like character is its raspy-sounding engine. Even at low revs, the 1.5-litre petrol is throaty. The AGS automated manual transmission it's mated to holds onto gears for a long time when revved hard too, which doesn't help its case. This gearbox however is decent overall and does an excellent job of anticipating downshifting at junctions.
In stark contrast to its rowdy engine, is its serenely cushioned ride - which tackles potholes and bumps with ease - and its light steering. The S-Cross still manages to offer a high-ride feel too, even though it has a small footprint.
Stepping inside the S-Cross, its generous kit levels make its slightly unrefined drive more forgivable. The sheer amount of standard kit on offer in the S-Cross will have you questioning the spec sheet - in a good way.
Although there are only two spec levels available - Motion and Ultra - all S-Cross models get a rear parking camera and parking sensors, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, dual zone air con and heated front seats. There's also an extensive list of sophisticated safety kit, such as blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist.
Key additions of the plusher Ultra grade include sat-nav, leather seats, a panoramic roof, a 360-degree camera, all-wheel drive and, most notably, a 9in touchscreen - up from the 7in unit in the Motion model.
The fit and finish of the S-Cross's interior is typically Suzuki, solid, but brimming with hard, scratchy plastics. The plastic surfaces certainly don't imbue a sense of luxury, but they do add extra hardiness to the S-Cross's do-anything, go-anywhere character. And while the touchscreen is a little clunky, the simple button layout of the cabin is rather endearing.
Like a lot of compact SUVs, the S-Cross's rear practicality is a mixed bag. While knee room is great, there's space to slip your feet under the seat in front, and the hump in the floor is only small, head room is very disappointing. In fact, growing teenagers might even struggle to keep their hair from getting flattened.
The boot offers a similar hot and cold package. While it manages to offer a practical shape, zero load lip and seats that fold almost completely flat, it's just not very big. Think hatchback, rather than SUV. You can't drop the boot floor either, as any underfloor space is eaten up by the innards of the hybrid system.