Suzuki SX4 S-Cross enjoys new technology

Suzuki has carved itself something of a niche for producing not just cars at the smaller end of the market, but also cars that offer four-wheel-drive to keep you moving when the going gets tough.

I recently drove the Suzuki Vitara, then the Vitara S, which both are more focussed on SUV market. But, Suzuki has also been strongly represented in the growing ‘crossover’ sector since the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross was launched in October 2013.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross

The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is aimed at providing flexible family transport for those who want to enjoy something of the SUV style. As such it is available in both front wheel drive and four wheel drive. But, the AllGrip S-Cross has stronger off-road credentials than many in its class, sporting not only selectable drive modes for different conditions, but also the ‘lock’ setting for the transmission, that most others in this sector omit.

We tested the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross here on, so there is little point in reiterating the general impressions. The main reason for putting the SX4 S-Cross under the spotlight again is the latest transmission technology.

Twin-clutch gearboxes are becoming quite common with more technology-focussed car manufacturers. Conventional automatic gearboxes use a torque converter to disengage and engage the power. But, this liquid interface, inevitably introduces some inefficiencies into the drivetrain.

Sit at the traffic lights in a conventional automatic and you have to put your foot on the brake. This is because the torque converter is trying to drive you forwards – albeit slowly. When the lights change, you press the accelerator and the engine spins up churning the fluid in the torque converter, to transfer the power through the drivetrain.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross interior

But, using a fluid connection almost inevitably means some losses of power and performance. That is one reason why conventional automatics are normally slightly slower and slightly thirstier than their manual counterparts.

Enter twin-clutch transmissions which potentially upset these norms. Suddenly a car can have automatic gear changing and, in many cases, be slightly quicker and more efficient than its manual counterpart.

Suzuki’s system is called TCSS (Twin Clutch System by Suzuki). It is now available at a £1,350 premium on the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross DDiS diesel model.

Behind the wheel the TCSS-eqiupped S-Cross just looks and feels like a conventional automatic with a gear selector in place of the gearchange and paddles on the steering wheel. But, the TCSS it is actually an automated manual transmission with hydraulically-controlled clutches and gear change.

The two clutches are differentiated, quite logically, as “odd” and “even”. The “odd” clutch engages and disengages first, third and fifth gears. The “even” clutch engages second, fourth and sixth gears. Whether the driver is accelerating or decelerating the next required gear is always available instantly.

Suzuki say that, coupled with the 1.6-litre DDiS engine, the new transmission achieves quicker gear changes than could be achieved in a conventional manual.

The result is quite lively performance for an unpretentious-looking family crossover. With a 1.6-litre diesel under the bonnet, this is never going to deliver outstanding 0-60 sprint times. But, especially when you select ‘sport’ mode, it is quite rapid when the turbocharger is spinning. In fact, the throttle is almost too responsive, which resulted in a few nodding heads until I got used to fine tuning my driving style.

In terms of economy I averaged 38 mpg over a mixture of country and city driving and out-of-town you should easily better 40 mpg.

With the arrival of the new TCSS your transmission choices on the S-Cross are even more comprehensive.

For starters, you can now have your S-Cross with two, or four-wheel-drive. You can choose manual transmission (five-speed on the petrol models and six-speed on diesels).

The TCSS gearbox is only available on AllGrip (four-wheel-drive) diesel versions, at least for the moment. But, on petrol versions drivers seeking automatic transmission can choose a continuously variable transmission. This, like the TCSS, defies accepted norms by being more efficient than the manual.

You can read the detailed impressions of the S-Cross in the previous test, but, in summary, it provides no-nonsense transport for a family of four or five, with good luggage space. Neither the exterior, nor the interior, will win prizes for stylish design. Rather, they are neat, easy-on-the-eye and functional.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross

Refinement is reasonable with a generally good ride quality, just occasionally it can be caught off-guard by surface imperfections. Noise levels are maybe slightly higher than some others in the class.

The S-Cross is easy to drive with the steering verging on almost being too light, but it is precise – meaning you can place it confidently on the road. Inevitably, with a taller vehicle, there is a little more roll than you will find on a lower more sporting car.

With the SX4 S-Cross SZ5 you won’t be short of equipment either. It comes, as standard, with goodies that many other manufacturers will charge option prices for. Rear view camera, cruise control, leather heated front seats, double-sliding panoramic sunroof, DAB radio and navigation system come as part of the deal, for starters.

With family practicality and comfort, plus a long list of ‘extras’ included in the price, a ‘penalty-free’ automatic gearbox that doesn’t harm the economy or performance and full four-wheel-drive with selectable modes and the transmission lock position (that most cars in this sector of the market omit) it’s an attractive option in the crossover sector.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.6DDiS ALLGRIP SZ5 TCSS
On-the-road £25,149
Carbon dioxide emissions: 119 g/km
Combined fuel economy 62.8 mpg
Top speed: 108 mph
0-62: 13 secs
Power 120PS
Engine size 1598cc diesel
Boot capacity 430/875 (back seats up/folded)
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