Maruti Suzuki’s S-Cross gets a change of heart
Most motivational videos will ask you to break norms, swim against tides and more in the quest for success. In a way, that’s what Maruti Suzuki did half a decade ago. The carmaker has been India’s largest one for really long now, but in a bid to offer a more premium experience to customers, Maruti launched its Nexa chain of retail stores in 2015. Interestingly the first product offered from Nexa dealerships was the S-Cross, India’s first crossover-SUV. Five years later the S-Cross gets a change of heart in the form of Maruti’s tried and tested 1.5-litre petrol engine equipped with its Smart Hybrid system. What’s more, Maruti has also (finally!) added the option of an automatic transmission to the mix too.
Pretty much everything else remains unchanged – except for the infotainment system – considering that the 2020 version is more of a nod to BS6 emission norms than a facelift. Unless you’ve been living under that proverbial rock, you sure would know that Maruti Suzuki has axed diesel engines from its offerings entirely and only offers petrol and petrol-hybrid engines across its range now. The update in 2017 endowed the S-Cross with a more muscular mug, making it look sportier and more SUV-esque. I am glad Maruti hasn’t altered the looks at all this time. Inside, the S-Cross now features the latest version of Maruti’s SmartPlay infotainment system, accessed via a 7 inch touchscreen. The system is yet to get the entire gamut of connectivity features like some of the S-Cross’s rivals but it does boast offline navigation and music streaming as also weather, sports and news updates via a dedicated app called SmartPlay Studio.
Coming back to the big update, co-incidentally my current long term test car is the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz that’s equipped with the same motor, albeit with a manual transmission. The sense of novelty for me in the S-Cross thus was its automatic transmission, a four-speed torque converter unit. So while I was used to the engine’s refined feel already, accessing its 105PS via an automatic transmission felt different. On the other hand, the SmartHybrid system felt familiar – the engine start/stop system is quick to kill or fire up the engine when stationary, besides which the Lithium-Ion battery does its job of reducing loads on the engine without you even knowing it. Moving on, as an enthusiast I like automatics that are quick to respond and the torque converter met most of my demands in city traffic. One word that defines the S-Cross petrol automatic thus is convenience.
The automatic impresses not only because there’s no clutch pedal to work, but also because it does not sap power at low speeds and works well in conjunction with the engine to offer strong grunt when it comes to bottom end performance. I also took the S-Cross automatic out of the city onto open roads and around some twisties. This is where I found myself wishing for a manual gearbox as it would have afforded better control of the engine’s performance, but not that the automatic was disappointing entirely. In fact, I can imagine the average S-Cross buyer liking the automatic transmission on highways and around corners given the convenience it offers.
Another highlight for me was the sporty handling as the S-Cross felt confident around corners even on rain soaked tarmac. The steering wheel weighs up well as you go faster, while offering good feedback while the ride quality is pliant without compromising the car’s sporty manners. My day out in the S-Cross also helped me reaffirm my belief in its abilities as a weekend getaway car with its comfort, space and likeable ride quality on broken country roads. In my books the S-Cross is highly underrated as a sporty crossover in our country. The low vehicle height and silhouette of a large hatchback have had many a buyer shy away, but in reality the S-Cross is a great set of wheels for the upwardly mobile enthusiast. It’s got a dash of stylishness to go with its rugged feel that makes it a unique proposition in the Indian market.
Price: Rs 8.39 lakh onwards (ex-showroom)
Engine: 1,462cc, inline 4-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual/four-speed automatic