Nexa’s flagship product, the Maruti Suzuki S-Cross, has been given a facelift two years after it was launched in the Indian market. This is no nip and tuck job though — the S-Cross has been heavily redesigned and now looks rather different from its original avatar. The mechanicals of the S-Cross remain the same, however this new S-Cross gets Maruti Suzuki’s SHVS mild hybrid technology on all variants. Crucially though, slow sales of the 1.6-litre diesel variant of the S-Cross has led Maruti Suzuki to discontinue it and only the 1.3-litre DDIS 200 engine is on offer now.
So what’s new on this new S-Cross? The biggest difference is up front — the S-Cross now has a chiselled bonnet, with a massive chrome grille grabbing most of the attention. The bumpers have been heavily reworked as well, and the design up front is a more upright one, leaning towards to the SUV end of the spectrum. The headlamps have been heavily reworked as well, and the top-of-the-line Alpha variant that we were driving gets LED projector headlamps along with LED DRLs (the other variants get halogen projectors and no DRLs). This trim also gets LED taillamps, which none of the other variants get. The overall silhouette remains the same of the most part, with the excepting of a more squared-off nose. Other changes include a new alloy design, and the switch to fatter rubber — the older car used 205-section tyres while this one gets 215-sections. The wheel size remains the same. The SHVS is an important addition as well, as it includes a stop start system, brake energy recovery system and Maruti Suzuki claim that it also assists during acceleration. Crucially, the SHVS system increases fuel economy and reduces emissions — now down to 105.5g/km from 115g/km on the older car.
The mechanicals have largely remained the same, and that’s a good thing because the S-Cross was a sorted machine to begin with. This engine makes 88.5bhp and 200Nm, and is mated to a 5-speed manual ’box. Turbo lag is apparent, but you get a proper shove after 2000rpm till about 4000rpm. The gearbox is slick and a real pleasure to use, it has short throws and a light clutch pedal so you feel like you’re driving a car and not an SUV. There is perceptible clatter from the diesel engine, though it isn’t something you cannot live with. Performance is plenty for the cities and it doesn’t feel out of breath even on open highways — it accelerates well and can comfortably maintain triple digit speeds. If there is any intervention from the SHVS while accelerating, it is hard to perceive.
A highlight of the car is its ride quality and body control. It handles uneven surfaces with finesse, ironing out most bumps without any juddering in the cabin. The suspension is set up on the stiffer side, but it never feels uncomfortable. Even over sharper bumps, the suspension deals with it without any drama — there is never any thudding, or harshness — it simply takes on everything that comes its way. Out on the highway, it feels planted at speed and never feels floaty. The engineers have found a sweet spot in the set up that doesn’t compromise ride quality or handling. The steering light as well, making manoeuvrability around the city easy, but it lacks feedback.
The interior has remained the same as well. The dash is primarily black and is punctuated with bits of brushed metal inserts. There are soft touch leathers everywhere, the seats feel plush and even the steering wheel (which is leather wrapped) feels nice in your hands. It is a cabin that feels rich, and with its simple, uncluttered layout, looks it too. You get a touchscreen infotainment system equipped with USB, aux and bluetooth connectivity. It is also compatible with Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay. The buttons on the steering wheel as well as of the automatic climate control have a nice premium feel to them. Overall, the cabin feels expensive, and solidly built and is a nice, comfortable place to be. The only grouse I had was even though the seat height is adjustable, the lowest setting was still too high for my liking. This is a personal quirk though — a lot of crossover owners want a tall, commanding view of the outside, and that is what they get.
As for the design, it’s appeal depends on your sense of aesthetics. A lot of journalists at the media drive event thought the new design is a step ahead of the older one. Others (like me) thought the opposite. One thing is certain though, the S-Cross now has a presence that it lacked before. It is no longer subtle and understated, but loud, brash and in-your-face. This is what a typical SUV buyer wants and those aspirations trickle down in to the crossover space as well. It is that buyer (and there are a fair number of them) that Maruti Suzuki is looking to tap into.
On the whole, this facelift does is move the S-Cross ahead a few notches. The loud design will ensure it is noticed while the SHVS ups the game on the technology front. Retaining the strengths of the older car like its punchy motor and sorted dynamics, it makes a lot of sense. It will be interesting to see how the S-Cross is priced as it qualifies for the additional cess for hybrid cars.