David Motton

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Does the facelifted Suzuki S-Cross have what it takes to rival the best crossovers? David Motton gets behind the wheel to see what tow car potential it has

Suzuki has a theory why the current SX4 S-Cross hasn't sold in greater numbers: it just didn't look tough enough. So the updated car, on sale from 17 October, has a much chunkier appearance.

Out goes the small grille and bug eyes of the old car, in comes a big chrome grille, a more upright front end, and redesigned lights front and rear. The ride height increases, too, from 165mm to 180mm.

Suzuki has certainly achieved its aim of making the SX-4 S-Cross look more SUV-like. But that big chrome grille looks a bit heavy-handed to me. It's certainly more distinctive than the old car, though.

You can judge for yourself whether the new looks appeal or not, so I'll get on to what you can't see from the photos. The most important mechanical change is the replacement of the old 1.6-litre petrol unit with two new 'Boosterjet' engines. The name may be a bit OTT, but these are very good engines indeed.

We've already driven the 1.4-litre version in the Vitara S and were thoroughly impressed. In fact, we named it the 'Best Ultralight Tow Car' at our Tow Car Awards 2016.

With 138bhp and 162lb ft of torque, the 1.4-litre performs with real determination, and four-wheel-drive helps make use of that power on slippery tarmac or when towing away from a muddy pitch. But a kerbweight of just 1240kg (1260kg for the automatic) gives the S-Cross an 85% match figure of just 1054kg, so it's strictly for lightweight caravans or trailer tents. The legal towing limit is 1200kg.

Colleagues who had already driven the 1.0-litre Boosterjet in the Baleno hatchback have been raving about how good it is, and it doesn't disappoint in the S-Cross. The 1.0-litre is quiet at low revs, but with a characterful thrum when accelerating hard.

But however evanescent the three-cylinder petrol may be, it doesn't have the chops for towing, unless you own a micro-caravan or a folding camper. The kerbweight of the front-wheel-drive version is just 1160kg (1185kg for the auto) and there's only 125lb ft of torque. Even the four-wheel-drive model (manual only) weighs a modest 1225kg. 

No, if you want to tow a 'proper' caravan, the diesel is the more likely choice. The kerbweight climbs to 1290kg for the two-wheel-drive and 1360kg for the 4x4. That gives the diesel Allgrip an 85% match figure of 1156kg (the legal towing limit is 1500kg).

The diesel carries over unchanged, which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the 1.6 DDiS has considerable poke for pulling a car as light as the S-Cross. Although top-end power is a relatively modest 118bhp, peak pulling power of 236lb ft is a lot of mid-range muscle. That should be more than enough to pull a sensibly matched tourer.

Performance hasn't been achieved at the expense of economy, with an official combined figure of 64.2mpg. On the other hand, the engine is clattery at low revs, and sounds strained under acceleration.

Whatever the engine, road noise is a little too intrusive for a car that Suzuki hopes will win over potential Nissan Qashqai buyers. The ride can be firm and it's not as much fun as a Škoda Yeti to drive, but the Suzuki holds its own against better-known rivals.

Inside, the Suzuki isn't far off the space offered by the Qashqai and the Renault Kadjar, and the boot capacity is a healthy 430 litres. But despite the introduction of soft-touch plastics on top of the dash, the cabin doesn't feel as upmarket as in the best crossovers.

Take value and equipment into account, and the Suzuki makes a stronger case for itself.

Prices for the updated S-Cross start from £14,999 for the 1.0 Boosterjet SZ4. This base spec includes seven airbags, stability control, Bluetooth, a digital radio, air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels and cruise control.

SZ-T cars have LED projector headlamps, 17-inch alloys, a rear parking camera, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, front fog lights and more. The price climbs to £19,499 with the 1.0-litre engine.

Range-topping SZ5 cars have leather seats (heated in the front), a panoramic sunroof, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and an extra speaker for the stereo. All SZ5 cars have the Allgrip 4x4 system. Prices start from £22,849 with the 1.4 Boosterjet engine.

The diesel is priced from £20,999 in SZ-T spec, rising to £24,349 for the SZ5. If you think that's a bit rich, just remember the Qashqai range tops out at £28,990.

So, does the revised Suzuki S-Cross have the beatings of the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar and Škoda Yeti? Not quite. It's not refined enough, particularly the diesel, and the cabin doesn't feel as well finished as a Qashqai's. But as ever with Suzuki, the S-Cross certainly has value for money on its side.

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