This compact crossover is a bargain, says Euan Doig.

When going on holiday, not everyone will be travelling with a caravan the size of the average two-bed semi.

Plenty of people simply need a vehicle that can tow a small to medium trailer with ease, preferably sipping the minimum fuel and requiring relatively inexpensive consumables such as brakes and tyres.

That's precisely where the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross comes in: it has compact dimensions, it's strong and capable, and it shouldn't cost a fortune to run.

Suzuki entered the crossover market way back in 2006 with the first-generation SX4, a car that replaced the terminally dull Liana hatch and which was identical to the Fiat Sedici in all but badging.

This was a small machine, though, which tended to limit its appeal, despite the kudos of entry in the World Rally Championship. So Suzuki decided to move up a class, with a second SX4 S-Cross (the original car continued on sale for a time after the second model was launched).

With a larger vehicle came a larger audience, some of whom were keen to use it for towing. So it was just as well Suzuki saw fit to equip the car with either two- or four-wheel drive and a range of smallish, but still lusty engines.

Model history

Suzuki was decidedly envious of the runaway sales success that was the Nissan Qashqai, so clearly had that car squarely in its sights when developing its own crossover.

Styling-wise, the SX4 looks rather like a cross between a conventional hatchback and an SUV. To some, it's a fair compromise; to others, it's neither here nor there.

Still, Suzuki gave the S-Cross a great start in life by setting its starting price at just £14,999. Yes, for that price you got the two-wheel-drive 1.6-litre petrol model in entry-level spec, but the presence of air-conditioning, alloy wheels, cruise control and Bluetooth meant buyers had no reason to feel hard done by.

Something else the interior features in abundance is space. Up front, there's loads of head- and legroom for even tall adults to stretch out.

Behind them, the rear seats are raised, cinema-style, to give occupants a good view, which should minimise the chances of motion sickness. The higher seating does have a slight impact on rear headroom, although the legroom here is generous.

Good news for tow car buyers comes in the form of a boot that's beyond generous for the class, so you'll be able to carry plenty of stuff for long weekends away.

Up front, two engines were offered: a 1.6-litre petrol and a 1.6-litre turbodiesel. There were manual and automatic gearboxes on offer, and both models were also available with four-wheel drive for extra traction on slippery surfaces.

In 2015, Suzuki introduced an efficient twin-clutch automatic gearbox; then in 2016, gave the SX4 S-Cross a facelift, taking the opportunity to offer two new engines: 1.0-litre with 110bhp and a 1.4-litre version of the same engine with 138bhp.

Before the facelift, we'd have said the diesel was the better option for tow car buyers, but following the tweaks, we'd go for the 1.4-litre BoosterJet version.

With this 1.4 engine, the car has a towing limit of 1200kg; which isn't much, but it does so with ease. It accelerates with intent, and stops quickly with no wandering or other dramas.

Driven solo, the SX4 S-Cross is satisfying, with surprisingly sporty handling, although the downside of this is that the ride quality is also on the sporty side.

Better still, your average fuel economy figure will start with a 'four' at minimum.

Finally, servicing is incredibly cheap: according to Servicing Stop, who provide our figures, an interim service will cost you less than £100, while full service will set you back £128. That's got to be a bargain.

Trouble spots

Great news - the SX4 S-Cross is largely free from niggles and grumbles. Reported issues have been with individual cars, not indicative of model-wide faults.

Having said that, the car has not been completely free from the dreaded recall letter. The first 'bring it back' notifications arrived in 2014, after concern that the rear differential oil level could be a bit short of where it should, owing to an incorrect filling procedure when the car was built at the factory.

The following year, the S-Cross was recalled once more, this time because there was a risk that a fuel tank mounting strap had been incrorrectly constructed, and could be prone to breakage.

The third recall happened in 2016, and concerned the strength of the stitching on the front seatbacks.

This was actually discovered to be too strong, and therefore could prevent the airbag in the side of the seat from deploying as it should in an accident.

Apart from these recalls, which should all have been resolved long ago, the decision to buy an S-Cross should be based on history and condition.

Verdict

The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross may not be a natural at the top of tow car users' lists, but to ignore it would be to do it a disservice. As long as you don't ask too much of it, it'll tow happily, and it won't cost too much, either.

It's a good companion when driven solo, and roomy enough for five adults (just) and plenty of luggage. Best of all, the SX4 is available for bargain prices.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross - need to know

How much? £5000-£11,500

The SX4 S-Cross isn't the sort of car in which people tend to do a high milage, so there are many low- to average-mileage examples out there.

A budget of around £5500 will net you an early 1.6-litre petrol SZ3 with a mileage of less than 80,000 on the clock, while a similar budget can get you a 1.6 diesel with a similar mileage.

Increase your spend to £8000 and you can get a high-spec 1.6 SZT with fewer than 30,000 miles showing.

You'll need to double your budget to £16,000 if you want one of the Boosterjet engines - we'd say they're worth it.

What will it tow?

  • Kerbweight 1260kg
  • 85% match 107kg
  • Towing limit 1200kg
  • Noseweight limit 75kg

How much is a towball?

  • Witter swan-neck towbar £156.53
  • Witter detachable towbar £247.96
  • Fitting extra (from pfjones.co.uk)

What about servicing?

  • Interim service £94.46
  • Full service £127.68
  • (Prices from servicing stop.co.uk)

The good and the not so good

Top tug: 1.4 SZ5 BoosterJet Allgrip

Engine gives a good mix of towing strength and fuel economy. Standard kit includes heated leather seats and panoramic sunroof.

Barge pole: 1.6 SZ3 120

Doesn't have quite enough low-down torque to make pulling away with a trailer easy, and struggles the faster you go.