BY BRIAN BYRNE
MIGHT as well be clear from the start — this is a competent, comfortable, and quality compact SUV.
It’s the third generation of what used to be known just as the SX4, and has connections to the old Baleno saloon and even a Fiat once sold as the Sedici.
Targeting the competition of a range of cars available here, the key ones in the SX4 S-Cross’s sights are Renault’s Captur, Skoda’s Kamiq, and Peugeot’s 2008. Visually it looks like there’s more car than any of those, a trick of the very strongly-designed new front.
Sheet metal changes on the profile and rear are also significant in the successful modernising of the previous car introduced in 2016. Bigger it may look, but the key dimensions remain the same as on the outgone model.
The biggest difference inside is a new dashboard design, executed in high quality materials and including a neatly sized high definition centre screen that isn’t overly cluttered with information.
What it does display is a credit to good graphic design.
There’s a disappointment in the primary instruments cluster carryover that the choice of light colour on light colour for the speedometer and tachometer makes them unreadable in any level of daytime brightness. Fortunately a digital speed readout is one of the options in the between dials information cluster.
There’s good room inside, with enough headroom to make the SX4 S-Cross a good family car option. For me, not needing to stoop painfully low getting in was a welcome bonus.
I was pleasantly surprised by the ride comfort, and the quietness of the SX4 S-Cross. Maybe it’s an imaginary by-product from the definitely better look of the car, but it certainly felt that it soaked up well the all too common road irregularities around some areas of where I live.
The badge on the back says ‘hybrid’, but it needs to be stressed that this is ‘mild’ hybrid, where the starter-generator system simply recuperates power on the over-run and braking, and stores it in a small rechargeable battery to boost acceleration without bumping fuel consumption.
This allows a better overall fuel performance than a petrol engine on its own, but the system does not make for EV driving at any point.
The engine is peppy, with 127hp available from the main unit and 13hp more when the battery power boost comes in. A full hybrid version of the SX4 S-Cross is an imminent option, using the 1.5 ‘strong’ hybrid power unit already available in the Vitara.
The six-speed manual is an easy and precise operation, though there is an automatic which can be specified. I have to admit disappointment that the review car wasn’t the expected auto version, but the manual was no hardship at all.
The equipment levels are good, in safety terms there’s blind spot warning, weaving alert if you get sleepy, and lane departure warning if you drift out of line. There’s a good reversing camera, heated front seats, and the entertainment-navigation system integrates nicely with smartphones. In short, pretty well all you require and few unneeded gizmos.
Bottom line, when you look at the big picture, the latest SX4 S-Cross has kept all the good that its predecessor had — and also looks better.