Maruti’s S-Cross is one of those rare cars that under promises but over delivers. This is partly because you don’t expect too much from this car on first acquaintance.
Screw your eyes up, blur the lines and the Maruti crossover looks like a large hatchback. And it isn’t just the profile that is ordinary; there really aren’t a whole lot of interesting details on the car either. Those big droopy headlights don’t do much for the nose; the Suzuki grille reminds you of the brand’s humble origins and walk around to the rear, and that is anonymous too. It isn’t much better on the inside. Yes, the hexagonal centre console looks attractive and there are a few other mildly interesting bits, but the interiors in general lack the design flair seen on competitors. So you don’t expect too much from the car.
Our new long-term car, as I quickly discover, is well equipped however. The mocha brown top-of-the-line 1.6 DDis comes with all the trimmings expected of a car in this class. It has big 16-inch alloys, wide 205 wheels, keyless go, a slick 7.0-inch hi-res touchscreen, a rear-view camera, navigation and full leather seats too. Quality levels, in general, are par for the course as well. The air-con controls function in a slick manner, the dashboard top is beautifully finished and there’s a touch of class in the manner in which the gear lever is put together too. There’s also enough space on the inside for four tall passengers; as I discover driving out for a movie with a bunch of friends. And since it offers a comfy ride in town and big supportive seats with plenty of legroom, the compliments from the passengers just keep rolling in.
The 1.6-litre diesel engine also livens up the experience considerably. The Fiat-sourced engine produces an extremely useful 118bhp, but it’s the even stronger 32.6kgm of torque that’s the real star here. This, however, is a lot of power for a 1,600cc diesel,so even though the engine has a variable geometry turbo, you do get plenty of turbo lag, which also takes a bit of getting used to, especially in traffic, as I’m often lazy and try and accelerate from just 1,200rpm in the same gear. The result is a flat spot, so large and wide, the S-Cross flounders quite a bit until the boost finally comes in. Consequences, of course, include honking cabs, lost overtaking opportunities and a few choice expletives.
But this is soon forgotten once the boost cascades in, hard and strong. The S-Cross is now just catapulted forward, and I just love the way the car shoots past traffic if I keep my foot down. And what helps no end is the quick and relatively light six-speed gearbox that allows you to keep it on the boil. Yes the S-Cross makes you wait a bit, and that can be frustrating in traffic, but use the gearbox correctly and it’s an absolute riot. It even spins its wheels in second as you are pressed back in your seat.
I soon learn to drive the car in its powerband when I’m in a bit of a hurry and then the S-Cross feels extremely rapid, making up gaps in city traffic with an effortlessness that’s genuinely pleasing. And this diesel enjoys being spun fast, which only adds to the experience. How I’d love to have this engine in a Swift Sport: come on Maruti!
The S-Cross is even very capable when it comes to intercity excursions. The big driver’s seat supports my thighs and shoulders perfectly on the long drive up to a nearby hill station and because it’s basically a raised hatch, the S-Cross also feels right at home on our highways. Despite the high 180mm of ground clearance, stability at speed on fast roads like the expressway is first rate. And what also proves to be quite relaxing is the tall sixth gear that allows me to cruise effortlessly. Even nicer is just how agile it feels once we get to the narrower ‘ghat’ roads. The steering isn’t really Swift-like and feelsome, but body control in corners is nice, so I can really attack corners without it feeling too sloppy. What I particularly love is the fact that I can scythe through any and all rough patches on these state highways without a care in the world.
The day, as it turns out, proves to be a long one, with many hours spent behind the wheel. I’m not too worse for wear though, when we return late that night, and a lot of it down to just how comfortable and effortless the S-Cross is to drive. One thing’s for sure, it’s a lot ‘deeper’ and more capable than it first appears to be. A triumph of substance over style if there ever was one.