I have had a tough time convincing people who phone us for car-buying advice that the S-cross is not a hatchback. The main reason, of course, is the way it looks; on the ‘crossover spectrum’ it leans far more to the ‘car’ end than the ‘SUV’ one, with its rounded shape, low roof and seemingly low ground clearance. What’s more, for many potential buyers who call us, further damage is done in the showroom, by incentive-hungry salesmen pushing the S-cross to those unhappy about the Baleno’s long waiting period. Meanwhile, in the office, our brown S-cross DDiS 320 has a long waiting period of its own. It’s been a hit with anyone who’s ever driven it on the highway and its fan base just keeps growing. The punchy 1.6-litre diesel motor that’s unique to the S-cross, tall sixth gear, good high-speed stability and the best steering feel we’ve experienced on any modern Maruti, makes it exceptional to drive once you’ve left city limits.
Maruti’s Smartplay touchscreen infotainment system is one of the best for the money, and the voice command feature is very convenient as you don’t need to take your eyes off the road to make a phone call. The folks at home like the comfy rear seat and I personally like the high-set driver’s seat, which is quite well cushioned and a snug fit for me.
While out-of-town family journeys have been comfy for all, I do not enjoy driving the S-cross in traffic, as the clutch has gotten really heavy and is only getting worse by the day. This is only compounded by the weak bottom end, which forces you to shift gears often at lower speeds, making for a good workout. Another thing we didn’t like was the standard tyres the car came with – a set of JK Elanzo 205/60 R16. For what we know to be a dynamically sorted car, these tyres didn’t let you exploit the best the chassis had to offer.
Luckily, the good folks at Bridgestone just happened to have a new sub-brand of tyre – the Turanza –that they wanted us to try out, and they sent across a set in no time. Meanwhile, our friends at RaceDynamics seemed to have a solution to minimise the turbo lag – a dual-channel DieselTronic piggyback ECU. Unlike the standard DieselTronic, this one also controls the boost pressure. Now while the effects of both these upgrades (which, incidentally, aren’t very expensive, should you want to try them yourself) are easily felt with a quick drive, we want to spend some more time out on the highway to really get to grips with them. A detailed report will be carried shortly and we’ll also talk about our experience after the S-cross comes back from its third service.