S-Cross Review: Capable engine marred by insipid styling

File photo of Maruti Suzuki S-Cross. The car manufacturer has hiked its prices up to Rs 9000. (HT Photo)


Would you like to spend Rs 12-15 lakh for a car made by Maruti?

That is the question the market leader is asking customers with what it calls its premium crossover - S-Cross. Read on if your response to that question is even remotely positive. Else, you already know you don't want this car howsoever capable it may be.

Styling: Not so premium after all

Unlike a Duster or a Creta, S-Cross by definition is not an SUV but a crossover, something that treads the mid path between a small car and SUV. Designing a sandwiched product has many handicaps but the disappointment at the uninspiring design cannot be hidden.

It matches the Renault and Hyundai in terms of dimensions but thanks to a lower ground clearance and a long bonnet, S-Cross doesn't have the road presence of the other two. There is a sense of deja vu in almost everything in the car.

The swept back headlamps are big and wide reminiscent of the erstwhile SX4 sedan. Like Creta and Scorpio, it gets LED parking light. Why are these not day-time running-lights - we have no idea.

It has a familiar Maruti face and the bits with scruff plates in the front, side and rear are an attempt at sprucing things up. Yet they, along with the black cladding around, look forced. It is easy to miss this car and S-Cross will not invite a second glance on the road.

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The curves on the rear, the central hexagon reminds of Duster in first sight. (HT Photo)

Interior: Feature rich but lacks creativity

The car has a familiar all black interior design with a touch screen infotainment system borrowed from the Ciaz to impart a bit of premium appeal.

The list of features is exhaustive and Maruti has not left anything to chance here. There is push start ignition, leather seats and upholstery, navigation system, cruise control, 60:40 rear split seats, tilt and telescopic steering wheel and rear parking sensors and camera.

On the safety front, dual airbags and ABS are standard, which is not the case with the other cars in the segment. The rear seat can also be reclined and is spacious enough for three adults, though the seats lack ample thigh support. The boot is also on the smaller side at just 350 liters and rear AC vents are missing.

The interiors work well overall, though for the top end variant you cannot say if it belongs to a Rs 15 lakh-car.

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The dashboard and all-black interiors of S-Cross give a familiar Maruti feel. The infotainment system from Ciaz add to the premium appeal. (HT photo)

Performance : Maximum torque in this segment

S-Cross is the first car from Maruti to get Fiat's 1.6 litre diesel engine, something that has been denied by the Italian firm all this while. And the company has put it to good use. There is no petrol engine on offer and the other diesel powerhouse is the familiar 1.3 litre engine. But as in the case of Creta and Duster, it is the more powerful version that deserves attention.

In terms of outright power at 120PS, S-Cross rubs shoulders with the others but a high torque of 320 NM elevates it in no uncertain way. In this version, there is no turbo lag and dollops of torque are available throughout the power band.

Lower ground clearance aids the car's handling as well and it is well at ease both in city traffic as well as the highway. While Duster with its overall rugged appeal and road mannerisms is still some way off, at high speeds S-Cross is more sure footed than the Creta.

For those in love with Maruti, the DDiS 320 gives them another reason to brag. For the doubters (read Hyundai fans), it will come as quite a surprise.

Fuel economy: Kitna deti hai?

A perennial question that has to be asked of a Maruti product. The company claims 23.65 kmpl for the 1.3 litre engine and 22.7 kmpl for the 1.6 litre powertrain. Given Maruti's credibility in this department, we would be inclined to say S-Cross is the most fuel efficient vehicle in this segment.

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S-Cross has entered the well flooded competitive segment of compact SUV but as a crossover. Will it race ahead because of its Maruti brand image?

Verdict

Barring the uninspiring looks of the car, the other big problem with the S-Cross is its steep price tag. At Rs 8.34-10.75 lakh for the 1.3 litre version, it is Rs 1 lakh cheaper than competitors. But the high point of the S-Cross is the 1.6 litre version and Rs 11.99-13.74 lakh, it does not score high on value for money.

Maruti has tried to project S-cross is better and more premium than Hyundai's perfect SUV Creta, not just by Nexa, but also by the higher price tag. But Hyundai scores another upper hand when it provides Creta's top variant with six airbags, while there are just two airbags in the top S-Cross variant.

S-Cross is a feature rich nimble crossover and a definite upgrade over other Maruti cars but not quite in the same league as a Creta. Bad styling has been the bane for many a capable cars: Renault Lodgy's spectacular failure is an apt example of that.

Since it is a Maruti, S-Cross will not meet the same fate but this is not the car that pushes the envelope the way Maruti intended to. Nexa would need much more than this to succeed.

(Share your views about the S-Cross with #HTAuto. The author tweets as @sumantbanerji)

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