Now let’s talk about how the S-Cross petrol drives. Under the hood is the same engine which now does duty in the Ertiga, XL6, Ciaz and also the Vitara Brezza. It is the 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally-aspirated unit making 103bhp at 6,000rpm and 138Nm of twisting force at 4,400rpm. It’s paired either to a five-speed manual or a four-speed torque converter automatic. Standard with the powertrain is the SHVS mild-hybrid system with an integrated starter generator and Lithium-ion battery helping with brake energy regeneration.
First up, the manual. Crank up the motor and the engine settles into a noiseless idle with no vibrations felt inside the cabin. Depress the clutch – which is light and effortless – and you’d notice how smooth and slick-shifting the gear lever is. Once on the move, there’s an ample amount of low- and mid-range grunt to effortlessly cruise around the city. With the max torque available in the mid-range, it’s where the motor feels the happiest. We also noticed how tractable the motor is. There’s no need to downshift from second- or even third-gear puttering around congested city traffic. However, go over 3,000rpm and the motor gets vocal. But this isn’t an unpleasant din you hear. It instead is, a lovely bawl of a naturally-aspirated four-banger.
So for quick overtakes and a sudden burst of acceleration it is best to keep the engine between 2500-4000rpm. Even though the peak power arrives close to redline at 6000rpm, you never really need to rev all the way to get the most out of this engine. Which means the engine remains mostly unstrained, be it for city usage or highway commutes. Having said that, there’s no way of knowing that the mild-hybrid system is working in the background. There’s, however, a display on the MID screen letting the driver know when the battery is recharged under deceleration, or when it’s aiding the engine in the torque assist.
As for the automatic, the four-speed torque converter is smooth and convenient at sedate speeds. The shifts aren’t noticeable at all and even in kick-down, there’s little to no delay. We don’t expect it to be as quick-shifting or smooth as a dual-clutch unit or a CVT. The torque converter does the job brilliantly in the city. But the limitation of this four-speed unit is felt on the highway where the performance would have felt more relaxed with more cogs since this one’s got fewer gears to play with. In terms of fuel efficiency, Maruti Suzuki claims the motor could do 18.55kmpl paired with a manual, while the automatic is good for 18.43kmpl.
The ride quality in the new S-Cross is still on a firmer side, especially at slow speeds. So the occupants might feel each bump and irregularity inside. But it must be mentioned that the ride doesn’t get to a point of being uncomfortable. It does get better as the speed increases and the S-Cross manages to flatten out everything in its path with ease, even those unexpected potholes on monsoon-ravaged roads. What’s more, the crossover feels planted at triple-digit speeds as well. Meanwhile, the steering is well-weighted too and has good feedback. Although it’s not the quickest, it is direct and remains like that at higher speeds. Lastly, the brakes do a solid job of stopping this 1640kg (gross) crossover as well.