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Test driving the Maruti Suzuki S Cross

May not be 'one a penny' but the Maruti Suzuki S Cross is certainly a hot cake from the Indian manufacturer

Do you know how dachshunds came to be? They were specifically bred by German breeders sometime in the early 18th century to hunt badgers. 'Dachs' in der Deutsche means badger. Using a combination of breeds, the Germans were able to create a dog that had all the qualities of a hunting hound but with the added advantage of miniature proportions that would allow it to scurry down a badger hole. A sort of cross, if you will.

 

Although you might think we are looney to compare, a modern crossover isn't very different. Firstly, it's created by combining the desirable elements of two different types of vehicles. Secondly, it is purpose bred. The purpose in this case is the offer of passenger car-like comfort and driving dynamics with the flexibility of use and rugged looks of an SUV. The latest crossover comes from India's largest passenger car manufacturer in the form of the Maruti Suzuki S Cross.

Maruti in fact, is calling a spade a spade by marketing this product as a 'crossover' and not a compact SUV. In more ways than one, the S Cross is reminiscent of the now discontinued SX4. The latter was designed (through a collaboration between Suzuki and FIAT) as a crossover. Only in India was it sold as a sedan. Although Maruti Suzuki

claims that the S Cross has no relation to the old SX4, there are resemblances. At least visually. The list of features inside the well-appointed cabin however, is all new. Keyless entry is standard across all variants and trim levels, as are power windows and electrically adjustable rear view mirrors.

The S Cross boasts well appointed interiors that feel premium. Pics/Rommel Albuquerque
The S Cross boasts well appointed interiors that feel premium. Pics/Rommel Albuquerque 

As you scale up the trim-ladder, there's a touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, auto climate control, push-to-start button, auto headlamps, auto wipers and more. On the safety front, every trim level gets at least one airbag as standard fitment (two in higher trim levels) while seven of eight trim levels get the benefit of ABS.

Quality of material used inside and fit and finish levels are improved over other Maruti products and justify the company tagging the vehicle a 'premium' product. Seats are comfortable and provide decent all round support; rear seats are split 60:40 for added flexibility.

For powering the car, you have two engine options — the tried and tested 1.3 DDiS with 90 PS and 200 Nm of peak torque on tap along with a new 1.6-litre diesel engine, its 120 PS and 320 Nm of max twist force being transmitted to the front wheels is via a slick shifting six-speed manual gearbox.

The 1.6-litre DDiS is the new 1,598 cc engine that will be seen for the first time in India
The 1.6-litre DDiS is the new 1,598 cc engine that will be seen for the first time in India 

As far as refinement goes, the new engine performs well. In terms of driveability too, there is a good mid- and top-end performance, making the S Cross an able highway cruiser. Where it probably could do with some improvement is in the bottom-end grunt. The engine has a sizeable turbo lag and, until you hit the 1,750 revs where the peak torque is delivered, the car's progress seems lacking in urgency. Once past that zone however, the vehicle darts ahead with an alacrity that might catch you unawares.

Whatever the shortcomings of the S Cross, ride quality surely isn't one of them. Set up on the softer side of life, its pliant suspension irons out most road irregularities, making for a plush and comfortable ride over varied terrain. Dynamic abilities at slow and medium speeds are at par for the course. However, push it hard and cracks appear in the otherwise composed visage.

 

Drive it hard through a series of S-es and you'll realise that the body roll never really goes away (a result of that soft suspension). A steering that is somewhat vague at dead centre doesn't help the crossover's case either. And, like virtually all front-wheel-driven cars, the S Cross understeers.

No, the S Cross isn't perfect. But then, which car is? To Maruti's credit, the company has risen to the challenge with what is undoubtedly a premium product that offers practicality, refinement, a well-appointed interior and decent looks. They may just have another winner on its hands, provided the price is right.

Need to know
Engine: 1,598 cc four-cylinder inline, common rail diesel injected, turbocharged
Max Power: 120 PS @ 3,750 RPM
Max Torque: 320 Nm @ 1,750 RPM
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Price: Rs 8 – Rs 12 lakh (estimated)

1.6-litre DDiS
With the S Cross, Maruti Suzuki will launch another product that is the result of a Suzuki-FIAT collaboration, albeit this time, it's in the form of an engine. The 1.6-litre DdiS is the new 1,598 cc engine which will be seen for the first time in India, and produce a healthy 120 PS at 3,750 RPM and 320 Nm of maximum torque at 1,750 RPM.

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