While the styling is insipid, the S-Cross has generous cabin space, refined engine and handles well. But is Maruti right in charging a premium for its ‘premium’ car that will be sold only at ‘premium’ showrooms?
We are driving a new car from Mumbai to Nashik. As we stop at a local restaurant on the highway, a crowd gathers around our review vehicle. Some love the way it’s designed, others find its styling dull. Some find the cabin luxurious, others think the plastic quality could have been better. Some find it very spacious; others find fault with the seating position.
You may love it, you may hate it, but in India you just cannot ignore a Maruti, especially if it comes with a ‘premium’ tag. That’s the S-Cross for you.
First of all, the S-Cross is a crossover vehicle, not a compact SUV—that Maruti will launch in a few months’ time—so any comparisons with Renault Duster or Hyundai Creta won’t do justice to the car. Look at it from any angle, and you will notice the profile of a large hatchback, rather than a compact SUV. The S-Cross gets a sloping roof, sporty stance, elegant contours and an aerodynamic body—all of which give this crossover a unique personality. Adding to the style quotient are wheel-arch extensions, alloy wheel design, integrated roof rails, outside rear view mirrors with integrated turn signals, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlamps, and front and rear skid plates. Despite these embellishments, the S-Cross doesn’t come across as a stunner—the design is not in the league of the i20 Active.
However, its unusual styling, some design experts feel, can grow on people with time.
The exterior styling might not appeal to everyone, but the cabin surely will. The dashboard has a neat layout and all-black interiors look elegant. The hexagonal shape on the centre that surrounds AC vents and the SmartPlay infotainment system looks good too. (SmartPlay touchscreen is equipped with Bluetooth, smartphone and media connectivity.) The dashboard is soft to touch and the steering wheel gets audio and voice controls—there is also a voice-command feature that enables you to give verbal commands for navigation, playing music and making phone calls. The visibility from the driver’s seat is very good and even the outside rear-view mirrors are mounted on door shoulders to help maximise the driver’s field of view. The rear seats are very spacious and the S-Cross gets a two position seat-back adjustment in the rear seat which can be adjusted as needed. However, there are no rear AC vents.
The S-Cross, as expected, gets rear-parking camera and sensors. Safety features such as dual airbags, all-wheel disc brakes and ABS are standard, which is not the case with other crossover cars. The boot space is an impressive 350 litres.
It is the first Maruti vehicle that is being offered with only diesel engine options—the Fiat-sourced DDiS 200 and DDiS 320.
The 1248cc DDiS 200 generates a peak power of 88.5 bhp and a torque of 200Nm@1750rpm. It gets a turbocharger that leads to good acceleration and best-in-class fuel-efficiency. It is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.
The 1598cc DDiS 320 is the biggest diesel engine offered by Maruti Suzuki. It generates a power of 118 bhp and a massive torque of 320 Nm@1750rpm. It gets a Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT), which gives optimal forced induction by controlling the flow of exhaust gases in accordance with the engine speed. It is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
There is no automatic gearbox.
While the DDiS 200 is a proven motor—it has been powering all Maruti diesel cars except the Celerio diesel—what deserves a special mention is the DDiS 320. The engine’s 118 bhp of power and 320 Nm of torque are available as soon as it reaches respectable speeds, and from there on, it is surprise all the way. The power delivery is linear and the need to change gears is minimal. In fact, on the sweeping Mumbai-Nashik highway, the S-Cross very comfortably did high three-figure speeds. The handling is spot-on and the acceleration through the gears is so good that even overtaking long trailer-trucks just requires a slight dab on the accelerator. The company-claimed fuel-efficiency of the DDiS 200 is 23.65 kmpl and that of the DDiS 320 is 22.7 kmpl.
And now, the price. The DDiS 200 ranges from Rs 8.34 lakh to Rs 10.75 lakh. The DDiS 320 ranges from Rs 11.99 lakh to Rs 13.74 lakh. Clearly, this Maruti not only comes with a premium tag but also premium prices. And it will be sold at premium showrooms, too—the Nexa. So, will the S-Cross sell as well as other Maruti vehicles? Unlikely. One, every Maruti sells because of the company’s vast dealership network, but the S-Cross will be sold only through Nexa (currently 35 showrooms in 23 cities). Two, while the S-Cross scores high on premiumness and packaging, most buyers will still find prices too steep. Three, while the S-Cross, to an extent, proves that Maruti has the ability to produce brilliant cars, it also shows that the company is yet to master design language the way Hyundai has done. And good design sells.
(Prices are ex-showroom, Delhi)