Clever package delivers
The Suzuki S-Cross has a sporty appearance.

The SUV is the golden retriever of user-friendly, functional transport for busy families with growing kids. It is to the active family what the dual cab is to the tradie - with the bonus that men aren't embarrassed to be seen driving a sports utility vehicle.

Rarely inspiring or offensive, these do-it-all packages come in various shapes and sizes but all are mandated to be practical. An SUV must be easy to live with, comfortable and perform a range of duties.

Suzuki's latest SUV, the S-Cross, is a bigger yet lighter replacement for the SX4. It looks "modern- Euro", with a slippery aerodynamic roof line sloping downwards at the rear, and classic clam-shell bonnet up front.

Bold headlights with must-have LED inserts sweep backwards, merging into strong body lines moulding into contoured shoulders along the side. Smart 17-inch alloys clad in sticky 205/50 rubber complete the sporty appearance.

Luring me in with a promise of things to come, when I opened the door I felt like I was getting into a different vehicle. The perky exterior had given way to subtle shades of grey in a subdued, logical layout belied by the sharp modern exterior styling. But it had the usual list of expected creature comforts, from dual-zone climate control to cruise control, and it's a large, comfortable space with a good capacity of 430 litres.

Comfortable seating, a quiet cabin and a half-decent seven- speaker stereo and there's not much left on the wish list. Fit, finish and material coverings are standard Suzuki fare, with everything in its place.

The rake of the dash adds to the feeling of spaciousness, while rear seating retains reasonable headroom despite the tapered roof line. The rear cargo area will swallow most shopping loads and there's a split- level floor for stowing important gear. As with others the "fold-flat" floor almost goes flat.

The S-Cross has an almost go-kart sensibility of fun around town. For a little high-riding wagon this SUV's suspension, steering and brakes are noteworthy. The long spring travel soaks up bigger bumps yet is firm enough to retain a flat stance through corners. Braking is progressive and reassuring - never taxed even with four adults on board and a load in the back.

Steering is light and responsive.

The S-Cross puts some fun back into driving. Handling is far better than expected thanks to a stiffer body construction and slimming down an impressive 110kg on the SX4, despite a growth in overall proportions.

But the S-Cross is a trade-off between performance and economy. Left to its own devices in Auto mode during short stop-start trips, the willing 1.6-litre petrol coupled to the indeterminate CVT transmission feels lethargic, needing a firm right foot to stir things along.

Too smart for its own good, the CVT prematurely up-shifts unless you intervene with the paddle shifters to liven things up.

It's an easy drive in busy traffic, happily accommodating the demands of the busy family. Certainly worthy of consideration, the S-Cross retains sporty good looks and ride comfort in a user-friendly package delivering respectable economy and reasonable performance when you feel like provoking it.

VERDICT
The S-Cross won't delight everyone but it does a good job of blending a range of capabilities into one neat and tidy package: roomy, comfortable, quiet and well appointed.

SUZUKI S-CROSS
Model: GLX FWD
Price: $29,990
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol
Outputs: 86kW/156Nm
Transmission: CVT automatic
Thirst: 5.8 L/100km

NISSAN QASHQAI
Model: ST
Price: $28,490
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Outputs: 106kW/200Nm
Transmission: CVT automatic
Thirst: 6.9L/100km

HOLDEN TRAX
Model: LTZ
Price: $27,990
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol
Outputs 103kW/175Nm
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Thirst 7.6L/100km

HYUNDAI ix35
Model: Active 2WD
Price: $26,990
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Outputs: 122kW/205Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Thirst: 8.4L/100km

The West Australian

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