A well-built interior and sound dynamics are some good reasons to give Suzuki's S-Cross a closer look.
In recent years, Japanese carmakers such as Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota have demonstrated the growing diversity of smaller car-based vehicles that offer the styling, space as well as functionality of an Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV). We call these crossbreed compact crossovers.
Suzuki was late to this party, but its all new S-Cross could be worth the wait. First unveiled at the 2012 Paris Motor Show as a concept, the production version came to life at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.
From the classy HID head lights blending into the sculptured fenders to the bold character lines leading to the back, Suzuki's design team has delivered a sophisticated look, which is contemporary and well-proportioned without being too 'edgy'.
The S-Cross may not be the most distinctive-looking crossover around, but the roof rails and skid plates play a part in giving the car some added oomph and complete a chunkier outlook.
Part credit also goes to the car's increased dimensions. Measuring 4,300mm x 1,765mm x 1,575mm (L x W x H), the S-Cross has grown longer by 165mm, wider by 10mm but lowered by 30mm as compared to its predecessor.
Designed very much with the European market in mind, the 'Made-in-Hungary' S-Cross ushers Suzuki into an era of changing demands from carbuyers.
Looking at the new S-Cross, it's safe to say Suzuki is back on form in the styling department. Firstly, it looks a lot more like an SUV than just merely a car on stilts as compared to the outgoing SX4 hatchback.
The S-Cross has a rugged off-road stance, which is given extra appeal thanks to the attractive 17-inch alloy wheels.
HID headlamps and LED Positioning Lamps contribute to a sophisticated-looking front fascia.
Climb onboard the S-Cross and you'll discover a neatly styled and logically laid-out cabin. As with the exterior, the cabin isn't the most eye-catching around, but the blue-ringed instrument dials and silver trim along the air-con vents help to lift the ambience.
While the cabin's design may not grab much attention, there's somehow a strong feeling of honesty about the S-Cross. It is highlighted by quality materials that look like they're going to be very hard-wearing.
It's really easy to get comfortable behind the wheel and the flat-looking leather seats are surprisingly supportive and soft to the touch.
The S-Cross is also a very well-equipped vehicle with features such as automatic head lights, a factory fitted touchscreen entertainment system with steering wheel mounted controls, a dual-zone climate control system as well as a keyless access and ignition system that come as standard.
At the same time, the car's wheelbase has increased by 100mm to 2,600mm, which translates to more legroom for rear passengers.
Over the previous generation, the S-Cross' practicality has improved dramatically. Although the car's overall length may have increased by 165mm over the SX4 hatchback, the cargo area has expanded from 270 litres to 430 litres.
The S-Cross is powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. Paired with a CVT transmission, this hardworking unit may seem a little strained if you're in a hurry. Otherwise, under normal driving, there is enough mojo to move through the city or along the highway.
Like Nissan, Suzuki is right on top of CVT development - unlike some earlier efforts, the one in the S-Cross operates well with significantly less 'droning' under acceleration and can also be used as a seven-speed sequential manual with steering wheel paddle shifters.
Like most crossovers, the S-Cross feels right at home on the road where it spends most of its time. It feels comfortable, light and easy to manoeuver, with quick and well-weighted steering and a decent amount of grip from the switchable ALLGRIP four-wheel drive system.
While a crossover isn't expected to deliver driving thrills, the S-Cross is surprisingly engaging from behind the wheel. The good news is that the nimble handling doesn't come at the expense of comfort. Supple suspension means the S-Cross soaks up bumps and ruts on the road perfectly while keeping body roll in check.
The Suzuki S-Cross has strengths and weaknesses in equal measure, but what could sway it for buyers is its price ($129,900 as of 8th January 2015) and the amount of standard equipment.
With a reputation for building reliable, fun-to-drive small cars, Suzuki has managed to do it again with its new S-Cross.
As the saying goes, it's better late than never.