There is a joke that does the rounds between us motor noters, which is that almost every other car company in India would love to have a car that Maruti, the Indian automotive industry’s 800-pound gorilla, considers a flop. There are so few Maruti ‘flops, and even when you think of a car that has failed from Maruti (because you did not see huge numbers), you discover that sales have been rather good. That brings us to the S-Cross, a car that most would consider a poor performer. The outgoing model sold around 2000 units a month; those are numbers that would have made the marketing chiefs of some other manufacturers pop the Moet, but they didn’t satisfy the million-and-a-half unit a year Maruti machine.
There were some decent reasons for that. The first was that the S-Cross was the guinea pig for the Nexa premium sales channel that Maruti-Suzuki opened. The second (and in my opinion the bigger reason) was that the S-Cross went head-to-head with the Hyundai Creta, which had been launched a couple of months earlier, and despite the fact that the Creta had a higher sticker price, it started flying off the shelves. The S-Cross undercut the Creta in price, a similar feature set and, thanks to the 1.6-litre DDiS 320 engine under the hood, actually performed better, while it also came with the standard 1.3 diesel motor. Still, burdened with a pretty dull advertising campaign, it just didn’t crack the market. It wasn’t as if Maruti had lost its mojo, since the S-Cross was followed into the market by the Baleno and Brezza (both of which still have multimonth delivery waitlists); the S-Cross just lacked that ‘X’ factor, particularly on the looks front.
Now, you have the new S-Cross, and Maruti has worked on the ‘X’ factor, or in this case the ‘XY’ factor, because this new iteration looks like it went to the gym and worked on its upper body. It looks so much more brutish, with the massive chrome-plated grille, the new bonnet, a new headlight cluster with daytime LED lights and projection headlights as well as fancy new alloy wheels. This is the proverbial tale of the weakling buffing himself up. However, you’ve heard that story of what happens when you use steroids, right? Your gonads become gonots, and that is the main story here.
Thanks partially to GST and also the market, Maruti has decided that the S-Cross will henceforth only be equipped with its 1.3-litre DDiS engine, the same motor that we have known since the Swift first gained it a decade ago, and the one that does service on almost everything that wears the ’S’ badge. Now, this is not a bad engine at all, but in its higher state of tune, it produces only 89 horsepower, which feels piddly in a Brezza – in this car, it feels even more anaemic.
The 1.3 DDiS is a proven, capable and efficient engine and the GST provisions have increased the cess on cars with engines over 1.5 litres, but because I’m loathe to blame GST for all ills, the S-Cross’ new feature answers that for me. This car has Maruti-Suzuki’s ‘smarthybrid’, although it’s basically a ‘semi-hybrid’. It does not have a battery pack, just a bigger battery like the Ciaz and Ertiga, which allows for a start-stop system and one that uses electrical power to ‘fill in’ the gaps as you accelerate, as well as generating some energy from braking.
The boffins at the Finance Ministry, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen to tax hybrids more than standard cars. Why they have done so is beyond my limited brain power, with the connections between my neurons damaged after the smoke from a few too many burnt clutches. This means that the cess that a buyer will pay on this car is already in the highest bracket, and that makes the engine choice even weirder. Sure, most people who buy the S-Cross would never even contemplate moving it out of the city, but having driven the old 1.6-litre engine on the S-Cross outside Nashik a couple of years ago, I recall having a blast with the car.
The old car was more of a ‘chhupa rustom’ as we might call it, a silent performer. The new one certainly looks the part, and coupled with a great price, starting at Rs 8.49 lakh, the S-Cross is priced very similarly to the Brezza, of all things, and it is very good value. However, when as a motor noter you drive a car and look at the package – looks, interiors and so on – you really, really think it could do with a bit more juice.
Suzuki S-Cross Specs
Engine 1.3-litre diesel
Max power 89 bhp
Peak torque 200 Nm
Transmission 5-speed manual
What we like: Rugged new look
What we don’t: The loss of the 106-litre engine