Suzuki's baby boom year begins

A revamped S-Cross and wholly new editions of the teensy Ignis and slightly-larger Swift will help keep Suzuki on the boil this year.


TWEE as it sounds, this really is a big year, at least insofar as the product change cycle goes, for the market’s leading small car specialist.

Surely no-one needs be told how important the new Swift will be to this brand? The current car has, in its time, beaten the Toyota Corolla to be our top-selling passenger car.

However, with the huge swing toward sports utility style cars, high-riding pseudo dirt-workers are also now right in the spotlight, so that means the compact S-Cross and smaller Ignis will also be important products this year.

The latter are the models that are going to command attention over the new few weeks. An updated S-Cross has just arrived – in one of two formats, at least - and the Ignis is being shown to media at the end of this week.

The 2017 S-Cross represents as a mid-life refresh, first revealed by Suzuki to the world at last year’s Paris motor show.

The most obvious visual change is up front – there’s a very dramatically restyled front end with a bold new grille, new headlights and front bumper. The main bodywork remains unchanged to what has been served for the past couple of years, yet though in silhouette it still looks a bit like the Nissan Qashqai that Suzuki used as their benchmark, the faces are no longer anything alike.

The interior has come up for slight reworking. There’s a new, more integrated 7.0-inch touchscreen now housing Apple CarPlay (no Android Auto) as well as some minor tweaks to interior trim.

Suzuki has retained the previous powertrain, a naturally aspirated 88kW/156Nm detuned version of the Swift’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol unit, in what it now calls its LTD. This sells in front-drive format for $29,990, the same money that used to attach to the original GLX model that has now been dropped, with an alternate edition with on-demand all-wheel-drive for another $4000.

However, from March that $33,990 spend can also buy another kind of S-Cross. A higher-spec edition called the Prestige that has the same 1.4-litre 103kW/220Nm turbocharged petrol engine and six-speed auto as Vitara Sport. But not the rockhopper’s four-wheel-drive. The S-Cross Prestige only avails with front-drive. That’s probably not going to matter; most crossover drivers never actually cross off dirt-driving as a ‘must try’ anyway. The reason why the updated S-Cross’s ground clearance improves by 10mm is wholly to do with it going to a larger (now 17 inch) rim size.

The attraction of the smaller engine? More effervescent performance, of course – enough for Suzuki to claim the best power to weight ratio for its class – and decent fuel economy to go with it. The claimed 5.9L/100km overall is still bested by the 1.6, but only by a piddling 0.1L/100km.

One more change. It goes back to gears. The old S-Cross was available with a constantly variable transmission that stood out only for its mediocrity. Suzuki has now dumped the gearless gearbox and given the 1.6 the same orthodox six-speed transmission, with paddle shifters, that hooks to the 1.4.

Suzuki says the model’s suspension - MacPherson strut up front and torsion beam at the rear – has benefited from European testing and resulted in a healthier combination of handling stability and ride comfort. Aerodynamics are said to have been enhanced.

Shared spec between the two models includes fog lamps, roof rails, folding door mirrors, keyless entry and pushbutton start, dual zone air, cruise with speed limiter and a seven-inch display.

Prestige befits its name by adding leather upholstery, automatic wipers and headlights, self-levelling LED headlights, sat nav and rear parking sensors.

Safety wise, the S-Cross comes with seven airbags, a reversing camera, brake assist, hill hold assist and Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology which is the company’s way of describing a body structure that absorbs and disperses energy in the event of a collision. 

Urban adventurers are also, of course, the target audience for the 1.2-litre Ignis, which delivers cute Japanese retro styling and plenty of tech features as it pushes into the compact crossover sector.

This model is powered by a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre Dualjet four-cylinder petrol engine that develops 66kW and 120Nm of torque – small numbers, yes- but enough to provide respectable performance, Suzuki believes, thanks to a bantam kerb weight of just 865kg in constantly variable transmission form, dropping to 820kg with a five-speed manual.

Pricing and specification won’t be announced until the end of the week. However, we probably only have to look to Australia to see what’s coming. Wanganui-based Suzuki NZ mainly buddies up with our neighbour on model selection these days, and they’ve also just launched Ignis, so …

Fuel economy claims for versions just released into Australia are positive. On our neighbour’s official combined cycle, the Ignis is said to return 4.7 litres per 100km in manual and 4.9L/100km as a CVT.

Despite diminutive exterior dimensions of 3700mm length, 1660mm width and 1595mm height, the Ignis is a five-seater with a 271-litre boot. That figure can be expanded to 1100 litres with the second row of seats folded.

With a short 2435mm wheelbase and city-friendly steering lock, the Ignis has a turning circle of just 4.7 metres.

The model has MacPherson strut front suspension and disc brakes, with a torsion beam set-up and drum brakes at the rear. Our neighbour’s entry GL-badged model has 15-inch steel rims with hubcaps and 175/65-section tyres, while they also enjoy a GLX that upgrades to 16-inch alloys with 175/60 rubber. A space-saver spare is standard range-wide.

Aussie customers splashing the extra cash for the GLX will get darkness-sensing, self-levelling LED headlights with the model-defining horseshoe LED daytime running lights, along with privacy rear window glass. The GL has halogen lights.

The car’s chirpy looks can be enhanced by customisation options; different mirror cap colours along with orange, white and blue trims that can be applied to the foglights, grille, headlight surrounds and alloy wheels.

The same colour theme can be added to the interior centre console and doorhandles, or a completely different colour to the exterior theme can be selected.

Suzuki is also planning to appeal to a younger audience with a broad range of user technology including a 7.0-inch central touchscreen for accessing standard navigation, reverse camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Safety is as comprehensive as the rest of the Ignis standard equipment with six airbags including curtain bags for all passengers and thorax bags for the front row, while electronic safety systems add ABS, EBD and hill-hold assist.

What of Swift? When Suzuki Japan revealed this car to its home market on December 27, it sought to create impression that the domestic version will be a bit different to the international model that will debut at the 2017 Geneva motor show in March.

Well, yes, a bit. By and large, that’s a smokescreen. There’s confidence that while Japan will take some technology that won’t be exported – notably, at least initially, a hybrid drivetrain, plus an all-wheel-drive option – appearance-wise the ‘home’ and ‘away’ products will be much of a muchness.

As the factory-supplied images show, the next-generation car adopts a sharper front end with changes including LED headlights, a sculpted lower chin and red-stripe detailing in the grille. The exterior transformation also sees the rear door’s handles repositioned into the C-pillar. Rear bumper tweaks, a moulded rear hatch and new look tail-lights also show.

Built on the Heartect platform that also supports the Baleno, it’s still a small car – with 10mm removed from the height and length – but has grown 20mm in wheelbase length and reportedly features a lower hip point to maximise interior headspace and room in the cabin.

An Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-compatible centre touchscreen, a new sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, and sporty red and white themed instrumentation feature and Suzuki has also upped the safety technology. Autonomous emergency braking, automatic headlights, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree surround view cameras, lane departure warning and a reversing camera will facilitate in Japan.

The powertrain? Well, there are two expected. The mainstream models will take a three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine while the Swift Sport is going to a 1.4.

There’s more. Both engines introduce a new feature not previously seen on a Swift: Turbocharging.

The boosted entry engine therefore makes 75kW of power at 5500rpm and 150Nm of torque from 1700 to 4500rpm, which is 5kW and 20Nm more than the current 1.4.

In Japan, the entry engine is married to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Local launch timing has yet to be discussed, but given the world debut is not until March, it's probable the current model might remain in play until around August.