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Maruti S-Cross Petrol Automatic: First Drive Review


Can a new, more powerful petrol engine and an automatic transmission revive the fortunes of the flagship Maruti?

After the Gypsy’s sendoff and until the arrival of the Jimny in India, the S-Cross is the only lifestyle offering in Maruti’s lineup. And as a lifestyle vehicle, it needs to be fun and exciting to drive. Lucky for it then that the older 90PS diesel is now replaced by a 105PS petrol engine. It also gets an automatic transmission for the very first time. While you do pay a premium of Rs 1.2 lakh for the automatic variants over the manual petrol, these manual-petrol variants are up to Rs 50,000 less expensive than the older diesel manuals. Can a small price change and a more refined petrol engine revive the fortunes of the flagship Maruti?

Because Maruti hasn’t changed anything else on the S-Cross apart from the new powertrain, we are going to focus on the driving aspect in this review. You can check out the details of the looks, interiors, space and practicality in our older review.

Refined!

We have seen this engine and transmission combination in several Maruti cars such as the Ertiga, Vitara Brezza, XL6 and the Ciaz. In fact, the S-Cross is the last of the lot to get this update. This 1.5-litre, four-cylinder engine assisted by the Smart Hybrid tech makes 105PS at 6000rpm and 138Nm of torque at 4400rpm. Maruti is offering the S-Cross with a 5-speed manual and a 4-speed torque converter automatic that we are driving today.

And like in those other cars, the strength of this engine is its refinement and ability to pick up speeds in a linear manner. It even sounds just the way a petrol engine should: smooth and refined. Until you reach 3000rpm, you can barely hear it inside the cabin. Vibrations too are kept well under control and this motor is as smooth as you’d want your daily driver petrol to be.

Maruti has tuned this engine and transmission setup for a smooth drive experience, hence performance is a bit laidback. 0-100kmph sprint takes 14.43 seconds and the in-gear acceleration from 20-80kmph takes a good 8.40 seconds. Brakes of the S-Cross are impressive in the city and offer a good bite and feel from the paddle. But when we tested the emergency braking in the rains, the braking distance of 53.59 metres from 100-0kmph was quite a bit more than what we expected.

Another big strength of this engine is its ability to pick up speeds from a low rpm. When you go for a smooth overtake, the engine with its 138Nm of torque and mild electric-assist lets you surf that wave and make for swift acceleration. But what you miss is a surge of power, even if you go hard on the gas. The downshifts and subsequent acceleration is still sedated and won't come close to pushing you back in the seat, restricting you from making quick overtakes inside the city.

Even on the highways, the S-Cross can cruise comfortably at triple-digit speeds. It sits comfortably at 2500rpm while doing 100kmph in the fourth cog. It even builds speeds in a linear manner beyond that. But again, overtaking will require planning as there is no surge of power in the rev band.

Where Are The Horses?

While this engine is relatively new, this transmission has been around for ages. The age of the transmission can be felt in the shifts as they are a tad bit slow. That is one of the major reasons why the S-Cross’ drive lacks excitement. To make these shifts feel as smooth as they are, the power had to take a back seat. The S-Cross is really smooth to pick up from standstill and the gear changes, though noticeable, are seamless and won’t let you complain if you are looking to commute or cruise. Inside the city, the drivetrain won’t make you think twice about it and the transmission gets the job done in an appreciable manner.

But when you go for quick overtakes, there is no rapid acceleration. This is so to maintain a smooth and refined experience. Combined with the slight ‘rubber-band effect’ of this transmission, you will find yourself sitting behind smaller cars in traffic. Even on the highway, you can quickly get into the third gear by clicking the overdrive button on the shifter, but the acceleration remains underwhelming. This will become bothersome on a dual carriageway. On inclines or hilly roads, you might have to lock it in second to get a quick move on.

This automatic cruises and commutes beautifully but if you’re craving excitement, you might have to look at the manual.

Less Active Ponies = More Efficiency?

While the S-Cross could prove to be more efficient in the city with its laid-back commuter approach over the XL6 (which is tuned for better acceleration with the same powertrain), it surely won’t be able to match the older 1.3-litre diesel’s tested efficiency of 19.16kmpl in the city. The petrol automatic would likely deliver around 13kmpl. The claimed fuel efficiency of the S-Cross stands at 18.55kmpl for the manual and 18.43kmpl for the automatic. We will perform our standard efficiency test on the new S-Cross once it comes back to us for a thorough road test.

Let’s Play!

Another impressive aspect of the S-Cross has been its ride quality. Brilliantly suited for Indian roads, it gobbles up potholes and bad roads keeping the harshness away from the passengers. Speed breakers won’t break composure either, and it even settles quickly to keep things calm inside the cabin. All in all, a sophisticated and likeable setup. However, with the new setup for the petrol engine, you do feel a bit more of the surface than what you did with the diesel engine. Dial this in with the direct-ish steering feedback, controlled body roll and decent dynamics, and the S-Cross becomes a very likeable driving package.

With a 180mm unladen ground clearance and a suspension that smoothens out bad roads, the S-Cross even gives you the confidence to get off the road and get playful without worrying about scrapping its belly. It has the potential to take you exploring but just don’t get too ambitious. And while the petrol engine misses the punch, its linear acceleration plays in favour here to control the power delivery better.

Anything New Inside?

No, Maruti hasn’t changed the look and feel of the cabin. What’s new is the not-so-new Suzuki Smartplay Studio layout of the touchscreen, seen in all Maruti cars right from the S-Presso. In the S-Cross, it feels a bit childish with the multiple colours and large icons. The older, more sober layout was better suited for the car. Also, it does not get the efficiency and trip feature on the touchscreen, which all other cars with this infotainment system do. What we wish had changed though is the MID. All other premium Nexa cars get the better coloured MID with lots of nice graphics. The S-Cross is still stuck in the dot matrix era. These aspects are a bit of a letdown for the most expensive Maruti on sale.

A Deal Uncle Scrooge Would Approve

Starting Price Maruti S-Cross Renault Duster Hyundai Creta
Manual Transmission Rs 8.39 lakh Rs 8.49 Lakh Rs 9.99 Lakh
Automatic Transmission Rs 10.83 lakh Rs 12.99 Lakh Rs 14.94 Lakh

While a reduction of just Rs 50,000 may not sound like much to switch from a diesel engine to a petrol-powered one, consider this: the S-Cross is now the most affordable car in its segment featuring SUVs like the Duster, Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos. And not just the manual, it is also the most affordable automatic you can buy in the segment.

Lay It Down

Summing up the S-Cross is simple. It’s a good looking car, with great practicality, available at a price which does make it bang for the buck. The new petrol engine makes things more refined and the automatic makes the S-Cross a better city dweller. The high ground clearance and the comfortable suspension give you the confidence to take the path less travelled and have some fun. But, if it is excitement that you are looking for from this ‘lifestyle’ vehicle, you will be disappointed and to scratch that itch, you will have to look at the manual transmission.

Variants Manual Automatic
Sigma Rs 8.39 lakh --
Delta Rs 9.60 lakh Rs 10.83 lakh
Zeta Rs 9.95 lakh Rs 11.18 lakh
Alpha Rs 11.15 lakh Rs 12.39 lakh

Coming back to the opening question: will the new engine revive the S-Cross’ fortune? Despite the new powertrain, there are no substantial changes to the S-Cross which can set it apart from the competition. Of late it has been overshadowed by newer, flashier and more expensive SUV rivals and though this new S-Cross is better, that trend of playing second fiddle continues.

Maruti S-Cross Video Review

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