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Fuelling a new strategy for the S-Cross

S.Muralidhar | Updated on August 27, 2020 Published on August 27, 2020

Dumping diesel, Maruti is crossing over to a petrol engine for this vehicle. Will it set fire to the sales chart?

It was Dieselgate that really fanned the flames of the global bias against oil burners in passenger cars, contributing to a furthering of the perception that diesel is a dirtier fuel.

Back home, the rising awareness about the urgent need to cut emissions, the unease about the transition to the more stringent BS6 emission standard and the falling fuel price differential have been the reasons for the recent migration away from diesel cars. Many manufacturers are still expecting diesel cars to constitute a significant portion of their volumes. But the current negligible fuel price differential between petrol and diesel could lead to diesel cars falling by the wayside.

The country’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki, has been sending mixed signals about its strategy to continue with diesels — with a sort of reversal of an earlier announcement that it plans to exit diesel powertrains. The brand has, however, signalled its intention to move away from oil burners, even though a few of the current models may still continue to be offered with diesel options. For Maruti, it also doesn’t make sense to independently develop small diesel powertrains now. It would be an expensive proposition if the volumes are proportionately high. Till now it has been sourcing its diesels from Fiat.

Cutting its dependence on the DDiS (Fiat multijet) diesel engine, Maruti has launched the S-Cross now with only one petrol engine option. It is curtains for the 1.3-litre diesel powertrain in the affordable crossover from Maruti’s stable. Instead, company engineers have plonked the K15B engine in the S-Cross; the same petrol engine that is already buzzing under the bonnets of the Ciaz, Vitara Brezza, Ertiga and the XL6.

Maruti retains its typical conservative style, and carries this engine over in the exact same state of tune too for the S-Cross. Thankfully, the Smart Hybrid system also gets carried over and the combination delivers enough performance to keep the S-Cross on a roll. Also, finally, the S-Cross now gets a 4-speed torque converter automatic gearbox.

Positioning

The S-Cross has been stuck in an uncomfortable niche since its launch. Being a crossover that resembles an overgrown hatch, it hasn’t been able to woo buyers who have been increasingly gravitating towards the SUV body-style.

The S-Cross isn’t priced at the level of a B+ segment hatch, frankly can’t be, because it is longer than four metres.

The facelift of three years ago has bumped up its SUV flavour with the more aggressive vertical slatted bonnet grille and large headlamps with LED elements.

It is still a crossover and though its first run wasn’t so blistering, sales have been seeing a steady tick thanks to the kind of value it offered. Even though customers have matured since, the new petrol S-Cross will still need that VFM strategy going for it given how buyers are spoilt for choice with the number of SUVs currently available in the vicinity of ₹10 lakh.

Performance

The K15B petrol engine has become a trusted workhorse for Maruti, and it is not surprising that this has been chosen for the S-Cross even though in terms of performance it is lower than many competitors’.

The 1,462cc engine delivers 103hp of peak power at 6,000rpm and 138Nm of torque at 4,400rpm. Given the mass migration to automatics, it is good to see the S-Cross finally get a 4-speed torque converter transmission. The test mule I drove out of the NEXA showroom in Chennai last week was the 5-speed manual transmission version.

The petrol S-Cross is now being offered in four different trim levels (three for the auto).

The engine is not exactly sprightly, but there is a considerable amount of shove available to exploit in urban driving conditions. Tipping the scales at just over 1,100 kg, the S-Cross’s relative lower weight helps and the manual gearbox’s ratios have been selected based largely on a city user’s expectations. There is some amount of assist from the Smart Hybrid tech with the dual Li-ion battery system.

But don’t expect it to zip eagerly on the highway like the Swift would. In fact, in the handling department too, the new S-Cross petrol won’t tuck in and wrap around corners like the Maruti hot hatch can. But overall handling and road manners are still acceptable with well-contained body roll, good braking (all four disc brakes) and a stable ride. There is also a decent amount of feedback coming through at the steering wheel.

The suspension quality is what helped establish the distinction between NEXA cars and the others; the S-Cross petrol carries the banner with a ride that keeps occupants comfortable on bad roads and even when you go over speed bumps at relatively higher speeds.

Design and features

The package being offered in the new petrol S-Cross is largely the same as the outgoing diesel version. The car remains almost identical in terms of design and features, both the exterior and the interior. The vertical chrome slats in the bonnet grille and the clear-cut crystal finished headlamps with the DRLs define the S-Cross face. These features, along with the raised stance and the faux fender cladding, help give the S-Cross some amount of rugged appeal. The cabin continues to be the same too with the centre-mounted touchscreen infotainment and the trademark multi-function Suzuki steering wheel dominating the fascia. The all-black colour theme is nicely elevated with silver accents and leather inserts.

The cabin is also well-insulated and the pendulum-mounted engine’s refinement manages to counter a lot of the noise and vibration. Given its dimensions, the S-Cross is more spacious than hatches and sub-compact SUVs. But, larger SUVs such as Kia Seltos and Hyundai Creta would offer more space. The S-Cross cabin is still missing a few features that buyers in this segment are increasingly asking for, like a sunroof, rear aircon vents, connected car tech, etc. The petrol S-Cross does, however, get stuff like cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and auto headlamps.

Bottom line

The S-Cross petrol may leave diesel fans feeling disappointed. But then there aren’t likely to be many of them in this segment. But fans of efficiency will still be relieved to know that the new S-Cross’s mileage is rated at 18.55kmpl (18.43kmpl for AT). Prices start at ₹8.39 lakh for the Sigma manual and go up to ₹12.39 lakh for the Alpha AT.

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Published on August 27, 2020
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