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Redesigned aggression!

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 08, 2018 Published on October 05, 2017

Power under the hood The S-Cross’ engine gets electric motor assistance S MURALIDHAR   -  S Muralidhar

Maruti’s crossover gets a facelift and the plug-in of smart hybrid tech

Maruti Suzuki’s new premium sales channel NEXA was launched to coincide with the introduction of the S-Cross. It was the first car to go on sale through NEXA outlets and despite the relatively poor performance of the S-Cross, it remains a very important vehicle for the company. This was also one of the first vehicles to really deliver the message that the quality of ergonomics and engineering for ride and handling of a Maruti can be as good as it gets globally in the mass market segment.

But the S-Cross didn’t take off and deliver the kind of volumes that some of the other new Marutis like the Baleno and the Ciaz have managed. In a rare instance, Maruti also corrected the S-Cross’ price post-launch, another reason why it could have put off potential buyers. But its biggest weakness was its design.

The S-Cross was probably a bit of an early entrant being a crossover coming into a market that was predominantly biased towards sports utility vehicles. To make matters worse, the S-Cross was too simple looking and lacked a strong off-roader or crossover character. But it had the size and the build needed to position itself in the segment.

With new competitors like the Renault Captur entering the fray, the S-Cross needed a facelift. Maruti Suzuki India has done just that with the new 2018 S-Cross.

Design

In trying to change the face and stance of the 2018 S-Cross, Maruti Suzuki’s designers have given the car’s modified front a big dose of aggression. Walk up to the front of the new S-Cross and it is immediately clear that unlike the previous model, which would have been universally accepted, this one’s design will fall into two categories — the lovers and the haters. Dominating the front of the test mule I was driving was a new multi-slat chrome bonnet grille, giving the car a toothy, ready-to-attack face. The headlamps have also been changed and the top Alpha trim I was driving sported a bejeweled combination with LED projectors and LED daytime running lights. The other big change on the front is the new hood. With sharper creases making it look more muscular, the mild clamshell bonnet design gives it the look of a power hood. The body paint shade you see in the pictures here is the new Nexa Blue colour.

The front fender also sees changes, but the overall dual-tone design with the extension into the bodyside cladding continues. As for other body panels, they have all been carried forward both at the sides and the rear. The tail-lamps at the rear sport the same overall design, though the combination has been changed to include LEDs in a new layout. The tyres continue to be from JK Tyre, but they are now wider 215/60 R16s instead of the earlier 205/60 R16s. The new JK UX Royales are a better fit offering more grip, and manage to cut down the amount of understeer in the new S-Cross.

Interior

The cabin of the new S-Cross almost seems unchanged until one looks closely at all the panels. Most of the trim elements also seem like they have been carried forward from the previous model. But, Maruti engineers tell me that many of the plastic panels are now made from much better grade materials. On closer inspection you can see that the textured panels on top of the dash are now different and feel more like the soft-touch plastics that you will find in premium models. The familiar, multi-function steering wheel and the neatly finished centre stack remain unchanged. Like many other Maruti models, there is an excess of plastic all around the cabin, but thankfully the improved quality of materials ensures that there is no glare on the windscreen. Leather-finished seats and a front arm rest is the other addition.

Space was always a plus in the S-Cross and the new model continues to offer the same levels of room. The 375-litre boot is a decent size for a hatchback and the driver’s position is another point worthy of mention with enough adjustments (including the tilt and telescopic steering) to get the most comfortable position. Like other Maruti models, the new S-Cross is also the most loaded at the top-end with the Alpha trim getting features like cruise control, auto headlamps, touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and rain-sensing wipers. Hopefully, Maruti will extend the ‘i-Create’ customisation programme for buyers of the S-Cross too. The facelifted S-Cross still misses out on a few features like a rear aircon vent, but since the main aircon is very effective, rear passengers may not miss a dedicated vent.

Performance

Pumped up by the acceptance of its smart hybrid tech, Maruti engineers have chosen to plug it into the S-Cross’ DDiS 200 diesel engine. This is the same 1.3-litre diesel engine, which had been offered with the previous model too and in the same state of tune. But, now it features the smart hybrid tech including the 2 kW electric motor, the more advanced high capacity battery for serial charging and discharge, and the related hardware like the integrated starter generator. The other 1.6-litre Fiat multijet offered with the six-speed gearbox in the previous S-Cross has been dropped.

The 1.3-litre, DDiS 200 engine is paired with a five-speed gearbox and generates 66 kW of peak power at 4,000 rpm and a peak torque of 200 Nm at 1,750 rpm. This engine is a bit raucous and suffers from a fair bit of turbolag. With a full load of passengers, the car also feels underpowered. Some of those characteristics haven’t changed from the previous model. But, NVH characteristics seem to have improved and the cabin is relatively quiet except when the engine is being pushed close to redline. Maruti engineers told me that the smart hybrid tech is tuned to offer mild parallel electric motor assistance when the battery reaches a preset about 90 per cent-plus charge from brake energy regeneration.

While on the road, I could observe that the green SHVS lamp in the instrument cluster lights up both when I take my foot off the throttle (brake energy regeneration) and at times when I gave moderate throttle input while cruising. The parallel assist from the electric motor is only barely evidenced in a mild reduction of turbolag. Auto start-stop is one of the standard features of the smart hybrid tech. Maruti claims that the tech has helped in reducing fuel consumption and emissions by about seven per cent.

Bottomline

The S-Cross is now a more aggressive package and I feel buyers who like the facelift will definitely buy into the design and the new package. There are likely to be detractors too who may think that it is overdone. But it is undeniable that the new S-Cross has more road presence; and with a lot of emphasis on safety running standard across variants, it does feel like a step-up. And who isn’t going to appreciate an improvement in efficiency from the smart hybrid tech.

Maruti has also chosen to keep the prices almost at the same level as the previous model. The 2018 S-Cross sports a price tag ranging from ₹8.5 lakh to ₹11.3 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

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Published on October 05, 2017
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