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Sunday, 24 October 2021
THERE used to be a perennial argument that simmered among British motorists about whether an automatic gearbox was better than a manual one.
I’m not sure that this controversy exists today because younger motorists seem to favour automatic transmissions in their cars.
Indeed, many smaller and affordable cars that attract first-time drivers have automatic transmissions as an option.
What reminded me of this old chestnut between “old school” motorists was when I got behind the wheel of this week’s drive, the Suzuki S-Cross 1.4 SZ5 Hybrid Auto.
The S-Cross is a good smaller SUV (sport utility vehicle). I have said in the past that it is a convincing player in the sector and that everything good about it emanates from the front-end design.
Now comes my first drive in a Suzuki S-Cross with an automatic transmission.
Given the continuing debate referred to above, and after having spent time with this automatic model, I think I would plump for the manual gearbox in the S-Cross.
The reason is that when it comes to automatic cars I have found that not all automatics are equal.
One of my favourites is the DSG. This direct-shift gearbox is an electronically-controlled, dual-clutch, automatic gearbox that is smoothness personified.
The first dual-clutch transmissions were derived from Porsche’s in-house development in the Eighties.
That obviously raises the question of cost, as always, and the S-Cross is a very good value for money car.
The optional six-speed automatic transmission for the S-Cross was introduced in March 2021 for SZ-T 2WD and SZ5 Allgrip models.
So, overall, I think this transmission option is fine but in my opinion it needs some refinement.
Time and again, when I first engaged the gearbox, I had to check that I was in automatic mode and not in manual.
I switched on the engine and engaged the gearshift into automatic mode but it would regularly slip straight away into the M position for manual.
You can still drive using manual gears on the S-Cross because when you slip the gearshift into manual (M) you are able to use paddles on the steering wheel to change gear. By the way, if I thought my driving style was at fault here I would say so, but I think there is some refinement needed in the way this S-Cross auto-gearshift works.
That said, the S-Cross Hybrid offers great value for motorists who want a smaller SUV with hybrid technology to improve fuel economy and up their green credentials.
Plus, with the Allgrip feature, the S-Cross is a great off-road option.
The 48V hybrid powertrain for the S-Cross adds less than 15kg to the overall weight of the vehicle.
The system consists of a 48V lithium-ion battery, integrated starter generator (ISG) and 48V to 12V (DC/DC) converter to power components requiring lower voltage, including lights, audio and air conditioning.
Based on engine speed and throttle position, the engine judges when the driver will accelerate and then uses the electric motor to add additional torque.
This achieves up to 20 per cent lower CO2 emissions than before at just 127g/km for 2WD models with manual transmission and 20 per cent improvement in overall fuel consumption to 50.1 mpg (both WLTP regulation).
The four-mode Allgrip system offers:
• Auto mode: this prioritises fuel economy in typical driving conditions and uses two-wheel drive by default. It switches to four-wheel drive if it detects wheel spin.
• Sport mode: optimal for twisty roads and makes maximal use of four-wheel drive in accordance with accelerator inputs.
• Snow mode: good for snowy, unpaved, and other slippery surfaces. The system uses four-wheel drive by default.
• Lock mode: designed for extricating the car from snow, mud, or sand. A limited slip differential helps brake any slipping wheel and transfer torque to the gripping wheels.
Standard equipment for all models is comprehensive and the SZ4 model includes seven airbags, Radar Brake Support, alloy wheels, DAB Radio with CD, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, Adaptive Cruise Control, auto air conditioning and front and rear electric windows.
The SZ-T model adds 17-inch polished alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, keyless entry with start button white stitching for seat trim fabric, smartphone link audio and navigation system.
Moving up to the SZ5 adds leather upholstery with heated front seats and a panoramic sunroof.
The Suzuki S-Cross is available in six different shades, of which one is a solid colour, plus five optional metallic finishes.