Those looking for a spacious, comfy and uncomplicated ride will find favour in Suzuki's new family crossover
Basic instinct: New Suzuki S-Cross ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

It is hard to make anything of it, but it certainly draws your attention to a car which otherwise looks nondescript.

With just a slight resemblance to BMW's 2-series Active Tourer. But that is not saying much either, given that design is probably not the Active Tourer's strongest suit.

If you get past its looks, the S-Cross has many traits which the family car shopper will find agreeable.

Its small one-litre turbo engine, for starters. It packs the performance of the normally-aspirated 1.6-litre found in the previous S-Cross, but attracts a much lower road tax.

The dimunitive engine is efficient, returning 100km on 6.1 litres of petrol. But for city driving, which dominated this test-drive, the consumption figure is double that.

Despite its compact footprint, it is a spacious car. Its relative tallness makes it roomier than its somewhat average 2,600mm wheelbase suggests.

It does not have fanciful electronic features, which means it has an inherent robustness of old-school cars.

Driving-wise, it is also rather old school, reminiscent of cars from the previous decade. Those who hanker for the "good old days" might find this charming.

Its comfort-biased suspension makes short work of speed humps.

The car is also relatively affordable at around $90,000, despite an emission tax surcharge of $10,000.

As mentioned, this Suzie is agreeable. As long as you do not compare it with modern offerings in the same price segment, such as those from South Korea. Compared with many of those cars, the S-Cross appears rather rudimentary.

On the go, its six-speed automatic gearbox is slow to respond to changes in driving behaviour and road conditions. And when it decides to change gear, it does so noticeably, like the cars of old.

This is queer, since the recently-launched Suzuki Swift, which has the same engine and transmission, drives a lot better.

The Hungary-made S-Cross' cabin also appears less modern than the Swift's, with a finish that is a tinge less refined - despite locally fitted leather upholstery and audio system.

The car's keyless system is another sore point. It unlocks only one door and you have to unlock the others by clicking another control on the inner door panel. In other cars with a button-activated keyless door system, double-clicking opens all doors.

In an age where tailgate operation is increasingly hands-free, the S-Cross requires you to press a separate button to unlock the boot first.

Elsewhere, the car's air-conditioning is unresponsive to temperature settings, maintaining a low fan speed in Auto mode even though the cabin is baking.

Still, there are features which are somewhat redeeming, including rear seats that recline by a few degrees which free even more knee room, a multi-function steering wheel incorporating cruise control and phone functions and paddle shifters, which are more necessary in this car than in others.

Who knows? Some folks might like its BMW-ish design.