The Suzuki SX4 2WD hatch .....
priced from $19,990 (manual transmission).
ROAD TEST: Suzuki SX4
by Ian Barrett
1st March, 2009
Road Tests >
The Next Car team have previously reported on two versions of
Suzuki's SX4, the 'S' sedan and the original All-Wheel-Drive soft-roader. Helped by very competitive drive-away
pricing in the first half of 2008, the SX4 proved a winner for Suzuki, with a healthy increase in sales in the
compact car segment, despite a slowing market toward year's end. The SX4 has attracted lots of consumers looking for
an economical 2.0 litre, value-packed car for less than $20,000.
We've now had further opportunity to spend some 807 kilometres behind the wheel of the entry level SX4 hatchback.
Suzuki have often done things a little differently, and the SX4 follows suit. First released as an All-Wheel-Drive,
Suzuki has provided a front-wheel drive version to satisfy buyers with a compact and space efficient 2-wheel drive
hatchback. With a weight saving of some 70 kg, and still fitted with the same lively 2.0 litre engine, this is a
serious contender in its class, and will no doubt continue to attract a devoted following. We do find the model
designation a little confusing, though. Without AWD, we're not quite sure that 'SX4' still fits. Over to the
Ian Barrett with the
Suzuki SX4 FWD hatch.
Our test car was finished in flawless "Bluish Black" metallic paintwork, which we personally find quite
attractive, but may not be the first colour choice for our recent heatwave conditions. Nevertheless, the
SX4 hatch is a very attractive looking vehicle, mimicking the more upright body style and seating of a
small SUV. 'Meaty' 205/60 x 16" tyres add to the SX4's purposeful look, as well as providing decent levels
of grip. This configuration, together with the large external mirrors and A-pillar sidelights, means better
all-round vision for driver and passengers than most of its 'class mates', as well as a surprising amount
of head and leg room inside, despite having a marginally shorter wheelbase.
Inside, there's a refreshingly clean and modern dash layout not unlike that of its little 'brother' the
popular Swift, but with a nicely raised centre profile lending it somewhat more style. We found the
vertical brushed aluminium highlights a particularly nice touch. Controls and instrumentation are models
of clarity and simplicity. Entertainment is taken care of by an AM/FM single CD unit with MP3 function
and 8 speakers, easily adjusted whilst on the move via steering wheel mounted audio controls. We felt
that sound quality was a bit average. A CD-stacker and premium sound upgrade, are options for the more
discerning ear. Also lacking on this entry-level model is steering wheel-mounted cruise control - one of
the first option boxes we'd be ticking. Otherwise, the usual creature features are all there;
air-conditioning with particle filter, power mirrors and windows (front and rear), remote central locking,
adjustable steering wheel (height only), and a useful central information display with time, outside
temperature and fuel consumption (average and instantaneous).
We found the SX4 roomier than its compact exterior dimensions would suggest. The extra body height is
not just good for head room, but the more upright SUV seating position enhances legroom, too. We found the
seats offered quite good comfort and support for most shapes and sizes, with a good range of adjustment,
including height for the driver. There are not a lot of covered nooks and crannies for storing valuables
away from prying eyes, but a slide-out tray beneath the passenger seat helps somewhat. There are door
pockets, front and rear cup holders and a passenger seat shopping bag hook.
We believe the SX4 is a competent, stylish,
roomy and versatile car which offers
excellent value for money.
Boot space at 270 litres is not overly generous, but the 60:40 split fold rear seats come with a welcome
bonus. They have a tumble/roll configuration which allows for an uninterrupted flat load area up to a maximum
volume of 1,045 litres, very handy for those weekend get-aways. This does lend a degree of versatility not
common in this class. And for longer breaks there's always the possibility of fitting Suzuki's stylish luggage
pod, available as one of numerous 'lifestyle' options.
So how's she go, mister? The numbers suggest the long-stroke 2.0 litre 16v DOHC engine should be near the
head of the pack: 107 kW @ 5,700 rpm, and 184 Nm @ 3,500rpm. It's certainly no slouch, but ours didn't feel as
punchy as some of its European built rivals, particularly lower down the rev range. Perhaps it's the lack of
variable valve timing, or even taller gearing? And our test car's engine still felt a bit tight, which may
just hold the answer. On the other hand, we managed to improve slightly on the quoted (combined) fuel economy
figure of 8.4 L/100 km. And Suzukis have a well earned reputation for being mechanically bullet-proof, too, so
most buyers will be pretty happy on the whole.
Handling is good, if not overtly sporty. Fairly neutral at normal driving speeds, and body roll is well
controlled. Steering has reasonable feel, and overall the SX4 hatch feels much more balanced than the sedan
version, no doubt due to the combination of bigger tyres and much reduced rear overhang. But as with the smaller
Swift, the torsion beam rear end is easily upset in bumpy corners, and the ride suffers accordingly. Avoiding
Sydney roads may be advisable here!
And finally, safety. The entry model tested naturally has dual front airbags, but misses out on the side and
curtain units fitted to the 'S' model. But at least the 4-wheel disc brakes (vented fronts, solid rears) do come
with ABS with EBD and BAS. One notable absence from the SX4 range, even from the options list at this point in
time, is ESP. We expect Suzuki will be addressing this before too long.
We believe the SX4 is a competent, stylish, roomy and versatile car which, at $19,990 plus on-roads, offers
excellent value for money. And if Suzuki's of the past are any guide, the SX4 should provide reliable and
long-lived motoring well into the 21st century.