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Suzuki SX4 (copyright image)

The Suzuki SX4 2WD hatch .....
priced from $19,990 (manual transmission).

ROAD TEST:   Suzuki SX4

by Ian Barrett

1st March, 2009

Home > Road Tests > Suzuki

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 proveda winner for Suzuki, with a healthyincrease in sales in the compact car segment, despite a slowing market toward year's end.The SX4 has attractedlots of consumers looking for an economical 2.0 litre, value-packed car for less than $20,000.

We'venow 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 litreengine, 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 marketing gurus....

Suzuki SX4 (copyright image)

Ian Barrett with the
Suzuki SX4 FWD hatch.

Our test car was finished inflawless "Bluish Black" metallic paintwork, which we personally findquite attractive, but may notbe the first colour choicefor our recent heatwave conditions. Nevertheless, the SX4 hatch is a very attractive looking vehicle,mimicking themore upright body style and seating of a small SUV. 'Meaty' 205/60 x 16" tyresadd tothe SX4's purposeful look, as well as providing decent levels of grip. Thisconfiguration, together with the large external mirrors and A-pillar sidelights,means better all-round vision for driver and passengersthan most of its 'class mates', as well as a surprising amount ofhead and leg roominside, despite having a marginally shorter wheelbase.

Inside, there's a refreshingly clean and modern dash layout notunlike that ofits little 'brother' the popular Swift, but with a nicely raised centre profile lending itsomewhat more style. We found the vertical brushed aluminium highlights a particularlynice 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 movevia 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,powermirrors 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 (averageand 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 positionenhances legroom, too. We found the seats offeredquite goodcomfort 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 aslide-out tray beneath the passenger seat helps somewhat. There are door pockets, front and rear cup holdersand apassenger seat shopping bag hook.

Suzuki SX4 (copyright image)

Webelieve the SX4 isa 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 lenda degree of versatility not commonin 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 earnedreputation for beingmechanically 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 doubtdue 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 beadvisable here!

And finally, safety. The entry model tested naturally has dual front airbags, but misses out onthe side and curtainunits fitted to the 'S' model. Butat least the 4-wheel disc brakes (ventedfronts, solid rears)docome withABS with EBD and BAS. One notable absence from the SX4 range, evenfrom the options list at this point in time, is ESP. We expect Suzuki will be addressing this before too long.

Webelieve the SX4 isa 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.


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