Review: 2007 Suzuki SX4
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The new Suzuki SX4 crossover vehicle is by far the lowest-cost all-wheel-drive car sold in America, and thus has no direct rivals.
Japan's Suzuki made its name in America with motorcycles and small SUVs, but it's an ace at making economy cars with reasonable prices. It has a bigger name in Japan than America, but trendier vehicles such as the SX4 promise to give it a higher profile here.
All-wheel drive is becoming increasing popular on crossover vehicles, if only because many are being bought instead of less economical 4-wheel-drive SUVs. And the SX4's all-wheel-drive system is especially appealing because it has a unique 3-mode operation.
How It Works
The system has no low-range gearing for tough off-road use because the SX4—(S)port (X)-over for (4) seasons—fits in an expected booming market for small economy cars such as the new Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa—none of which offer all-wheel drive.
Starting at $14,999, the SX4 is a 4-door hatchback with a large cargo area. A high roof allows impressive headroom, but drivers with long legs may wish that their seat moved back farther. And there's no surplus of rear knee room for 6-footers. Suzuki calls the SX4 a 5-seater, but only four adults fit comfortably.
Cargo room is impressive when the split-folding back seat is tumbled forward. While rather high, the cargo opening is wide.
The base $14,999 SX4 has a precise, positive 5-speed manual transmission, while the top-line Sport lists at $16,399 with that gearbox. Add $1,000 to each trim level for a 4-speed automatic transmission, which shifts efficiently but soaks up some horsepower.
However, some cost-cutting can be seen. For example, the driver-side sun visor vanity mirror has no light and there's no mirror to be found in the front-seat side passenger sun visor.
Worth Extra Money
Safety features for both trim levels include anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution and front- and side-curtain airbags.
However, while in-town acceleration is lively, the SX4 has just average freeway/highway performance with its rather small engine because it's heavy for its size at 2,849 to 2,981 pounds, partly because of the all-wheel-drive system.
Estimated fuel economy is 24 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway with the manual gearbox and 24 and 30 with the automatic transmission. The weight prevents the SX4 from being very economical for its class, although the lack of sky-high fuel economy might be considered a fair trade for the superior all-wheel-drive traction.
Fun to Drive
The quiet interior has easily read gauges and nicely placed controls. Front seats provide comforting side support, and a large windshield and glass area allow good driver visibility. A nice touch is a gearshift position indicator in the gauge area with the automatic transmission.
This new Suzuki has enough distinctiveness, roominess, features and driving enjoyment to be competitive in the crossover vehicle market.
American Suzuki reported record sales in 2006 with 100,990 units sold—up 23 percent over 2005. But Suzuki showrooms need to attract more shoppers, and the SX4 promises to pull more of them in.