The Suzuki SX4 offers a lot of small car for the money. All models are keenly priced, making them worthy candidates for shoppers looking for small cars that are more than just basic transportation.
The lineup features a four-door Sedan, a five-door Crossover, and a new SportBack model.
All Suzuki SX4 models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's new for 2011, now making 150 horsepower and 140 foot-pounds of torque. The Sedan and new SportBack are front-wheel drive only, and the Crossover is all-wheel drive. That feature is mostly what makes the SX4 special.
All-wheel drive makes the SX4 an excellent choice for drivers who want an inexpensive high-mileage crossover with all-weather capability; in fact, it's almost the only choice, with the more costly Nissan Juke being about the only directly comparable vehicle. You can look at a Toyota Matrix or Mini-Cooper Countryman, but they raise the entry fee. The all-wheel-drive system sends up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels, giving it better traction in snow and on unpaved roads. The world's top rally cars use all-wheel drive for its superior traction and Suzuki has been running the SX4 in the World Rally Championship, proving it has the right stuff.
The Suzuki SX4 Crossover, a four-door hatchback (also called a five-door), offers cargo versatility and looks like a mini-SUV. (Suzuki sometimes calls this car a Crossover and other times a Hatchback.) The SX4 Sedan offers responsive handling and packs worthwhile features into a tidy package. With just front-wheel drive, the Sedan achieves a small bit better fuel mileage than the awd Crossover's 22/30 mpg with the manual transmission. That's improved for 2011, with the new 2.0-liter engine.
The SportBack is a new model for 2011, and follows the popular European version, with a lower ride height, performance shocks, stabilizer bars, four-wheel disc brakes, and 17-inch alloy rims with wider profile (205/50) all-season tires. That equipment is also available on the Sedan with Sport trim. It offers more precise cornering and a firmer ride. Basically, the new SportBack has the Crossover hatchback body style, with Sedan Sport front-wheel-drive powertrain and suspension, wheels and tires.
The Suzuki SX4 comes mostly well equipped for its low price. A Garmin navigation system with features like weather, airline schedules and Google search is standard, along with halogen headlamps, 60/40 split rear seat, and for 2011, eight airbags. However there's a big exception to its being well-equipped: stability control, although standard with the Crossover and SportBack, is unavailable on the Sedan.
We have nothing but good to say about the SX4 interior. It's clean and simple and easy, but mostly it's all there. The black cloth bucket seats are terrific: they fit for around-town or hard cornering, they're roomy and rugged. Good high seating position, making the car feel less small out on the freeway and up against the big SUVs. Instrumentation is clean and available, knobs and dials few and perfectly ergonomic. Visibility good. Quiet inside. Good cubbies and cupholders. Well-placed driver's left armrest, good door pockets and door handles. Garmin navigation on our Crossover AWD Tech Value neatly popped up out of the dash.
The rear seat in the Crossover and SportBack offers good legroom for a subcompact. The back seat in the Sedan is less roomy, but the trunk is large.
Our Crossover AWD cornered and ran around town like a sports car, with the comfort of an SUV. Its 6-speed gearbox is easy to shift, the clutch easy to use. The new 150 horsepower revs to 6200 rpm (up from 5800 with the previous engine), the 140 foot-pounds of torque makes acceleration smooth. The SX4 is much fun to drive, something that's hard to find in a car of this price, especially one that offers this much capability and versatility.