2011 Suzuki SX4 Review
By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating:
What's Significant About This Car?
Suzuki's SX4 Sport, introduced in the 2008 model year, was and remains an attempt by Suzuki to enter the mainstream of the compact sedan segment, whose mainstays - the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla - are perennially among the best-selling sedans in North America. Unfortunately, the SX4 Sedan (a low-volume price leader) and more expressive Sport entered a mainstream category with a swollen profile and without a swollen promotional budget. In transforming the attractive 5-door Crossover (a product of Italy's ItalDesign Studios) into a more conventional 4-door they went in-house. And while the oversized greenhouse is great for visibility and ingress/egress - especially for those born before World War II - it's not so great in profile, coming closer to resembling Toyota's discontinued Echo than today's Corolla or Yaris. That said, in its Sport guise the SX4 is fun-to-drive, and with its new-for-2010 SportBack it's (again) fun to look at.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you enjoy a fun-to-drive platform for minimal expense, the SX4 Sport and SportBack deliver it in spades. Although not as responsive as those "hot hatches" that dominate the category, the SportBack constitutes a great combination of sporty handling and genuine utility. And for those families on a budget, the Sport Sedan offers comfortable seating for four - and one of the most expansive trunks in the compact segment.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If, while shopping in what has become a mainstream segment, you prefer a mainstream brand, Suzuki - despite some twenty-five years in the U.S. as an automotive importer - is not prepared to deliver. Its six-figure sales volume in 2007 and 2008 was built on rebadged Daewoos which (thankfully) are no longer part of the product mix. Niche vehicles like Suzuki's SX4 have a place in the U.S.; a prospect needs to determine if they have a place in his or her garage.
With significant upgrades taking place in 2010, this year is more about fine-tuning. Rear seat side airbags bump its safety score in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ratings - now a "Top Small Car" - and an updated navigation system includes additional info, including flight arrival/departure, lowest gas prices (as if...) and Google search.
Driving the SX4
At its launch in the fall of 2007, automotive media were - in large part - pleasantly surprised by the SX4 Sport's driving dynamic. One would credit good suspension design...
and control (standard KYB shocks), credible braking via 4-wheel discs, and steering with a seemingly direct connection to the front wheels for the surprised reaction. And having shed the Crossover's all-wheel drive and enhanced ground clearance, its sporting credentials were firmly in place. Four model years later, however, there are a number of new entries vying for the same value dollar, and while improvements to drivetrain enhance the SX4 family numerically, the overall impression is one of "sporty" rather than "sport" in the 4-door, and "warm" rather than "hot" in the hatch.
In this segment, "sport" can mean as little as a vinyl applique or dealer-installed wing. To Suzuki's credit, on the SX4 Sedan it provides a well-integrated aero package, beautifully executed alloy wheels, 50-series rubber and well-controlled suspension. And with a laundry list of comfort/convenience features as standard, it remains well under $17,500. If shopping for an affordable, sporty car, regard the SX4 as your "Eureka" moment.
With so many vehicles - and especially small cars - sacrificing glass area for swoopy architecture, the greenhouse of the SX4 Sport is almost unique. Great for in-town maneuvers, and expansive for the over-the-road travel, the generous sightlines make car travel a far more engaging experience. An added benefit to the high roof, of course, is easier access to the Suzuki interior.
2011 Suzuki SX4 Details
At the time of its 2008 introduction, the SX4 Sport's interior was - at least in Suzuki showrooms - a revelation. And while updated in 2010, it remains only a satisfactory solution at an under $20K price point. The affordable segment is quickly moving on, with a host of new entries (Fiesta, Mazda2) joining a long list of updated - or soon-to-be-updated - established players. To its credit, the Sport and SportBack instrument panel is well organized, seating is supportive and rear seat cushions aren't compromised by the short-ish wheelbase. The 5-door gives you the versatility of an available 43 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seat folded, while the 4-door provides a very generous trunk - along with the security of a trunk.
Suzuki claims the SX4's face was inspired by a traditional Japanese Kabuki mask. Regrettably, the greenhouse was inspired by - we think - the Popemobile, looking less-than-congruent when blended with the structure's relatively low beltline and penetrating hood. With that, we'll admit it provides generous interior room and great outward visibility - while the longish rear overhang (the 4-door is some 14 inches longer than the 5-door) provides an exceptionally large trunk. Credit also goes to the Sport's aero package, which (while added on) is well integrated into the overall shape. We're biased toward the 5-door SportBack, which suffers no visual imbalance, and is equally fun to drive.
Suzuki's value proposition is never more evident than in the standard content available throughout the SX4 catalog. Standard safety features are heavily emphasized, and fully appropriate to the young family target. Eight standard airbags, 4-wheels discs with ABS and electronic force distribution (Sport and SportBack) and tire pressure monitoring system (when was the last time you checked tire pressure?) add up to a feature-filled argument for its purchase. Add navigation in the Sport (all trims) and credible audio (with XM capability) and you have a proper environment for both the short commute and cross-country travel. We'd also provide a shout-out to the Sport's KYB shocks, attractive 17-inch alloys and competent 205/50-17 rubber.
On the 2011 Suzuki SX4 Sedan, the Anniversary Value Edition adds 17-inch alloys, rear discs, remote keyless entry and paddle shifters (CVT) to what is described as last year's "LE Popular Value Package." Sport SE offers all of the goodness of the SX4 Sedan, and adds rear discs, aero body kit, integrated navigation, cruise, the 17-inch alloys and available Bluetooth hands-free operation. In the SportBack, opt for Technology and you'll receive the integrated navigation, advanced information (when does your flight leave?) and a larger, more aggressive rear spoiler. (With all of the above features, you'll want to stay planted.)
Under the Hood
Suzuki's new-in-2010 2.0-liter four provided a slight improvement in power (to 150) and torque, while adding a much-needed element of smoothness and a small bump in fuel efficiency. We were less pleased by the move from a 5-speed manual to the current 6-speed, which is simply less precise. For those preferring to opt out of a clutch - some 97 percent of the buying public - the CVT constitutes a wholesale improvement over the earlier 4-speed automatic. With the SX4 you won't race for a title, but with its affordable purchase point you might actually see the title.
2.0-liter in-line 4
150 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
148 horsepower @ 6000 rpm (CVT)
140 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/30 (manual, Sportback), 23/30 (CVT, Sportback, Sport), 23/33 (manual, Sedan), 23/32 (manual, Sport), 25/32 (CVT, Sedan)
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