May 18, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 17 December 2009 11:20
It should come as no surprise that the Suzuki SX4 SportBack is somewhat unconventional. A compact economy car with a list price well south of $20,000, it comes with a number of standard features normally associated with high-end cars, including keyless ignition and a GPS system. Maybe Suzuki, long a bit player in the U.S. market, figures these add-ons will set the SX4 apart from its mainstream competitors that do not require their owners to explain why they made so unconventional a choice.What really surprised us about the 2010 SX4 Sportback was its refinement. Past Suzukis we’ve driven (and owned) tended to be rough and noisy. We put up with their essential coarseness because they were reliable and fuel-efficient, and competent in bad weather. The SX4 has an entirely different personality. Its ride isn’t punishing, its engine isn’t particularly noisy, it handles crisply, and its seats are supportive and comfortable. These are traits that would be unfamiliar to former Sidekick or Esteem owners.
Suzuki apparently copied General Motors’ marketing strategy when it set up the SX4 lines. There are two body styles, a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback, but no less than 16 different incarnations, including two with all-wheel drive. Our SportBack’s list price was $17,949, for a well-appointed hatchback with front-wheel drive and six-speed standard transmission. The range across the 16 styles is $13,359 (front-wheel-drive sedan with stick shift) to $19,949 (all-wheel-drive Crossover Touring with continuously variable automatic transmission).
The SX4’s strengths include its look, which falls somewhere between cute and edgy; its 150-horsepower engine, muscular for this class; its functional design; its high level of standard features; and its excellent visibility, which many drivers will view (correctly) as an important safety feature. Consumer Reports magazine readers have rated the SX4’s reliability as excellent.
Head room is more than adequate throughout. Rear seating isn’t too bad, as long as the driver and front passenger are willing to move their seats up a notch or two.
The SX4’s major drawbacks are driver’s leg room, inadequate for the long-legged; and fuel economy. At 23 mpg city, 30 highway, it falls well short of the competition from Toyota, Nissan, Ford and Honda. (The Honda Fit with standard transmission and front-wheel drive averaged 33 mpg in Consumer Reports tests, compared with 26 mpg for the comparable SX4.)
The SX4 earned four of a possible five stars in most government crash tests and did well in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offset- and side-impact crash tests as well, earning a “Good” rating. SportBacks and some other SX4 models are well stocked with safety equipment, including four-wheel ABS, electronic stability control and side-impact air bags for front-seat passengers.
The SX4 is not for the tall and lanky, but for everyone else, especially those with a nonconformist streak, it’s a good enough car to warrant a look.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline Four, 150 horsepower, 140 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed standard
Weight: 2,748 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Wheels: 17x6.5-inch alloy
Tires: P205/50R17 all season
Seating capacity: 5
Cargo capacity: 16 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 54 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
Fuel economy: 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
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