Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
November 9, 2012
In 2004, if you wanted a subcompact vehicle with the ability to go off the beaten path, you would have to leave the U.S. and head to Europe to pick up a Fiat Panda 4x4. Then in 2006, Suzuki unveiled the SX4 crossover which came with the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. It was billed as the least expensive vehicle equipped with AWD in the U.S. with a base price of $14,999.
Since its introduction, the SX4 hasn’t changed much and has drifted into obscurity. Even with Suzuki adding a FWD SX4 sportback and sedan to the lineup, there aren’t that many SX4s on the road. Now for the 2013 model year, Suzuki has made some small changes inside and out, and raised the base price to $16,999.
The SX4’s exterior looks to be a modern interpretation of the first-generation Geo Metro 5-Door hatchback. Both have low and angular fronts before transitioning to tall, rounded rooflines and sloping rear ends. This shape allows Suzuki to put in a larger area of glass which makes for better visibility and makes the interior feel larger.
Other design cues to take note is a revised front end with a larger grille, sixteen-inch alloy wheels, black body cladding, rear bumper skidplate, and a new Plasma Yellow Metallic paint color.
The SX4’s interior is a textbook example of a no-nonsense environment. You won’t find any contrasting interior pieces or many luxuries. There are hard plastics used on the dash and door panels, but they look and feel solid. Build quality is high with no panel gaps or rattling noises.
Front seat passengers get cloth-covered seats that are very comfortable and feature a decent amount of adjustments. On this particular SX4, the front seats were also heated. Backseat passengers will appreciate the large amount of headroom thanks to the high roofline. What they won’t appreciate is the lack of legroom, especially to those who are tall.
This particular SX4 was equipped with a new 6.1-inch touchscreen system which provides navigation, traffic, AM/FM radio, CD, USB, SD Card, Bluetooth, and Pandora streaming. The system is very intuitive and feels responsive. The navigation data and maps for the system are provided by Garmin. While the graphics look like something you would find in the mid-2000’s, the system provided good data and was able to get me where I needed to go. The Pandora streaming works by plugging your smartphone via USB to play your stations. I found the system wouldn’t play the station I had listened to last on the phone. I found that if I switched to another station and then changing back, the station would begin playing. I’m not sure if this if a problem with the system, Pandora, my phone (iPhone 4S), or a combination of the pieces.
Next: Power, AWD, Driving, and Verdict
Powering the SX4 Crossover is a 2.0L DOHC inline-four producing 148 HP and 140 lb-ft of torque. The power is sent through a CVT and down to either the front-wheels or to all four-wheels via Suzuki’s i-AWD system. The 2.0L engine is satisfactory in this application. Most times, you’ll find the engine provides enough power to get you around town with ease. There are times though where you do wish the car had a bit more torque when merging onto an expressway, though the CVT does an excellent job of keeping you right in the engine’s power band.
Much like the Kizashi that I had in for review back in August, the SX4 Crossover has a switch to turn the AWD system on and off. There are three different settings for the AWD system,
- Off: Leaves the AWD system off, power is sent to front-wheels
- Auto: AWD system kicks on when the system detects a loss of traction
- Lock: AWD system is always on
I had the opportunity to test the SX4's AWD system through some of the terrible storms that Hurricane Sandy pushed into my area, and I'm happy to say the SX4 and I pulled through.
Fuel economy was a huge disappointment for such a small vehicle. The EPA rates the 2013 SX4 Crossover at 23 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. My week’s average was around 24 MPG on mostly suburban and rural roads. On the freeway, I got around 27.1 MPG.
The SX4 crossover’s suspension is made up of Macpherson struts up front and a torsion-beam setup in the back. For steering, Suzuki employs a hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion system. This combination makes the SX4 a good partner when you have the urge to take a spirited drive as it keeps the vehicle stable and the steering provides enough feel and weight.
But what about the daily grind? How does the SX4 crossover fare? Very well. The suspension provides enough damping to minimize bumps and imperfections on the road. Also, there isn’t that much wind noise entering the cabin. There is a good amount of road noise though.
Finishing up my time with the Suzuki SX4, I realized there are many similarities to it and the Kizashi I had in for review back in August. Both vehicles make excellent cases for themselves, but have a few nagging problems. In the SX4’s case, the positives are a unique AWD system, fun and comfortable handling, decent CVT, and simplistic interior design. Problem areas are the poor fuel economy, rearseat legroom, and Suzuki itself.
Which is pretty sad since the Suzuki SX4 crossover deserves more attention than its been getting. Now with the recent news of American Suzuki Motor Corporation filling for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and closing down its automotive branch, it brings attention the SX4 has been longing for. The SX4 is no-nonsense hatchback crossover that has AWD traction and a low price-tag. Combine it with Suzuki's promise to honor warranties on vehicles and you have one of the best values on road. If this interests you, you should head out shortly since it might not be long before the SX4 crossover is gone forever.
Handling during spirited and normal driving
Suzuki honoring warrenties
Fuel Economy with the 2.0L
Suzuki saying farewell to the American car market
Disclaimer: Suzuki provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline.
Year - 2013
Make – Suzuki
Model – SX4 Crossover
Trim – AWD Tech Value Package (Nav)
Engine – 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, CVT
Horsepower @ RPM – 148 HP (@ 6,000 RPM)
Torque @ RPM – 140 lb-ft (@ 4,000 RPM)
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/29/25
Curb Weight – 2,954 lbs
Location of Manufacture – Sagara, Japan
Base Price - $20,449.00
As Tested Price - $20,704.00* (Doesn’t include Destination Charge)
William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.