Avg. Price Paid:$5,732 - $6,727
Original MSRP: $15,339 - $18,189
MPG: 21 City / 28 Hwy
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2008 Suzuki SX4 Wagon Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Suzuki SX4 Wagon was new.

The all-wheel drive 2008 Suzuki SX4 gets both an acceptable score and performance ranking because its pleasant drive is mitigated by a heavy curb weight. Still Road and Track calls the SX4 a "genuinely competent recreational vehicle, one that offers … a solid chassis and an adequate engine."

But the SX4 wagon is more of an urban commuter than a long-distance, high-speeds performer. The Washington Post says, "Ride, acceleration and handling: The SX4 performs beautifully in all three categories in city driving. But it has the finesse of a little pig on the highway."

Acceleration and Power

Under the hood the SX4 wagon has a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that puts out 143 horsepower. It's paired with a five-speed manual transmission, and a four-speed automatic is optional. The engine is adequate and even zippy at times, but it can be sluggish due to the wagon's hefty curb weight. The Crossover weighs in at 2,800 pounds with the manual transmission and 2,877 with the automatic.

Car and Driver finds engine power "good enough for second place when judged next to the engines in seven econoboxes we tested last year." The reviewer reports 0-to-60 times of 9.1 seconds, and notes they were "hampered by a transmission that killed the power after each shift." Edmunds says "the extra poundage holds the SX4 back from reaching its full performance potential … the Suzuki's powertrain is stressed by the car's mass."

Although the SX4's engine is plenty adequate for city driving, it lacks power on highways and when merging or passing. Edmunds continues, "Is it perky enough for tooling around town at under 40 mph? Sure. It's when you need a little more oomph that the SX4 falls short. Merging onto the freeway is an act of bravery. Zero to 60? Um, eventually."

Fuel economy also leaves most reviewers disappointed. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates it at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway with both automatic and manual transmission. With all-wheel drive engaged, the SX4 nets slightly less: 21/28 with both manual and automatic. Edmunds calls fuel economy "significantly less ambitious than the rest of the subcompact class" and About.com refers to it as the SX4 Crossover 's "Achilles' heel." Later, About.com says, "The big engine, low gearing and the weight of the all-wheel-drive system … takes its toll on mileage." But a few reviewers give the Crossover the benefit of the doubt. Newsday finds "competitors do better" in terms of fuel economy, but notes they "also have less power" than the SX4 Crossover.

Little is said regarding the engine's two transmission options. Consumer Guide finds the standard five-speed manual "acceptable…as long as you shift frequently." The Auto Channel calls it "fun but not especially smooth." Meanwhile, Cars.com says "when matched with the five-speed manual transmission my test vehicle felt 'zippy' if not outright speedy."

Reviewers who do mention the transmission seem to prefer the manual. Consumer Guide says the pokey automatic " noticeably saps power." The New York Times, however, calls it as smooth-shifting automatic that does "a fine job in mixed city and highway driving."

Handling and Braking

The SX4 handles enjoyably well despite its hefty weight. MSN writes, "The SX4 is fun to drive. Its steering is quick and it has nimble handling with a wide track, fairly large 16-inch wheels and front/rear anti-sway bars. The ride is comfortable, despite the lack of an independent rear suspension, and the brakes allow short stops."

The Orlando Sentinel calls the ride "straightforward -- not too cushioned and not too harsh." Similarly, Road and Track describes handling behavior as "predictable and easy to control, especially considering it has a live rear axle. Anti-roll bars at both ends keep the car from leaning too much during turns, while the suspension does a commendable job of soaking up potholes and other road irregularities." However, while Cars.com finds the ride "relatively smooth compared to others in the class," Newsday reports, "The ride is typically choppy for this size class."

The SX4's power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering also invites mostly good reviews. New York Times calls it "solid and agile" and Consumer Guide says it's "quick, nicely weighted." Another plus is the SX4 Wagon's excellent maneuverability, thanks to its relatively small size and 35.4-foot turning radius. The Orlando Sentinel says "the trim, little SX4 was a breeze getting into and out of parking spaces, particularly parallel parking spots in congested downtown … And I never hesitated to make a U-turn."

The SX4 comes standard with four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution. Braking performance nets mixed opinions. Car and Driver notes, "Good and bad credit is due to the all-wheel-drive system, which helps grip but adds weight, and extra pounds hurt braking and acceleration." Edmunds says braking numbers are only "average for the class," but adds "the brake pedal had a good feel and the ABS behaved quietly and consistently." Cars.com similarly notes, "Its brake pedal response isn't as firm as in a Honda, but it is above average and adds to the overall feel that this is a substantial car to drive."

All-Wheel Drive

The SX4 Wagon's star feature -- or its "best party trick," as the New York Times terms it -- is three-mode Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive (i-AWD), which comes standard on both trims. Essentially every reviewer points out the good value and uniqueness of the system. In fact, several say the SX4 Crossover offers standard AWD for less money than any other car on the market.

The three-mode system is operated via a rocker switch next to the parking brake. It features a 2WD position for everyday front-wheel driving on paved roads -- and for achieving maximum fuel economy. For traction in slippery and snowy conditions, the i-AWD Auto position supplies 0 to 50 percent of the engine power to the front and rear axles. A third position, i-AWD Lock, is meant for severe weather and sends 30 to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels. Once the SX4 Crossover hits 36 miles per hour, Lock mode automatically switches back to i-AWD Auto. Note that the SX4 Crossover lacks low-range gearing and is not intended for off-road use.

This system is highly capable. Edmunds says "if you get blasted by a snowstorm, it's got your back," and later writes, "At the test track our best runs through the slalom (62.8 mph) and skid pad courses (0.77g) are good for a subcompact, and were achieved using the auto AWD mode which increased driver control through these extreme exercises." The Auto Channel writes, "I pushed it on the new snow in the automatic mode with no perceptible wheel spin."

But the one downside to the all-wheel-drive system is the weight it adds to the car, which takes a toll on fuel economy. For that reason, some reviewers wish Suzuki would offer the SX4 in a version without all-wheel drive.

Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

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