Suzuki SX4 Performance
Sluggish acceleration and merely adequate fuel economy don't dampen the SX4's fun-to-drive personality. Motor Trend finds the Sport "easy and enjoyable to drive quick, especially when equipped with the standard five-speed manual that features short throws and a nice mechanical feel." The Minneapolis Star Tribune calls the sedan "fun, furious and nimble, never dull or boring."
But SX4's hatch model 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
According to The Car Connection, the SX4 Sport "starts winning friends" with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 143 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque, but there are a number who call it anticlimactic. Edmunds finds the engine light on low-end torque, and "as a result, acceleration is no better than other less powerful competitors." But reviewers like BusinessWeek say the engine "doesn't move the metal quite as fast as I'd like," considering the curb weight of both the SX4 Sport and Crossover.
Another issue is gas mileage expectations that are satisfactory but not spectacular. The Chicago Sun-Times writes the sedan "is not anywhere near the top of the list when it comes to fuel economy kings in this segment." About.com refers to it as the SX4 Crossover 's "Achilles' heel." According to the EPA, the SX4 should achieve 22 miles per gallon on city streets and 30 mpg on highways when paired with the standard five-speed manual transmission. With the optional four-speed automatic, the sedan rates at 23 mpg in the city and 31 on highways. With all-wheel drive engaged, the SX4 nets slightly less: 21/28 with both manual and automatic.
Handling and Braking
The 2008 SX4's handling is responsive; the steering crisp and the braking firm. Several reviews say this is due to a shared chassis with the Swift, a Suzuki sedan available on the European markets. As the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, the SX4 "got through the gears well enough, steered precisely, and took a good bite in the corners, thanks to its relatively wide tires and track. The car was also composed in brisk turns, a gift it obtained in exchange for a pretty firm ride." BusinessWeek finds a tight setup. "It lacks the tinny feel that turned me off in the Aerio," the review notes. "You can head into sharp turns with this car with considerable confidence." Cars.com says "Suzuki has done a magnificent job" tuning the performance-tuned shocks and front and rear stabilizer bars "to satisfy the whims of sport-inclined drivers." MSN notes, "Steering is properly weighted with good on-center feel, and the ride is solid without feeling numb." The four-wheel anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution "require only light pedal effort to operate and are receptive to changes in pedal pressure," Cars.com reports. Kelley Blue Book says the car "reacts confidently to driver inputs, even without the optional traction and stability controls."
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.