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#36

in 2012 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $8,644 - $12,697
Original MSRP: $13,849 - $19,799
MPG: 23 City / 33 Hwy
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2012 Suzuki SX4 Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The Suzuki SX4 offers all-wheel drive on the Crossover model. If all-wheel drive isn’t necessary for where you live, consider other cars in the class that have higher fuel economy ratings and don’t have automatic transmissions that drain performance, like the SX4’s.

  • "A punchy 2.0-liter and eager handling with organic steering make it more fun to putter around in than most competitors. AWD option is a plus." -- Car and Driver
  • "If SX4 is on your shopping list, be sure to try the manual transmission. The cranky CVT saps much of the enjoyment from driving this subcompact." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

All SX4 models have a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 150 horsepower with a six-speed manual transmission and 148 horsepower with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is a type of automatic that uses an infinite number of gear ratios to improve fuel economy. Some reviewers say the 2.0-liter engine isn’t very powerful no matter which transmission it’s paired with, while others say that the transmission you select makes or breaks performance.

Test drivers tend to prefer the manual transmission because it accelerates and shifts gears smoothly, although one noted that the transmission felt jerky, and another noted that it doesn’t apply power smoothly. The Sport sedan with a manual transmission tops out at about 23/32 mpg, according to the EPA, while SX4s with the CVT average 23/30 mpg. If you want the automatic transmission, keep in mind that fuel economy is lower compared with the automatic, which is unusual because cars with a CVT usually have higher fuel economy ratings.

Even the all-wheel drive Crossover has low ratings for the class. It averages up to 23/29 mpg with the CVT and 22/30 mpg with the manual, which is low for small cars with all-wheel drive. For a complete list of the SX4’s fuel economy ratings, see the 2012 Suzuki SX4 specifications.  

  • "With 150 horses under the hood, the 2012 Suzuki SX4 looks good on paper. The reality, however, is that the car's relatively hefty curb weight minimizes whatever advantage the 2.0-liter engine might have to offer." -- Edmunds
  • "With the CVT, the SX4 is not slow, however it lacks the immediate throttle response of a conventional automatic. Using the CVT's manual shift gate improves response somewhat. The CVT on one test model suffered from bogging on deceleration, creating the impression that the car would stall upon coming to a complete stop. The manual transmission is the better choice here. It offers improved acceleration, smooth clutch takeup, and generally agreeable shift action." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The engine is peppy enough but the CVT seems to drag it down, even though I know, mechanically, it is getting the best possible efficiency from the engine." -- AutoWeek
  • "However, two things let me down during my week with the SX4: the six-speed manual transmission and the ride quality. Finding a smooth rhythm between the clutch and gas pedal was nearly impossible, shifts were balky and progress was routinely jerky." -- Road and Track

Handling and Braking

Reviewers enjoy the SX4’s nimble handling and appreciate its excellent brakes, especially on the Crossover model. All-wheel drive is standard on the Crossover, which is a great feature if it snows a lot where you live.

Reviewers do have a few complaints, though. Test drivers detect body lean in Crossover models; notice that Sport models have a harsh ride; and complain that most models have a large turning radius, despite their small size. 

  • "Most versions offer a firm but comfortable ride quality. … The firmer suspensions underpinning models with Sport in their name produce better handling, albeit with a slightly harsher ride." -- Edmunds
  • "There's some body roll, but the brakes are responsive and the steering is quick." -- AutoWeek (SX4 Crossover)
  • "Quick, nicely weighted steering and stable cornering make SX4 feel nimble despite moderate body lean in fast turns. Brake-pedal action is firm and progressive on all SX4s. The turning radius is surprisingly (and disappointingly) large for a vehicle with such tidy dimensions." -- Consumer Guide
  • “Potholes and city streets also brought out the worst in the SX4's ride quality. Bumps and ridges I never knew existed (on some very familiar streets) had the Suzuki bucking like a bronco." -- Road and Track

Next Steps: 2012 Suzuki SX4

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