I admire the Suzuki SX4 for having a ride that’s more solid and composed than the Honda Fit’s. Over bumps, the Fit often feels like the cheap car it is, while the SX4 feels like something larger and more comfort-oriented, along the lines of a family sedan. The tradeoff is that the SX4 occasionally feels too loose and soft when it’s worked hard on rough roads.
The flabby feel also extends to the controls. The six-speed stick provides little feedback and the steering is too light. The engine also hangs on to revs, sometimes even climbing after you’ve let off the gas and pushed in the clutch to upshift. The result is gear changes that can be difficult to execute smoothly and quickly. These problems aren’t limited to the SX4, as the Fit and other small four-cylinder vehicles suffer from some of the same maladies. Still, I think the SX4 has much potential due to its unappreciated chassis but that it is let down by some of the other elements.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
The Suzuki SX4 Sportback is a cute little car for the most part, with great visibility. I found it to be a perfect car for the city, as it was effortless to park and maneuver. After a whole weekend of running around, I was even more surprised by how little fuel it used. Nonetheless, I still have three things that leave me less than impressed: 1.) The cheesy GPS holder; 2.) The driver’s armrest needs to be up and out of the way when shifting; 3.) It needs more power to merge and pass.
Still, it’s a fine little car for running around in the city or towing behind your Provost.
Kelly Ryan Murphy, Creative Director
Both cars are a lot alike, and with the Fit fresh in my mind as I drove, the Suzuki acquitted itself very well. I think the Fit has more style and a somewhat nicer dashboard and gauge cluster, but the SX4 was nice enough, and the controls are clear and easy to use. A simple climate-control system like this one makes me wonder why the hell in the name of technology (or something) everyone else is in a race to unnecessarily turn the A/C switches into some kind of iPod or iDrive. Two knobs-one for temp, one for fan speed-and a few buttons will win with me every time.
I liked the feel of the six-speed, but the engine raced unnecessarily when upshifting as if I were riding the clutch.
Considering what this car is and what it’s for, the power is adequate. It did fine in traffic in the 80-mph range, and like the Fit, the visibility and driving position are excellent. This would be a very good city/commuter car.
Overall, I thought this little Suzuki was almost as good as the Fit in nearly every respect, and it became a question of how much more does one need to be willing to spend for the Honda, and is it worth it?
Imagine my surprise when I learned that the Fit is only $75 more expensive, and if you add the (to me, indispensible) iPod interface to the SX4, the Suzuki becomes $75 more than the Honda.
The Suzuki is not as well finished or appointed, is less powerful, and, despite the six-speed, gets appreciably worse fuel economy than the Fit, all for no savings?
I wouldn’t rule it out or recommend against this car, and I could see it coming down to a question of personal preference or the warranty for some, but personally, I’d go with the Fit.
Matt Tierney, Art Director
I drove the little SX4 all around metro Detroit picking up my wife from the airport and racked up about 250 miles during my journey. With the rear seats folded, the cargo area provided just enough room for my large dog and a load of luggage. My biggest concern was the fuel gauge — with only a 13.2-gallon tank, the needle in the dash dropped rather quickly.
As others have noted, there is a striking resemblance to the Honda Fit from the driver’s perspective. They both have an upright seating position, A-pillar windows, front-seat foldaway armrests, and low-to-the-floor shifters. However, the SX4 has one major attribute compared with the Fit: six forward gears. We griped all year about our Four Seasons Honda Fit’s five-speed transmission and highway buzzing. While the buzzing is also present in the SX4. It’s more road noise you hear than engine noise as the SX4 sails down the highway-sails literally, as crosswinds and uneven pavement alter the tiny Suzuki’s path. Where the SX4 falls short of the Fit is storage. The hatch area wasn’t as accommodating as the Honda’s; one large piece of luggage and a laptop bag filled it up entirely. Carrying four adults with luggage would be out of the question.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
Suzuki actually sells three distinct 2010 SX4 models. First there’s the 2010 Suzuki SX4 Sport, which is a traditional four-door sedan. Then there’s the 2010 Suzuki SX4 Sportback hatchback, which is the subject of this review. There’s also the 2010 Suzuki SX4 Crossover, which is available with all-wheel drive (the other two are front-wheel drive only). All three SX4 models have the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with either a six-speed manual or CVT. Strangely enough, it is possible to buy a 2010 Suzuki SX4 Crossover with all-wheel drive starting at only $17,584, whereas the front-wheel-drive SX4 SportBack like our test car costs $1100 more, at $18,684. The two vehicles have nearly identical interiors, and their exteriors differ only in body cladding, the front fascia, and the Crossover’s roof rails. The Crossover also rides slightly higher than the SX4 SportBack and SX4 sedan.
Why is the front-wheel-drive SX4 more expensive than the Crossover? Good question. But American Suzuki views the two models as distinctly different. The SX4 SportBack is supposed to be a bit sportier and aims for the Honda Fit and perhaps the base VW Golf, whereas the SX4 Crossover aims for the base Subaru Impreza.
Most Americans don’t even know that the SX4 exists, let alone that there are three variations of it. I bet you can drive a hard bargain down at your Suzuki dealer, especially since Suzuki sales are doing very poorly here in America. But the main reason I’d want an SX4 would be if I were looking for a cheap way into an AWD vehicle, so I’d aim for the Crossover, not our SX4 SportBack. The Suzuki SX4 Crossover is, in fact, the least expensive all-wheel-drive vehicle available in America.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Call me crazy, but I like this little nav system. Sure, it’s just a Garmin nüvi that you could pick up at any electronics store, but the fact that it’s integrated into the car and can be folded into the dash effectively solves all the mounting hassles and theft risks that make handheld GPS units a pain. It’s a much smarter way to offer navigation in this class than a costly built-in nav system like that in the Honda Fit.
Otherwise, the SX4 strikes me as one good choice among many in this segment. It’s reasonably well mannered and easy to drive, and it has more than enough power. It’s a bit noisy but no more so than a Honda Fit. Still, I’d have a tough time putting down $18,500 on the SX4 or any other subcompact. As Joe DeMatio points out, the all-wheel-drive SX4 Crossover has more to offer once the price climbs this high.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I’m not sure why Suzuki waited until last fall to release the SportBack version of the SX4. With its mild bodykit, lack of roof racks, and lower profile, it looks much cooler than the SX4 Crossover that was launched for 2007. One thing I wish was like the earlier SX4s, though, is the car’s manual gearbox … that old five-speed wasn’t as good on gas, but its action was tighter and smoother than this slightly vague six-speed. Still, it works well with the SX4’s tight chassis to make for a very good “slow car” that’s remarkably fun to drive quickly. It’s also worth pointing out that all 2010 SX4s received a new, more fuel efficient engine that produces 7 more hp and 4 extra lb-ft of torque than the previous 2.0-liter four-cylinder.
I was a bit surprised by this test vehicle’s $18,500 price tag, but the SportBack, which starts at $17,949, is the most expensive and most well-equipped member of the SX4 lineup. A base SX4 Sedan (a much less attractive vehicle, to my eyes) costs just over $14,000, undercutting the base Honda Fit by more than $1500; the basic SX4 Crossover starts at a fairly substantial $16,584. I agree that all-wheel drive is a great SX4 selling point, but it’s available only in the Crossover and comes with a starting price of $17,714. SX4s without all-wheel drive feature attractive lower prices and higher fuel mileage ratings.
-In spite of those front quarter windows, the A-pillars are gigantic and hard to see around.
-Steering-wheel kickback was quite noticeable when I hustled the car through some bumpy 20-to-30-mph corners.
-The Garmin touch-screen unit that David mentioned is a nice solution for a cheap, easily updatable, yet clean-looking navigation system. But it is quite far away from the driver and hard to reach.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2010 Suzuki SX4 Sportback
Base price (with destination): $17,949
Price as tested: $18,513
2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
4-wheel disc brakes
Sport aero body package
Electronic stability program
Traction control system
Anti-lock brakes with EBD
Tire pressure monitoring system
Smartpass keyless entry
Touch screen Navigation system
Real-time traffic/Low gas price finder
News/Weather/Stocks/airline arrive & depart time
Automatic air conditioning
6-CD audio system with 8 speakers and subwoofer
Tilt steering column
Leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls
Options on this vehicle:
Floor mats — $175
Premium metallic paint — $130
Bluetooth with on-screen text message display — $259
Key options not on vehicle:
CVT transmission — $1100
iPod interface — $160
Auto-dimming mirror with compass — $220
22 / 30 / 25 mpg
Size: 2.0L DOHC 16-valve in-line 4
Horsepower: 150 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 140 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Curb weight: 2732 lb
17-inch aluminum wheels
205/50R17 Dunlop SP Sport 7000 all-season tires