The 143-hp, 2.0-liter engine is powerful enough to move the 2668-pound SX4 easily and, although it lets you know it's working hard, it makes highway merging easy and has plenty of low-end grunt for around-town driving. While the optional four-speed automatic will probably be the transmission of choice for most, shifting for yourself with the standard five-speed manual is recommended for performing quick, highway passing maneuvers and for darting around town. The manual's shift action is smooth and firm but light and is a cinch to shift smoothly. Even drivers with minimal experience with manual gearboxes ought to be able to operate this transmission without a fuss.
The SX4 is remarkably composed over choppy pavement. The SX4 has a firmer suspension setting than most cars in its class, but the excellent damping absorbs the bumps without being too harsh and provides good feedback, although the car tends to lose its composure over undulations. The steering is light but direct and communicative and adds to the sporty feel of the SX4. This is no backroads corner-carver, but you won't feel like you're piloting a generic econo-box either.
Although the SX4 Crossover and Sport sedan were designed to compete against vehicles like the Toyota Corolla and the Mazda 3, their funky shape and low price make them a good alternative for buyers of vehicles such as the Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, and the Chevy Aveo. The SX4 is larger, has more power and interior room, and is sportier than these more pedestrian offerings while sacrificing little in the way of fuel economy. Although Suzuki vehicles are often overlooked or forgotten, with standard features such as side-curtain air bags, a tire-pressure monitoring system, power locks and windows, and air-conditioning, the SX4 could become a player in the exploding small-car market.
Suzuki SX4 Sport
Base price: $14,964
Price as tested: $16,224
2.0-liter, DOHC 16-valve, 4-cylinder
143 hp @ 5800 rpm
136 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
L x W x H: 177.6 x 68.1 x 60.8 in
Legroom f/r: 41.4/35.8 in
Headroom f/r: 39.6/37.6 in
Cargo capacity: 15 cu ft
Curb weight: 2668 lb
EPA city/highway: 22/30