Suzuki SX4 Review & Road Test

Rating: 6.0
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2009 Suzuki SX4 Review & Road Test

The Swift's forgotten bigger brother demands some attention.

Model Tested:

  • 2009 Suzuki SX4; S-Series; 2.0-litre, four-cylinder; five-speed manual; sedan - $23,490

CarAdvice Rating:

- by Alborz Fallah

I've always had a thing for Suzukis, I don't really know why. I am big fan of the Swift, I even like the Jimny, it's one of those cars, especially the Swift Sport, that tends to defy the laws of physics when it comes to corners.

So what about the SX4, the Swift's elder brother, which has been in the background far too long. Testing my own question I decided to see how it goes in sedan form.

I've driven the all-wheel-drive version of the SX4 in hatch form and I am still trying to work out why I'm not seeing more of them on the road.

Suzuki is a niche brand trying really hard to not be a niche brand. When I say Suzuki, the first few words that come into your head are either Swift or if you're a bike fan, Hayabusa or GSX-R1000, but SX4 is definitely not on the list.

So here then exists the problem. Suzuki sells so many Swifts to so many happy customers but it needs to convert those looking for an upgrade from a Swift into something like an SX4 or Grand Vitara.

In June Suzuki sold 263 SX4s, both sedan/hatch, while in that same period Mazda sold 3741 Mazda3s, Toyota sold 4066 Corollas, Mitsubishi sold 1904 Lancers, Ford sold 807 Focus' and Honda sold 981 Civics. What's the reason?

Well for starters, not many tend to consider the SX4 when looking for a small sedan/hatch. It just doesn't exist for so many.

I had a phone call from a friend asking what car she should buy for $50,000. In about 20 minutes I had worked out she only really wanted a car that was reliable, safe and had a fair bit of space.

I suggested the Hyundai i30CW, she was shocked that I suggested a Hyundai, and then I suggested a Suzuki Grand Vitara. "Suzuki? Don't they make Swifts?"

Oh dear, but at least she agreed to a test drive of both.

If you're looking for a small size sedan, the SX4 is a worthy option. From the front the Suzuki looks superb, it has a very aggressive, near European look to it.

as for the rear, I'm not really sure, it doesn't gel all that well with me but looks are subjective. What's impressive is the value for money.

For a starting price of $20,490 you get a Japanese sedan that will not only be unique but comes loaded with features.

It's fair to point out that it lacks Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a big negative for the car (and the reason it got 3.5 instead of four steering wheels). However apart from that, the package, as a whole is very competitive.

The main differentiating feature of the SX4 is its unconventional height. While the other sedans in the segment sit low to the ground, the Suzuki, which is based on a platform designed for an all-wheel-drive hatch sits much taller and upright. This is very handy if you're after a sedan that has a command driving position.

Driving it around for a week it became obvious that this little sedan is perhaps one of the quietest and most comfortable A to B cars out there, and that's the best way to look at it.

It really is a very honest and down to earth car. It will get you from A to B in a quiet, comfortable manner, without any hassles.

The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine comes with 107kW of power under the hood and 184Nm of torque and acceleration is nothing superb but even with five adults in the car it's not too bad.

One issue with the car is the fuel economy, Suzuki claims 8.4L/100km, which compares to Mazda3 8.2L/100km; Toyota Corolla 7.3L/100km; Mitsubishi Lancer 7.9L/100km, but during my week in it the best I could do was 9.1L/100km.

For a car that weighs about 1200 kilos, this really needs improving.

My test car was a manual and it took a while to get used to the "all or nothing" uptake of the clutch.

It's worth noting that if you were going to buy an SX4, the automatic gearbox is one of the better ones on the market, whilst I was writing this review I had a reader (we can call him Steve) email me just to tell me how much he loves his SX4 hatch. He writes:

"The major draw back is the fuel consumption, I am only getting around 9.5L/100km and the fuel tank could be bigger, especially when used off road. I read in some comments that the automatic gearbox wasn't very good. I find it first class. It changes very smoothly wether towing or not, to the extent that at times I cant feel it change. Over all it is a brilliant mix of town and country car and far exceeds expectations in both areas."

This of course raises the question, why would you buy the SX4 sedan when the hatch is the same price or cheaper depending on variant? That's a pretty hard question to answer.

Some like sedans (my folks for example, despite my best efforts, bought a Corolla sedan) but as far as practicality goes, it makes perfect sense to go for the hatch.

The interior is pretty standard Japanese. Not as uninspiring as a Lancer or Corolla, but not up to Mazda3 standards yet.

It does however, come with a Mazda-like integrated stereo and smart lock/key system that lets you just walk up to the car with the keys in the pocket and open the door. Something entry model German cars still lack!

The seats are comfortable and provide good support around corners but don't expect to fit five adults inside without complaints. The SX4 is a car best suited to four adults - basketball players excluded.

Something nearly all new cars have managed to get right has been the stereo, there is no longer any need to upgrade.

The SX4's stereo system, which I believe is powered by Clarion, provides enough bass to wake up the neighbourhood and enough clarity to keep Mozart happy.

There is something rather peculiar about the appearance of the SX4 though. Have a look at the picture below and the one of the interior a few paragraphs above.

Notice how there are three windows on the side. The rear passenger window, the front passenger window and, well, something else.

The odd design makes you think the side vision is slightly impaired and it takes a while to get used to it but after a few days you don't even notice it's there.

If you go to test drive one of these and that puts you off, don't worry about it, it just takes some time to adjust.

My recommendations are still for the SX4 hatch. If you must get a sedan, the SX4 sedan is worth considering but the competition in this price category is tough.

When you consider the practicalities of an SX4 hatch, especially the AWD variant, it makes perfect sense and is quite a unique buy for its price.


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