2007 Suzuki SX4 Road Test
Models Tested: 2007 Suzuki SX4 5-speed manual and four-speed auto
Recommended Retail Price: $24,390 (manual - $2,000 more for auto)
Back in mid 1994, Toyota released the original RAV4, a small compact city 4WD, that in reality, probably never went off-road. 13 years later, the RAV4 has doubled in size (so have the owners) and lost its appeal, but many buyers are still keen for a cool, small, and efficient 4WD. Say hello to the Suzuki SX4.
The SX4 is the third next generation model in Suzuki's lineup; soon the Suzuki Splash will take that up to four. Now, you might be thinking, why should you trust a small 4WD from Suzuki, don't they only make Swifts? No, and here is the truth, the SX4 is a merger between the insanely popular Suzuki Swift and the Suzuki Grand Vitara 4WD, using the best of both cars, Suzuki has managed to build one of the best value for money cars available today.
The SX4 is a lifestyle car, you wouldn't buy it unless you wanted the "I do something on the weekends" image, which is a well sought after thing these days. The SX4's name comes from Sports X-over for all 4 seasons.
Perhaps a victim of its own success, every third car on the road these days seems to be a Suzuki Swift, thankfully this hasn't happened (yet) with the SX4, which means, not only do you get a lot for very little, but it's also rather unique and you can bet none of your friends own one.
Having picked up the SX4 with a five-speed manual transmission first, I headed back from Brisbane airport towards some winding roads around Mount Glorious. Gear changes can take a little while to get use to, the clutch has a rather unique feel to it, but it is quickly mastered.
The gear ratios are perfectly spaced out with first gear capable of reaching at least 30km/h; I almost applaud Suzuki for not putting a six-speed in this and ruining drivability for the sake of marketing.
Once my arguments with the gearbox were settled, I was in hot pursuit of a Japanese AWD turbo going up Mount Glorious, although you can argue it's all driver dependent, the SX4 is extremely fun to drive, a big credit to Suzuki's quest for sporty dynamics. Given the SX4 sits relatively high (ground clearance of 200mm), the handling is superb.
You can also credit the excellent driving dynamics to the SX4's i-AWD (intelligent All Wheel Drive) system. Using a small button located near the handbrake, the system allows you to pick between front-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive auto and four-wheel-drive lock settings.
Initially starting in 2WD, it took me some time to even realise I was not in 4WD mode, a credit to the cars well balanced chassis and smooth power delivery. I admit, I found it a little odd putting the SX4 in 2WD mode given the 4WD auto setting distributes torque according to need, with most of it going to the front for normal everyday driving.
Suzuki says the 2WD mode returns the best fuel economy figure (8.7L/100kms), and although this is true, for me, sacrificing a little more fuel for the extra safety and traction of a 4WD, is well worth it.
As for the 4WD lock mode, I'd imagine this will be the least used setting for the car in Australia. Only if you're actually stuck in some mud or snow will you call on 4WD lock. The system puts the torque to the rear wheels (to begin with) to help you get out of those, sticky, situations. Once you reach 60 km/h it automatically disengages and reverts back to 4WD auto.
Put it in 4WD auto and rev the 2.0-litre engine to 3,500RPM for a spirited take off and you will be amazed just how fast the car screams off the line, with 107kW of power and 184Nm of torque, the engine might appear a little underpowered on paper, but it's far from it - at least in a manual.
After my week with the manual variant, I got my hands on the auto, and my love for the SX4 started to dwindle. The four-speed auto gearbox, for lack of a better word, is rubbish, it makes the SX4 half the car it can be, with incredibly slow take-offs, no power to overtake on the highway and a highly unresponsive power delivery, you would be mad to pay an extra $2,000 for an inferior car!
Once again, I say this to all those interested in buying a small car, buy it in manual, yes the auto is easier to drive, but the power difference will change your mind and the manual will make you a better driver.
If you have never sat in a recent model Suzuki, have a quick glance inside the SX4 and you will be pleasantly surprised. Borrowing a lot of the interior from the Suzuki Swift, the SX4 is one of the most modern looking Japanese cars, inside and out.
Whilst designing the SX4, Suzuki realised one important fact early on, although capable of producing well built and reliable cars, the design team were a little, well, untalented. You only have to look at the Suzuki Jimny and Liana to find that out.
Thankfully, the design team decided to head to Italy for some help, and the result was a stylish, modern and good looking compact 4WD. Not bad for a company that started out making weaving looms!
From the front, the aggressive headlights give the SX4 a menacing stand, the sort of look Peter Costello gives John Howard in the men's room (but with some dignity). The rear isn't as flash, but passes my test.
It's not as large as it looks from the photos. 1,755mm wide and with a wheelbase of exactly 2,500mm, the Suzuki SX4 is the perfect size for a young person on the move or a small family looking for a reliable and practical car.
When I say practical, I really do mean practical, with the rear seats in use, you still have 270 litres of cargo space, fold the rear seats and that increases to an enormous 625 litres.
Getting in and out of the SX4 is a little different to your traditional car, there is no key, so to speak, it's completely keyless entry, in fact you don't even need to use the remote to open the doors or to start the car, simply walk towards the car with the key in your pocket and press the button on the door and the door opens, sit inside and turn the plastic knob - the car turns on, fantastic for a quick get away without having to dig the key out of your pocket or handbag.
However, its not all good news, there is one excruciatingly annoying problem with the security system, as with most new cars, the first attempt opens the driver's door and the second attempt opens the rest, this is generally a changeable feature, for the SX4, there is no way to change this, but it gets worse, if you open any door you effectively disable the remote system as you break the circuit!
What does that mean? I'll give you an example, if you open the boot to put something inside, and then need to open the rear doors to, say, remove something, you actually have to close the boot before the remote will work again, same goes with any other door combination. As I said, excruciatingly annoying!
From the inside, the SX4 is cursed with a built in audio system (I'll get to that in a second), but blessed with climate controlled air conditioning and metallic accents, a very modern interior indeed. A bit further up, there is an information display cell which shows the time, fuel consumption (km/L, L/100km and Average), and outside temperature.
Now, the audio system. Usually there is nothing wrong with a built in audio system, sure you can't remove it and install a more powerful system, but generally they are good systems. But as far as SX4 goes (and this applies to the Swift as well), there is no auxiliary input. So that means no MP3 player, iPod or any other type of device can connect up, a very disappointing oversight on Suzuki's part, might have been acceptable 5 years ago, but not anymore.
If we ignore that problem for a second, the actual stereo itself is quite remarkable for such a cheap car, with MP3 playback capability, speed sensing volume control and 8 speakers, you can tell this car is aimed for the younger crowd.
What really amazes me with the SX4 is not only the price, but the level of standard equipment: you get cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, leather steering wheel, front fog lamps, 16 inch aluminium alloy wheels, dual front and side airbags and ABS brakes all as standard! The SX4 has a 4 star safety Euro NCAP rating.
With a 45 litre fuel tank, and an official 8.7 L/100km fuel usage (manual), you can, apparently, get around 500 kms out of one tank, but drive it hard, like I did, and that figure gets closer to 12 L/100km for the manual, and the automatic (officially 9.5 L/100km) was past 13 L/100km.
Due to different distributors, Queenslanders have two choices when it comes to the SX4, the entry point GLX, which starts at $21,990 for the manual ($2,000 more for auto) and the Z series (model tested here) which starts at $24,390 for the manual ($2,000 more for auto).
The rest of the country only gets the higher end model. The difference being the GLX misses out on the 16" alloys, side airbags, keyless start, cruise control and a few other things.
With Japanese reliability and refinement coupled with European design, for $24,390, the SX4 is a steal.