, one of Japan's smaller car companies, is usually recognized more for touting motorcycles and boat engines although it's been selling four-wheeled transportation in the U.S. since 1985, focusing largely on small, fuel efficient cars and crossovers.
To help rectify this oversight, Suzuki
began a quiet revolution of sorts, taking more control of passenger vehicle design and construction, rather than teaming up with another automaker to share platforms. Suzuki
's Kizashi sedan (arriving in the 2010 model year) is such a creation, built from the ground up with Suzuki
calling all the shots. Kizashi replaced the forgettable compact Forenza, built in tandem a Korean conglomerate and failing to inspire long-term Suzuki
excitement. Prior to Kizashi, Suzuki
brought out the attractively priced, compact SX4
five-door crossover in 2007. One year later, a SX4
sedan debuted. Like Kizashi, all SX4
s include Suzuki
's DNA. Kizashi and SX4
s constitute value-driven products with loads of standard equipment, decent horsepower and acceptable miles per gallon readings.
For 2011, the Japan-built SX4
Crossover is more evolutionary than revolutionary when compared with model years past, although what's under the hood now delivers more punch. A 2.0-liter, four cylinder engine with dual overhead cams boasts 150 horsepower with standard transmission, impressive for its class and five-percent better than 2010. It remains America's least expensive vehicles with sure-footed, all-wheel drive standard, handy in Chicago's four-season environment. By contrast, SX4
sedan body styles offer front-wheel drive exclusively.
Crossover trim choices are available: Base, Premium and Touring Value Package. Base trims come with a six-speed manual transmission standard while a continuously variable transmission (CVT) comes standard on Premium and Touring Value Package models. CVT offers an infinite number of forward gears (not just five or six) cutting out the 'lurch' sometimes felt with conventional automatics. This technology, around for decades, gained recent momentum thanks to improved fuel economy numbers when compared to traditional automatics. SX4
s equipped with the CVT engine, have horsepower reduced to 148 from the six-speed manual's 150.
Fuel economy with CVT transmission reaches 23 miles per gallon city and 29 mpg highway. With manual transmission, highway economy reaches 30 mpg. These numbers come up short when compared to recently redesigned compacts from Ford, Hyundai and Chevrolet. The petro tank holds a relatively small 11.9 gallons of unleaded 87-octane fuel.
Budget-conscious buyers will still find the versatile SX4
Crossover attractive. Our tester SX4
Crossover with Touring Value Package started at $19,349. The bottom line with discounts and optional Bluetooth with Screen Graphics ended at $19,724 excluding destination fee. The Touring Value Package differentiates itself primarily by the addition of a Garmin touch screen navigation system positioned atop of the central dash. It interweaves with optional Bluetooth hands-free communication technology and this year includes a one-year complimentary subscription of real-time traffic and weather. Other trims must survive with old school, multi-fold, glove-box-style, Rand McNally road maps. The lowest-priced base SX4
Crossover starts at $16,999 and includes most creature comforts buyers have come to expect with the exception of cruise control and CVT, which comes standard in other trims. Bucket seats manually operate and heated front seats are only available in the Touring Value Package. By comparison a Mini Cooper starts at $19,400 while a Mazda 3 hatchback checks in at $20,045.
As with a growing number of competitors, a plethora of standard safety features is part of every SX4
Crossover. This includes electronic stability/traction control, anti lock brakes, electronic force distribution, front and rear crumple zones, larger rear head restraints (new in 2011) and eight air bags (dual frontal air bags, front-seat mounted side impact airbags, new rear-seat side impact air bags and head-protecting side curtain air bags). Adding even more value is Suzuki
's powertrain warranty, one of the best in the business. Coverage is for 100,000 miles or 7 years, which ever arrives first. The key aspect for Suzuki
's coverage, unlike some others, is the warranty is transferable to the next owner, adding resale value if selling SX4
before warranty expiration. It's also zero-deductable, so owners expend little or no out-of-pocket expense for covered repairs.
Looking for gobs of headroom? Suzuki
Crossover delivers, offering a unique combination of high-positioned, firm, well bolstered bucket seats with nylon seat fabric and noticeable noggin niceties. Top hats welcome. Ceiling handles are securely in place above all four side doors. No arm rest/storage bin is found in between front buckets. The open-region includes a hand-operated parking brake and heated front seat switches (where equipped). Circular air vents brace the end of the dash while square-shaped versions adorn the middle.
The mid-sized, three-spoke tilt steering wheel (no telescoping feature) includes cruise control functions at 3 o'clock and secondary sound functions at 9 o'clock. Front and rear wipers monitor from a right-hand side steering column stalk. Below is the ignition cylinder (no push start). The basic, black dash includes hints of brushed aluminum. While functional, it lacks the creativity and softness of emerging designs found in the Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra. The instrument panel includes two large and two small analog gauges with a rectangular, center digital readout window. The central dash features three, easy-to-grasp ventilation dials and conventional radio with twist knobs flanking six pre-set buttons and rectangular display with nighttime red backlighting illuminating radio frequency and band.
Outside, narrow band-like front headlight housing surrounds a horizontal, honeycomb grille with center Suzuki
"S" logo. While tail and headlight housing is narrow, side windows are long and wide, bucking a recent trend of narrow glass and high side character lines. The rear hatch, hinged at the top opens high enough so those five-feet, ten-inches or shorter have enough head clearance. A temporary spare situates under a flat floor. Strap-like door handles are body colored. Side-view mirror housing is quite large for a compact, but no secondary blinkers are built into the frame.
Rear side doors swing open wider than many in the compact segment and 'theatre' style seating has the 60/40-split second row a pinch higher than the first, yet headroom remains plentiful. Two 87th percentile adults fit with optimal comfort; three would upset the percentile apple cart.
Blind spots are minimal thanks to large, long side windows and the SX4
's high seating position. The SX4
Crossover includes a small triangular glass section behind both A-pillars providing the look of corner 'French Windows' that once pushed open to help vent interiors before wide use of compressed air conditioning units. While SX4
's 'Glace Francais' remains static (no push-out opportunity), it's an eye-catching design twist.
Sound insulation from the 2.0-liter engine is not as evident in SX4
as with most competitors, especially when punching the accelerator pedal along Interstate 290. The brake pedal with average foot throw length, reacts with a predictable, comfortable push. Expect some body lean during sharp turns, but remember, SX4
Crossovers are built for economy, not the Autobahn. Suzuki
does not offer as much computer gadgetry or voice commands as a compact Focus with Ford's Sync, but those systems still rate as a novelty, not a necessity for most folks. The SX4
crossover carries a bit more weight than others its size.
In late 2009, German Automaker Volkswagen grabbed a 19.9 percent stake in Suzuki
, setting the stage for intriguing powertrain sharing possibilities. Currently Suzuki
survives without gas-electric hybrids for extended gas mileage, but the venture with VW could pave the way for clean, high-mileage diesel engines in the not-to-distant future. 2011 Suzuki SX4 Crossover Price as tested:
2.0-liter four-cylinder Horsepower:
98.4 inchesCurb Weight:
2,954 poundsFuel Economy:
23 city/29 highwayBuilt: