What's New for 2009
For 2009, Suzuki expands the SX4 line, offering lower-priced versions of the sedan and hatchback. A base and LE trim slot beneath the Sport sedan while a front-wheel-drive hatchback ("Crossover") debuts. The sedan now has a split and folding rear seat. Upping the value quotient, Suzuki includes a navigation system as standard on the upper trims while stability control becomes standard on all Crossover trims.
To the average American, Suzuki is a motorcycle company that also happens to make cars. In Japan, however, the big S is one of the giants in the automobile marketplace, where its variety of home-market small cars has proven popular. In the U.S., success hasn't been quite the same, as Suzuki has offered a number of forgettable subcompacts. But now, with Suzuki fielding attractive vehicles such as the 2009 SX4 Crossover and Sport, the company is hitting its stride.
In the SX4 family, there are a tallish sedan and a mini-SUV-like hatchback ("Crossover"). With handsome styling and available all-wheel drive, the Crossover offers those in snowy climes a low-cost way of getting around. In Sport trim, the sedan provides a lowered and more firmly tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels and a lower body kit that add up to a sportier driving experience. Mechanically, all SX4s are the same, using a 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes a respectable 143 horsepower.
Not having a long-standing big name to sell it, the 2009 Suzuki SX4 takes the age-old approach of offering more for the money than the segment's sales superstars, e.g., the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. For around the same price as a smaller Fit or Toyota Yaris, the Sport gives you a roomy cabin, a more powerful engine, snazzy 17-inch alloys, power everything, a CD player, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a trip computer and even automatic climate control. And this year Suzuki sweetens the deal further by fitting a navigation system as standard on the upper trims, making it the only economy car to have that feature included at no extra cost. An upgrade to the nav system adds Bluetooth connectivity, real-time traffic reporting, weather reporting and even a gas station finder to get you the lowest fuel prices.
Still, this is a large, competitive field, and those looking for high fuel economy numbers might be disappointed in the SX4's below-average mileage ratings. The Sport sedan is a better choice than many, as we'd easily take it over a Chevy Cobalt, Dodge Caliber or Versa, though it has a tough rival in the well-equipped Hyundai Elantra. The Crossover, by virtue of its mini-SUV styling, hatchback versatility and low-cost all-wheel-drive option, makes a somewhat stronger case for itself. But either way, we suggest giving the SX4 a look if you're in the market for an affable, affordable small car that doesn't scream econobox.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Suzuki SX4 is a compact car available in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles. The sedan is front-wheel drive only, while the SX4 hatchback ("Crossover") can be had in either front- or all-wheel drive.
The sedan comes in three basic trims: base, LE and Sport. However there are also trim-level specific packages which include LE with Popular Package, Sport with Technology Package and Sport with Touring Package. The hatchback comes in base Crossover, Crossover with Technology Package and Crossover with Touring Package.
Standard features on the base SX4 sedan include 15-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel and a 60/40-split folding rear seat, but little else. Should you also want air-conditioning and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, step up to the LE. The LE with Popular Package adds keyless remote, a sport suspension, cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The Sport adds 17-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, a lower body kit and a navigation system. The Sport with Technology Package adds foglamps and the upgrade to the nav system (Bluetooth connectivity, real-time traffic reporting, weather reporting, local gas prices). The Sport with Touring Package has the above equipment plus keyless ignition and entry, heated sideview mirrors, automatic climate control and an upgraded audio with nine speakers (including a subwoofer).
The base SX4 hatchback is equipped similar to the LE with Popular Package sedan, minus the sport suspension and leather steering wheel with audio controls, but with 16-inch alloy wheels and stability control. The Crossover with Technology Package adds the upgrade to the nav system, the fancy steering wheel and cruise control. The Crossover with Touring Package adds all-wheel drive, foglamps, a rear spoiler, heated sideview mirrors, automatic climate control, heated seats, keyless entry and ignition and the upgraded audio system.
As there is such a large variety of trims, options are few and consist of an automatic transmission, all-wheel drive (for the non-Touring-equipped Crossovers) and a rear brush plate for the Crossover's hatch sill.
Powertrains and Performance
Power for all Suzuki SX4s comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 143 hp and 136 pound-feet of torque. It's connected to a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. We've timed an automatic-equipped hatchback at a leisurely 11.3 seconds for the 0-60-mph run.
The fuel economy estimates for the SX4 range from 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined for the base sedan with the automatic transmission down to 21/28/24 for the Crossover with AWD. Both are on the low end for a subcompact sedan or hatchback.
Every 2009 Suzuki SX4 comes with antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and head-protecting side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers. Traction and stability control, an unusual feature for this class, is standard on the Touring-equipped sedan and all Crossover trims.
In government crash testing, the SX4 (both sedan and Crossover) received four stars (out of five) in frontal tests for both driver and passenger. In side impact tests, the SX4 earned five stars for the driver and four stars for the rear passenger.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Suzuki SX4's cabin has a clean design with large, three-dial climate control knobs that sit just below a compact, well-labeled stereo. Unfortunately, said stereo doesn't include the auxiliary audio jack younger buyers will be looking for, and the quality of some interior plastics isn't as high as in some rivals, such as the Fit, Versa and Scion xD.
In terms of passenger room, however, the SX4 earns high marks. Very tall folks will appreciate the Suzuki's voluminous headroom in both the front and rear. The propped-up driving position may feel a bit awkward to some consumers, but ex-SUV owners will find it familiar and beneficial to outward visibility. Knee room can be tight for adults seated in back, but the high-mounted bench provides good thigh support. In the hatchback, the 60/40-split rear seat can be lowered and tumbled forward to open up an ample 38 cubic feet of cargo room. And this year, the sedan also sports a 60/40-split folding rear seat. The sedan offers a generous 15 cubic feet of trunk capacity, equal to that of many midsize sedans, while the Crossover provides 54 cubic feet.
Though it has a powerful engine compared to its subcompact competition, the 2009 Suzuki SX4 is no hot rod. A typically heavier curb weight negates any advantage, and the engine is light on low-end torque. As a result, acceleration is no better than most rivals'. Buyers would be wise to stick with the manual gearbox: It makes better use of the engine's power while offering a satisfyingly snappy gearchange.
The SX4 does deliver a smooth, refined ride quality, and the standard antilock disc brakes don't seem to mind the extra heft. Big bumps barely upset the suspension, and the hatchback's sizable 16-inch tires provide solid grip. With its lower-profile 17-inch tires and firmer suspension, the SX4 Sport sedan is the best handler of the lot, and body roll is well managed through the corners. For a car with "Sport" in its name, however, its steering feedback is disappointingly minimal. Buyers seeking a truly sporting drive in an inexpensive car would be better served by a Honda Fit or a lightly optioned Mazda 3 i.
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