Full 2011 Suzuki SX4 Review
What's New for 2011
All 2011 Suzuki SX4 models receive rear seat side-impact airbags and new larger rear head restraints, while the available navigation system has been enhanced with Garmin's latest software and now includes previously extra-cost infotainment features like real-time traffic. A new Anniversary Edition LE model adds 17-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, keyless entry and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
If we were to sum up Suzuki's approach to its 2011 SX4, it'd pretty much be "bang-for-the-buck." To help the SX4 sedan and four-door hatchback stand out in an overcrowded compact category, the company has loaded most models up with plenty of standard features and upscale options, including automatic climate control, heated seats, a navigation system, all-wheel drive and even rear-seat side airbags. Add a powerful engine and an affordable MSRP that can be thousands less than some of its competitors and you have a rather tempting package.
Of course, both SX4 sedans and hatchbacks have their downsides. The tall seating position may be friendly for shorter drivers or those yearning for some semblance of an SUV-like view of the road, but taller drivers may lament the lack of legroom and a telescoping steering wheel. The SX4 sedan lacks stability control, which is a must-have safety feature, while all models have an interior that's starting to look and feel old compared to newer subcompacts.
While those negatives haven't been enough to turn us off in the past, the recent arrival of several excellent new competitors does make the 2011 Suzuki SX4 somewhat less attractive. The Ford Fiesta is more rewarding to drive and comes with unique high-tech features. The Honda Fit is a versatility and passenger space champ, while the Kia Soul is a funky alternative to them all. One can also consider a size class up, with models like the Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra and all-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza. But if your priority is getting a lot of car for a little dough, the SX4 is worth a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Suzuki SX4 is a compact car available in sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. The sedans and the "Sportback" version of the hatchback are front-wheel-drive only, while the "Crossover" hatchback is only offered with all-wheel drive.
The SX4 sedan is broken down into base, LE, Anniversary Edition, Sport S, Sport SE and Sport GTS trim levels. The base model comes with 15-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, a trip computer, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks and a tilt-only steering wheel. The LE adds air-conditioning and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio input jack. The new Anniversary Edition is the best equipped of the LE models with 17-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters and audio controls.
The SX4 Sport S starts with all the standard features found on the midrange LE sedan and then grafts on a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, an aero body kit, keyless entry and an integrated Garmin navigation system with real-time traffic and other live information. The SE adds the LE Anniversary Edition's extra equipment plus front foglights. The top-of-the-line GTS model adds keyless entry/starting, automatic climate control, Bluetooth (optional on the other Sport trims) and an upgraded seven-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer. Keyless ignition/entry is optional on the GTS.
The SX4 Sportback is available in two trim levels that include essentially the same equipment as the Anniversary Edition LE sedan, with the exception of the CVT. The differences between the Sportback base model and the Tech version are small, with the Tech getting a larger rear spoiler and the navigation system.
The SX4 Crossover comes in base, Premium and Tech Value Package. The base model starts with the midrange LE sedan's standard features and adds all-wheel-drive, 16-inch steel wheels and a roof rack. The Premium trim adds the CVT, cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The Technology Value package includes 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, foglights and the navigation system. Bluetooth is optional.
Powertrains and Performance
Power for all Suzuki SX4 models comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 150 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. It's connected to either a standard six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. When paired to the CVT, the engine's output drops slightly to 148 hp. All SX4s are front-wheel drive except for the Crossover hatchback, which is only offered with all-wheel drive.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the SX4 range from 25 mpg city/32 highway and 28 mpg combined for the base sedan with the CVT (23/33/26 with the manual) down to 23/29/25 for the all-wheel-drive Crossover with the CVT (22/30/25 with the manual). These aren't as high as some other subcompacts, but are pretty good considering the SX4's greater horsepower.
Every 2011 Suzuki SX4 comes with front- and rear-seat side airbags and head-protecting side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers. Stability control is standard on Sportback and Crossover models but isn't offered as an option on the sedans. Antilock brakes with brake assist are standard, but the base and LE get rear drums rather than four-wheel discs.
While the SX4 hasn't been rated using the government's new 2011 crash testing procedure, 2010 frontal crash test ratings (which aren't comparable to the new tests) were four stars (out of five) for driver and passenger protection. In side impact tests, the SX4 earned five stars for the driver. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the SX4 earned the top rating of "Good" in both frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the 2011 Suzuki SX4 is a study in simplicity. The quality of the interior materials is starting to feel rather cheap compared to newer competitive models, but the gauges are easy to read and the controls are intuitive to operate. The available navigation system looks like a bit of an afterthought and uses a smallish screen, but the Garmin interface should be familiar to many people, and it comes with traffic updates and other real-time information.
Despite a generous amount of headroom, a tall seating position and the lack of a telescoping steering column can make it difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel. If there's one place the SX4 excels, it's in cargo capacity. Hatchback models boast a healthy 54 cubic feet of cargo room with both sections of the 60/40-split rear seatback folded forward. Sedan versions also offer abundant trunk space, with 15 cubic feet of cargo room -- as much as some midsize sedans -- and split-folding rear seats that allow longer items to extend into the passenger cabin.
With 150 horses under the hood, the 2011 Suzuki SX4 looks good on paper. The reality, however, is that the car's relatively hefty curb weight minimizes whatever advantage the 2.0-liter engine might have to offer. Most versions offer a firm but comfortable ride quality. The firmer suspensions underpinning models with Sport in their name produce better handling, albeit with a slightly harsher ride. Even so, the lack of steering feel limits how much fun you'll get out of a spirited drive. One other negative to note is that the SX4 Crossover's smaller fuel tank reduces the car's range, meaning you'll be filling up more frequently than you're probably used to.