Hatchbacks rule. And they're popping up all over the place. But the 2007 Suzuki SX4 is much more than a hatchback. Sure, it compares in size and price to the new crop of vehicles being produced by other Asian automakers but the Suzuki SX4 is the least expensive all-wheel-drive vehicle on the market. With a five-speed manual transmission its base price is just $14,999.
Our Suzuki SX4 came with a four-speed automatic transmission and no options and stickered at just $15,999.
We spent two weeks with this charming little hottie and found it to be, well, charming. Although it's a little light on frills, the SX4 is roomy, comfortable and cute. In fact, more than one person said our Racy Red test car looked like a candy apple on wheels.
Not so Fit The Suzuki SX4 may be adorable, but like a plump cheerleader it's not going to make it to the top of the pyramid. At 2,968 pounds, the all-wheel-drive SX4 weighs almost 500 pounds more than the Honda Fit and over 200 more than the Nissan Versa. The other girls are going to leave her in the dust.
Although its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is larger and considerably more powerful than the engines in the Fit and Versa, the extra poundage holds the SX4 back from reaching its full performance potential. Even with 143 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 136 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm, the Suzuki's powertrain is stressed by the car's mass.
Is it perky enough for tooling around town at under 40 mph? Sure. It's when you need a little more oomph that the SX4 falls short. Merging onto the freeway is an act of bravery. Zero to 60? Um, eventually. And when finally up to a respectable lane speed, forget about passing. Right foot to the floor and nothing seems to happen. The SX4 climbs the upper revs one lazy mile per hour at a time.
At the test track our best effort from zero to 60 mph was a dismal 11.3 seconds. Yikes. Don't even think about using this torque-less wonder as a getaway car. Although the Fit and Versa are also grumbly at the top of the tach, both can make 60 mph in a more respectable less-than-9.5 seconds. The Suzuki's 18.1-second run through the quarter-mile at 77 mph is equally lethargic.
Braking numbers were average for the class. Four-wheel disc brakes brought the Suzuki SX4 from 60 to zero mph in 137 feet. Not terribly impressive, but the brake pedal had a good feel and the ABS behaved quietly and consistently.
Intelligent all-wheel drive Suzuki's 2WD/i-AWD three-mode 4x4 system sets the SX4 apart from the others in this class. For normal everyday driving on paved roads, use the 2WD position. Engine power is supplied to the front tires only.
If you need more traction on icy or snowy roads, switch the knob to the "i-AWD Auto" position and engine power is supplied to front and rear axles allowing you to maintain normal driving speeds. There's also an "i-AWD Lock" mode if you have trouble starting off in snow, sand or mud.
Suzuki is quick to point out, however, that the SX4 is not a 4WD sport-utility vehicle and is not appropriate for off-road use. So don't go sloshing boldly into the thick of it. But if you get blasted by a snowstorm, it's got your back.
At the test track our best runs through the slalom (62.8 mph) and skid pad courses (0.77g) are good for a subcompact, and were achieved using the auto AWD mode which increased driver control through these extreme exercises. Good balance and appropriately heavy steering helped correct the SX4's tendency to oversteer in front-wheel-drive mode.
Bare-bones interior Economical and utilitarian, the Suzuki SX4's interior features plastic knobs and dials but they are easy to use in a refreshingly unfussy center stack. There are two front cupholders and several small storage spaces placed here and there. The seats are upholstered with simple, durable fabric but they are comfortable and supportive.
Standard features include antilock brakes, air-conditioning, a bundle of airbags, tilt steering wheel, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, keyless entry and roof rails.
SX4's interior dimensions are ample for its small stature. Front legroom is a comfortable 41.4 inches while rear legroom measures in at a midsize-sedanish 35.9 inches. And even though you sit up high in the SX4, headroom is generous at 39.6 inches. The view out is clear except for the wishbone-shaped A-pillars. Its design is certainly meant to increase visibility usually hindered by the front left airbag, but it blocks much of the driver's view when making left turns.
Luggage capacity blows away the other players in this field. The Suzuki SX4 offers 38.1 cubic feet while the Honda Fit only offers 21.3 cubic feet and the Nissan Versa a mere 17.8 cubic feet. Mere? OK, that's larger than the average trunk of a car, but come on, these are subcompacts.
With rear seats folded, the field levels a bit but the Suzuki SX4 still reigns supreme. Maximum cargo capacity for the SX4 swells to 54 cubic feet, while the Fit strives for 42 cubes and the Versa manages 50 cubes. That is what makes hatchbacks unique. You can stuff them full of, well, stuff, and still park them in your pocket.
And another thing The Suzuki's EPA rating of 24 city/30 highway is significantly less ambitious than the rest of the subcompact class. Our best tank of mostly highway driving netted us 26 mpg. Not terrible, but recent tests of the other vehicles in this class showed fuel-efficiency numbers in the low-30s.
So if you live in an area that gets weather, the all-wheel-drive 2007 Suzuki SX4 may be your ideal new hatchback, but if fuel economy is a priority, the Honda Fit is the thriftier option.
Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds says: Now that I see the Suzuki SX4 and sit in the driver seat, I don't get it. And I haven't even turned the key to fire it up yet.
Sure, the tall-skinny profile gives me gobs of headroom — my daughter could nearly sit on my shoulders in this thing. But my lower extremities tell a different story. Once under way, I find that my overflexed ankle starts aching as I work the throttle owing to the Praying Mantis knees-forward-and-legs-straight-down driving position. My backside starts to hurt, too, as my entire body weight seems perched on my butt-bones.
Maybe it's not the driving position. Maybe my butt hurts because it's getting kicked by all the cars around me. You know that game we all play? The one where you roll up behind two side-by-side cars at a signal and you have two seconds to decide which one to line up behind? My advice to you is this: If you ever face the choice between a beater Volvo wagon with 30 Greenpeace stickers on the posterior and a Suzuki SX4, get behind the Volvo.
Production Editor Caroline Pardilla says: There's something a bit disorienting about setting foot in the 2007 Suzuki SX4. I walked up to it expecting another one of those new extra-compact cars, like the Nissan Versa and Honda Fit. I'll have to duck my head and tuck in my legs to get in and hope that Corollas don't bully me around on the road too much, I guessed. But when I opened the door and slid inside, I had that weird Narnian sensation where what looks like a closet from the outside is actually an alternate universe inside.
It sits a lot higher than what you'd expect for a small vehicle and likewise offers uncharacteristically spacious accommodations. What is this? A short SUV? A tall compact hatchback? Seems like no one can agree since its window sticker classifies it as a small station wagon while the Suzuki Web site calls it an SUV and its shape reminds me of a VW Golf hatchback.
And as if to throw off econocar-shopping consumers even more, this baby comes standard with three-mode all-wheel drive, a segment exclusive, and boasts a class-leading 143 horsepower. But with more weight than cars in its class, it still isn't quick and doesn't feel all that sporty. However, living in an urban sprawl caught between the beach and the mountains, I liked it regardless of it trying to be all things at once — sporty runabout, compact SUV, cargo hauler.
Overall Grade: C+
Price if optional:
MP3, CD-R/RW, WMA
Yes, available as an option
Bluetooth for phone:
How does it sound: C- The sound quality is better than expected at low to mid volume and considering the SX4's low base price. Although a little thin-sounding, there is decent bass considering the system is only working with four speakers. Midrange is lacking and that takes a lot of the detail and vocals out of most songs and most types of music. Also, distortion creeps in as the volume climbs, and at full volume the sound is simply terrible. Various interior panels rattle and buzz on bass-heavy tracks.
How does it work: B The audio system's head unit is fairly simple and therefore easy to use. It's great that the SX4's stereo plays MP3 CDs but the display screen is so small that reading those file names isn't exactly easy. Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls come with the higher-priced Sport model but on the base car it's head unit controls only. That wouldn't be so bad except that the track-up/track-down button is a bit of a reach from the driver seat as it's located on the far right side of the radio.
Special features: The SX4's base audio system isn't anything to brag about but there are notable upgrades available. The Sport model is still well under $20,000 but gets steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a six-disc changer. For $160 you can get a fully integrated iPod connection that allows you to access playlists, charges your iPod and lets you navigate your iPod through steering-wheel-mounted controls (so long as you have the model with that option).
Conclusion: The availability of an iPod connection and the nine-speaker system that comes standard in the Sport are worthwhile upgrades and notable for such an inexpensive car. However, the base model's four-speaker system is begging for an upgrade and is probably best suited for those who plan to purchase aftermarket equipment anyway. — Brian Moody
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.