2009 Suzuki SX4 Long-Term Road Test - Introduction

2009 Suzuki SX4 Long-Term Road Test

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Check out the page for the 2009 Suzuki SX4 on Wikipedia. Go ahead, we'll still be here when you get back. See that, near the bottom? The most addictive thing in the world isn't sold by the gram or meant to fuel the desire for scrap copper; instead it's lying at the bottom of many Wikipedia pages and it says, "See Also." Clicking this link starts you down a labyrinthine path with no end, only more doors. Yet at the bottom of the page devoted to the Suzuki SX4 crossover, there is only one item listed: the AMC Eagle.

Today, the car-based crossover utility vehicle is meant to be the best of both worlds, with the cabin space, ground clearance and sure-footedness of an SUV, plus the maneuverability and refinement of a car. In reality, however, the crossover tends to combine the size and sure-footedness of a station wagon with the driving goodness of a minivan. It's not necessarily a good thing.

The 1980-'87 AMC Eagle was little more than a stretched Gremlin hatchback on four-wheel-drive stilts. Yet it combined two disparate personalities -- rugged childlike playfulness and staunch paternal responsibility -- in a way that few thought possible in 1980. And for all the Eagle's lowly heritage, it has set a lasting standard for utility and a friendly, innovative spirit that has eluded most of the compact crossovers on the market today.

Precisely that same combination of utility and spirit lives in Suzuki's all-wheel-drive SX4 crossover. With sheet metal designed in Italy and codeveloped as the Fiat Sedici, the 2009 Suzuki SX4 crossover AWD with the Technology package is the least expensive vehicle available with a navigation system as standard equipment. It's also the first Suzuki to appear in Inside Line's fleet of long-term test vehicles.

What We Bought
The 2009 Suzuki SX4 is not new. In fact, we published our first review of it back in December 2006. We praised it for its good looks, spacious cargo room and the lowest cost of entry for an all-wheel-drive vehicle. For the 2009 SX4, Suzuki hasn't messed with the 2.0-liter engine, which still produces 143 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 136 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm. Nor has it done much to improve the crossover's EPA fuel economy of 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

It did go ahead and add another of its "cheapest car that..." titles. Now the 2009 Suzuki SX4 is the first vehicle available with an MSRP below $16,000 that offers a fully integrated navigation system. Of course, this title applies to the entry-level SX4 crossover, a front-wheel-drive version with a manual transmission. This all-wheel-drive model with a four-speed automatic transmission has been equipped with the Touring package, floor mats and a rear skid plate, so the bottom line comes to $18,179. Mind you, this is for a vehicle with a three-mode all-wheel-drive system, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control, keyless entry, power windows and door locks, four-wheel disc brakes, and a navigation system with a 4.3-inch display screen that features MSN's Real Time Direct included for one year.

So you're saying to yourself, "A GPS navigation system with only a 4.3-inch screen?" This size sounds awfully familiar, you're thinking. Well, you are correct. Instead of wasting time and money on its own proprietary system, Suzuki did what we've been imploring other carmakers to do for years and simply went to Garmin, leader in all things to do with handheld personal navigation devices. The result is a Garmin PND in its own dash-mounted cubby that features voice prompts and MP3 playback, plus it's fully portable. Going somewhere you've never been before? Let Suzuki lead you there and then pull out the Garmin to have a pocket-size travel buddy that knows everything. Parking in a rough area? Take the Garmin out and leave the empty dash pocket, telling would-be thieves, "Look, I've got nothing!"

Speaking of having nothing, nobody's going to strip your SX4 of its cloth seats, urethane shift knob, day-and-night rearview mirror with manual control, or black-plastic interior door handles. These are just a few of the areas in which the 2009 Suzuki SX4 cuts costs in order to achieve its elite status in the function-per-dollar sweepstakes.

Why We Bought It
When we first learned a new Suzuki was on the way to our long-term garage, the cheers went up. Those so inclined prepared helmets and riding leathers, anticipating the first ride of the new SV, Gixxer, or 'Busa. Clearly we'd forgotten that while Suzuki might be bringing us motorcycle technology, it would not be packaged in a motorcycle.

In fact, this SX4 in Vapor Blue Metallic is a reminder that Suzuki has finally left behind such odd choices as the X-90 and the funky rebadged Daewoos and gotten in touch with the same Suzuki spirit that brought us the Samurai, the Sidekick and the Impulse. It's become a more grown-up car company, and as a measure of this, Suzuki has partnered with Fiat in the development of the SX4 (Suzuki has always been very successful in the Italian market, anyway). Italdesign has styled the exterior to help the SX4 crossover inspire some lust among car shoppers, but Suzuki has also provided its seven-year/100,000-mile fully transferable warranty so everyone will know this car is as sensible as you expect a Suzuki to be.

The 2009 Suzuki SX4 might not speed down PCH with the authority of the B-king, but Suzuki is clearly (finally?) putting as much effort into its cars as it does into its bikes.

As Tough as Wisconsin
We knew a guy who had an AMC Eagle. Or more specific, he had three of them. One was for driving, one was what is known colloquially as a "woods beater" and the third was a donor car for spare parts.

Suzuki doesn't want spare SX4s to be lying around to furnish body parts, but it does hope for the kind of loyalty that those made-in-Wisconsin (the place where four-wheel drive was invented) Eagles attracted. Suzuki hopes that the SX4 will not only go to the grocery store for you but also be a part of your adventure. Suzuki wants to be a lifestyle, not just a cheap car.

Well, for the next 12 months and 20,000 miles it's going to be a part of life at Inside Line. Will we think Eagle at the end of this, or will memories of Geo and Daewoo still prevail? Stay tuned.

Current Odometer: 2,109
Best Fuel Economy: 23.2 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 20.4 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 22 mpg

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests