- Good value for money
- Available all-wheel drive on hatchback
- Sporty feel at the wheel
- Still somewhat thirsty for gas
- Excessive engine noise
- Minimal hatchback load space with seat up
The 2010 Suzuki SX4 delivers cheerful refinement at a remarkably low price; its only Achilles' heel is its fuel efficiency.
High Gear Media drove a manufacturer-provided Suzuki SX4 to produce this hands-on road test.
Now in its fourth model year, the 2010 Suzuki SX4 range gains a new model: The front-wheel-drive SportBack five-door joins the visually similar all-wheel-drive Crossover, as well as the front-wheel-drive Sport four-door sedan. Suzuki claims the SX4 Crossover is the lowest-priced vehicle of its type with all-wheel drive. For 2010, Suzuki updates the dashboard, replaces its four-speed automatic with a continuously variable transmission, and wrings both more power and better gas mileage out of its engine. At a base price of $16,849, the SX4 lineup compares with the Nissan Versa, the Subaru Impreza, and the Dodge Caliber.
The pert, truncated tail of the 2010 Suzuki SX4 Crossover and its sportier front-wheel-drive twin, the SX4 SportBack, give them both a look that's cheerful and distinctive. Unlike many similar vehicles, the 2010 SX4 Crossover avoids looking tall and tippy, and the SportBack-with its roof rack removed, a subtle aero kit, and suspension that's half an inch lower-appears even closer to the ground. The SX4 sedan, on the other hand, loses the visual spark of the hatchback's blunt rear. It will vanish immediately in the sea of silver subcompacts found in any mall parking lot. The instrument panel is styled simply but attractively, and both materials and plastic trim look and feel more expensive than the SX4's price would lead you to expect. The instrument cluster is new this year, with aluminum trim surrounds, and the large, knurled knobs for the ventilation system are simple and intuitively easy to use.
Suzuki's Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive (I-AWD) system is standard on the Crossover, whereas the SportBack, the entry Sedan, and the fancier Sport sedan make do with simpler front-wheel drive. Both versions come standard with a 150-horsepower version of Suzuki's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine (it gained 7 hp for 2010), along with one of two new transmissions: a six-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 2010 Suzuki SX4 comes across as smooth and zippy in regular, relaxed driving, with enough torque from the engine to feel responsive with either transmission. The manual gearbox seems especially sporty, and paddle shifters that simulate fixed ratios in the CVT give the driver a feeling of control that meshes well with the SX4's sporty feel.
The 2010 SX4 Crossover doesn't take especially well to truly enthusiastic driving, when its engine booms and the body rolls in turns. Front-wheel-drive models are better on that account. But its weakest point remains fuel economy, which has improved slightly due to the new transmissions but still trails most competitors. The most economical model of the 2010 SX4, the base Sedan equipped with the CVT, now manages 25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, for a combined EPA rating of 28 mpg. Not surprisingly, the all-wheel-drive SX4 Crossover is the least fuel-efficient model, just managing 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway with the six-speed manual, or 23 mpg city, 29 mpg highway with the CVT. Those are numbers more likely to be seen on a mid-size sedan than a small compact hatchback, all-wheel drive or not.
The base nylon seat fabric may not scream elegance, but the 2010 Suzuki SX4's seats are nice and upright, comfortable, and better bolstered than those of competitors. The interior is spacious and pleasantly designed, with the theater-style elevated seating in the rear giving both more legroom and a less claustrophobic feeling for backseat passengers. The sedan's trunk holds 15.5 cubic feet of cargo, fairly good for the class, but the hatchback's short tail means luggage space is restricted to 10 cubic feet to seatback height, only enough for several grocery bags unless you fold down the split rear seat. With the seat down and the load space filled to the ceiling, the Crossover and SportBack can handle a more useful 54 cubic feet of cargo. Visibility from the driver's seat is particularly good, with the upright seating and dropped window line providing a better-than-average view. Wind noise is well suppressed, and overall, the SX4 measures up well in refinement except when the driver really pushes the engine hard, at which point it becomes thrashy. Materials, fit, and finish are adequate, helped by the redesigned dashboard this year, but are not top-of-class. Among the demerits are hard plastics.
The 2010 Suzuki SX4's actual crash-test performance is middle-of-the-pack, with four out of five stars in tests for frontal and side impact by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But the Suzuki SX4 really piles on the standard safety features, with six airbags for driver and passenger front and side impact, plus side-curtain bags for the rear passengers. Suzuki is to be commended for fitting four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, while many competitors retain rear drums. For 2010, electronic stability control (incorporating traction control) and a tire-pressure monitoring system are newly standard.
The SX4 line ranges from the base Sedan model to the well-equipped SportBack and Crossover models. In 2009, Suzuki sweetened the value proposition by including a Garmin touchscreen navigation system in every model. Its flip-up 4.3-inch touchscreen display can be removed, and the system comes preloaded with mapping software that includes hotels, restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, and more. It's also fully integrated into the SX4's audio system. An optional upgraded TRIP system adds hands-free calling via Bluetooth, and text messaging is delivered both on-screen and audibly.
For 2010, the new SX4 SportBack is equipped with a raft of standard features, including power windows, locks, and mirrors; fog lights; an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system ready for Sirius Satellite Radio; a six-disc CD changer; keyless start; 17-inch alloy wheels; and a trip computer. Similarly, the base 2010 Suzuki SX4 Crossover includes 16-inch alloy wheels, power windows and locks, keyless entry, air conditioning, and a four-speaker CD sound system. Suzuki also offers an accessory iPod interface, letting drivers operate the world's best-known music player via steering-wheel controls, with playlists and track information appearing on the audio display.