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With two roomy, well-designed body styles, a perky driving feel, and lots of features for the money, the 2012 Suzuki SX4 remains one of the stronger small-car entries for value-conscious shoppers--and one of the most often-overlooked possibilities for comparison shoppers.
The 2012 SX4 is available in several different configurations, as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. Both SX4 Sedan and SX4 SportBack (hatchback) models are front-wheel drive, but the hatchback is also offered in SX4 Crossover guise; as such, the SX4 is the lowest-priced new car with all-wheel drive.
We tend to think that the SX4 works best, design-wise, in either of its hatchback forms; the silhouette of the Suzuki SX4 sedan can appear a little too pert and truncated at the back, giving it an anonymous, rather tall-and-narrow look (and greater anonymity in parking lots); both the SX4 Crossover and its sportier front-wheel-drive twin, the SX4 SportBack, are more distinctive. Inside, the instrument panel is upright and businesslike yet sporty, and while materials are on the hard-and-cheap side, they're a bit more impressive than in other affordable rivals thanks to judicious use of textures and just a little bit of brightwork.Compared to most other on-a-budget subcompact cars, the 2012 Suzuki SX4 is simply more enjoyable to drive. Both versions of the 2011 Suzuki SX4 come standard with a 150-horsepower version of Suzuki's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, along with a six-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Models with the manual gearbox are especially strong and zippy, and the CVT escapes the acceleration drone that plagues larger four-cylinder models with this type of transmission. 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. Handling and maneuverability is impressive throughout the lineup, and with decent outward visibility, the SX4 is easy to park. The SX4's least desirable trait is fuel economy, though; EPA ratings run just 25 mpg city, 32 highway with the CVT or 23/33 with the six-speed manual.
Front seats in the SX4 are well-bolstered, with a nice, upright position--better than typical for a budget-priced small car, and while the seat fabric is far from elegant, it's comfortable and seems durable. In back, theater-style elevated seating gives both more legroom and a less claustrophobic feeling; there's enough space for two adults in a pinch. One of the key differences between the two body styles is that the sedan has a roomy trunk, while the shorter overall length of hatchbacks means that cargo space is limited--unless you're not planning to carry rear passengers and can fold the rear seatbacks. Ride quality is on the firm side but comfortable; the only aspect that isn't as charming are that the engine gets quite coarse when pressed. Wind noise and even road noise aren't bad.
While safety ratings for the SX4 haven't been particularly impressive, features certainly are, and most of the models are very strong value for the money. For 2012, Suzuki SX4 Sedan models get an upgrade to four-wheel disc brakes across the lineup (formerly rear drums), and a Garmin navigation with voice recognition is available throughout the model line (standard on the Sedan and optional on other models). With a Technology Package, the system includes Google search, plus real-time traffic and weather.
- Value for the money
- Cheap, but fun to drive
- Comfortable ride
- All-wheel drive for $17k
Next: Interior / Exterior »
- Gas mileage
- Coarse engine note
- Tight cargo space (hatchback)