Considering its low price, the 2012 Suzuki SX4 delivers more driving enjoyment than most budget small cars. The roadholding is good, the car is easily tossed through corners, and the all-wheel drive model remains the least expensive way to get four-wheel traction.
The sole engine across the lineup is a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter four. It can be fitted with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or a six-speed manual gearbox. The entry-level Sedan, the fancier Sport sedan, and the SportBack five-door hatchback have front-wheel drive, while the Crossover model offers Suzuki's own all-wheel drive system. It comes with an unusual feature, a front-wheel drive mode that delivers better fuel economy on smooth, dry roads. In its regular mode, however, the all-wheel drive system can send up to 50 percent of available torque to the rear wheels.
That engine provides enough torque to give the SX4 a responsive feeling with either transmission, and it's smooth and zippy during most kinds of regular driving--especially as a regular commuter car. The manual transmission may be the best way to use the engine's mid-range torque and responsiveness, but the CVT is fitted with paddle shifters that simulate fixed ratios, letting the driver "upshift" or "downshift" to control the power delivery as needed.
Steering feel is good, and there's little body roll in the front-wheel drive models. The Crossover all-wheel drive model sits higher and provides more suspension travel, feeling both tippier and noisier in spirited maneuvers. Its aggressive accelerator tip-in may fool drivers into thinking they have unlimited power, but they'll find that especially on the heavy Crossover, they quickly run out of urge and find their foot flat on the floor.