First Drive: 2008 Suzuki SX4 Sedan –

22 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on First Drive: 2008 Suzuki SX4 Sedan –

October 3, 2007

2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

Quebec City #8211; Nearly half the cars sold in Canada last year were compacts. Throw in sub-compacts and that figure rises to nearly 60%. Canada#8217;s biggest selling car is a compact, the Honda Civic. And among the 2007 top ten cars, nine are compacts or sub-compacts.

Clearly, Canadians like their little cars.

And there are lots of compacts to choose from. Even luxury car makers are starting to get in on the action. Any car maker who wants to be successful in Canada just has to have a compact sedan in its line-up.

Enter Suzuki#8217;s SX4 sedan. The sedan follows by a year the introduction of the SX4 hatchback, which in turn replaced the Aerio hatchback and sedan: a full year without a sedan to sell; not one car in the line-up with a trunk; not a good thing.

Still, Suzuki increased sales in 2006 by more than 25%. And so far this year, sales are up another 16%. Suzuki is counting on the new sedan to push sales further, from an anticipated 13,000 in 2007 to 15,000 in 2008 and 20,000 by 2010.

2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge

I don#8217;t think Suzuki is being optimistic. Based on my first impressions of the SX4 sedan, Suzuki has designed a vehicle that can compete with compacts that Canadian buyers would traditionally consider.

Do a little on-line research (try our Buyer#8217;s Guide ) and build a spreadsheet before you buy. Believe me, you#8217;ll need it. There are so many vehicles in this class, you will never be able to sort out all the details in your head.

A spreadhseet will show that some compacts are longer and some are shorter, some are wider and some are narrower, some are lighter and some are heavier than the SX4. Few, if any, will be taller.

Few will have the interior volume (2,945 litres or 104 cubic feet) or the trunk volume 439 L/15.5 cu. ft.) offered by the SX4. But most will have split folding rear seats, at least optionally available, something the Suzuki does not.

2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge

The 143 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque offered by the SX4#8242;s 2.0-litre in-line four cylinder engine is a bit more than most other manufacturers offer, at least on their base engines. While models with more powerful engines are available from Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Ford and GM, it#8217;s one engine from Suzuki.

Compare safety features: the SX4 has a full complement of safety gear including front airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution. Delete any vehicle from your spreadsheet that doesn#8217;t offer these features as standard equipment.

Delete, as well, any compact that costs more than $20,095, the top price you#8217;ll pay for a fully-loaded SX4. Unless a buyer wants a bigger engine that uses more fuel, no one in Canada should be paying more than $20,000 for a compact front-wheel drive sedan.

But a thrifty buyer can be forgiven for taking a second look at the SX4#8242;s fuel consumption. With a Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption rating of 9.0 litres per 100 kilometres (32 mpg) in the city and 6.5 L/100 km (43 mpg) on the highway for a car equipped with an automatic transmission, and worse for the Sport model and manual equipped cars, the SX4#8242;s fuel consumption is a big negative.

2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge

2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge

Items found on some competitor#8217;s models, but not offered on the Suzuki SX4 include manual seat height adjustment and telescopic steering wheel.

For an additional $1,800 the SX4 Sedan Sport adds a six-CD player with eight speakers and a subwoofer and steering-wheel mounted controls on its leather wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, heated power mirrors, fog lamps, aluminum alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, a body kit with front and rear valance and side sills and cruise control #8211; a lot of additional equipment for $1,800.

A four-speed automatic transmission is a $1,100 option on both models.

When the spreadsheet is complete, and under-equipped and too expensive models have been deleted, my guess is the Suzuki SX4 will still be there, if it hasn#8217;t been eliminated on fuel consumption.

Time to go and kick some tires, which in the SX4 Sport#8217;s case are large P205/50R17 all-season radials mounted on 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels. Base models get P195/65R15s on steel wheels.

2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge

The first thing I noticed about the SX4 is that it is tall and slender, which makes it look less sporty than a Honda Civic, less muscular than a Mazda3, but certainly more modern than the dowdy and aging Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus, both of which are about to be replaced by new designs.

But the tall roofline has some advantages: ingress and egress to both front and rear seats is a breeze, the seating position is high without cramping head room, and the back seat is an enormous adult sized space with plenty of room for legs, feet and shoulders.

With my long legs and short arms, I wished for more adjustability in the seat or for a telescopic steering wheel, but overall I was quite comfortable during my day behind the wheel of the SX4 Sport.

Calling the upscale version of the SX4 #8216;Sport#8217; is a misnomer, because in reality it isn#8217;t particularly sporty and the mechanical pieces are the same as the base model. It handles itself well, brakes with authority thanks to four-wheel disc brakes and accelerates well, if not spritely. Where the SX4 excels is in on-road driveability. Suzuki#8217;s engineers have achieved that almost impossible to achieve balance between road feel and ride comfort in an economy car.

The suspension relays the bumps, cracks and potholes through the steering and chassis without a harsh or noisy ride, and a comfortable ride is achieved without being soft or bouncy. Excellent shock absorber damping keeps the ride firm and level while minimizing body roll.

2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge

In my mind, the SX4 Sport should have been named the SX4 Luxury, for the near luxury level of equipment. Interior finishing is decidedly upscale, with durable black upholstery and stainless steel-like trim. You would be hard pressed to find an eight-speaker audio system with six-CD changer, information display (a standard feature) and automatic climate control in a vehicle priced under $20,000.

My feeling is that most buyers will opt for the SX4 Sport#8217;s extra equipment. At $1,800, it is a bargain. And so equipped, it gives Suzuki a compact sedan that can compete dollar for dollar and feature for feature with the more dominant players in the growing compact segment.

Price: $17,195 #8211; $20,095

On sale: Now

Notable: well-equipped for the price, finely tuned suspension, comfortable and quiet ride.

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