Suzuki SX4

14 Oct 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Suzuki SX4

Suzuki SX4

Yarra Valley, Australia

What we liked

Composed ride and handling

Elevated driving position

Stability control standard

Not so much

No curtain airbags for entry-level hatch

Modest visual changes

Overall rating: 3.0/5.0

Price, Packaging and Practicality: 3.5/5.0

Safety: 2.5/5.0

Behind the wheel: 3.0/5.0

X-factor: 2.5/5.0

— Ironing out the wrinkles

Launched in early 2007, the Suzuki SX4 hit the scene when buzz words like ‘crossover’ were being bandied about like a bag of salt and vinegar chips before a barbeque.

Suzuki claims that it had the first true crossover vehicle with the SX4, combining the ease of use of a small car and the practicality of a 4WD. With the recent refresh, it’s staying the course.

Suzuki will continue to differentiate this vehicle [from its small car rivals] as the only true crossover, stated Suzuki Australia’s general manager, Tony Devers.

True or not, the SX4 was a handy little runabout with a touch of versatility, yet the original model was criticised for not including basic safety features, such as stability control and its image was somewhat tarnished due to average fuel consumption.

Suzuki needed to make amends and with the 2010 model it’s cured some of the original SX4’s ills, but will this be enough to create a showroom hero to sit beside the top-selling Swift?

PRICE AND EQUIPMENT

— Big features, small package

There is a wide array of models and variants of the SX4, including a pair of hatch models (4WD and 2WD) and an up-spec sedan variant. The entry-level vehicle in the range is the six-speed manual front-wheel drive Hatch variant, priced from $20,490, followed by the Hatch S manual and Hatch AWD manual, both priced at $23,490.

The best way to get your head around the line-up is to see the full price list:

Hatch Manual $20,490

Hatch Automatic $22,490

Hatch AWD Manual $23,490

Hatch AWD Automatic $25,490

Hatch S Manual $23,490

Hatch S Automatic $25,490

Hatch AWD S Manual $25,690

Hatch AWD S Automatic $27,690

Sedan S Manual $23,990

Sedan S Automatic $25,990

The first generation Suzuki SX4 was criticised for not having adequate safety features, but the new model has addressed these concerns, adding things like stability control as standard. Though entry-level Hatch models only come with twin front airbags, Hatch S and Hatch AWD models add side and curtain airbags.

Other safety features include antilock brakes with brake force distribution, traction control, and three-point seatbelts for all five seats.

The standard features list includes the kind of mod cons you’d expect on a upper-class small car, with electric power steering, electric windows front and rear, remote central locking, steering-wheel mounted audio controls and an eight-speaker CD stereo with auxiliary input jack and speed-sensitive volume adjustment.

Air-conditioning (with pollen filter) is also standard equipment, as is an updated trip computer with various readouts including instant and average fuel consumption and distance to empty.

What entry-level SX4 Hatch models don’t have is cruise control.

You’ll need to upgrade to the S models to get cruise, and these models also add 17-inch alloy wheels (16-inchers for AWD variants), remote keyless entry and engine start, front fog lamps, a leather wrapped steering wheel and nine-speaker stereo. Auto models (actually these feature a CVT — see MECHANICAL below) also get steering wheel paddle shifters.

All-wheel drive versions add a switchable i-AWD module, which has three modes: 2WD, 4WD Auto, and 4WD Lock.

— Compact city car by night, adventurer by day

One of the major updates for the new 2010 Suzuki SX4 is the engine, and though it’s similar in dimension and setup — a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol mill — it is in fact all new.

Suzuki’s new J20B four-cylinder VVT engine pumps out 112kW and 190Nm — increases of 5kW and 6Nm respectively. Of more interest to buyers in the small car segment, however, is the engine’s fuel consumption which drops to as low as 7.3L/100km in the 2WD manual hatch models, which is on par with a Toyota Corolla manual. The auto AWD is the thirstiest version but is still rated at 8.0L/100km.

All models have a 50-litre fuel tank.

Customers have always enjoyed the power of the SX4; now they can do it without paying an impost at the petrol pump, says Tony Devers, adding: Our aim is to be among the class leaders, and SX4 more than delivers on the powertrain front.

As well as a six-speed manual transmission, Suzuki offers a CVT automatic gearbox and together with the new engine, both transmission types have recorded carbon dioxide emissions reductions, from 193 to 170g/km in the manual and from 215 to 178 for the auto.

Tipping the scales between 1245-1285kg, the new SX4’s is suspended by MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam set-up at the rear. It gets disc brakes at all four corners. Stability control aside, there are no substantial changes to its underpinnings in this generation.

All-wheel drive models command a $3000 premium over their 2WD stablemates but deliver a more capable package thanks to an electronically-controlled wet multi-plate clutch coupling, which can divert up to 50 per cent of engine torque to the rear axle. There’s a small three-way switch located behind the park brake on AWD models, allowing drivers to switch between 2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock modes on the run. 4WD Lock mode operates up to around 60km/h.

Though the SX4 won’t be able to follow a Nissan Patrol down demanding 4WD tracks, the AWD Hatch models have enough tenacity to get well and truly off the beaten track, as evidenced in our boggy hill climb during the launch drive (see ON THE ROAD).

— Neat and tidy

The Suzuki SX4 is not an easy vehicle to pigeon-hole. Its dimensions suggest it is a small car, measuring 4115mm long and 1730mm wide, but with a raised ride height of 170mm the SX4 doesn’t always feel like a traditional hatch.

Interior space is on par with many of its lower-riding hatchback and sedan rivals, while a large, upright windscreen provides excellent forward vision and a good sensation of space in the cockpit.

There’s something to be said of the ambience inside the SX4, which goes beyond the rudimentary cup holders, storage solutions, easy-to-read instruments and comfortable seats. On top of the spacious and airy feel for front seat occupants, the plastics and panels have an impressive flush fit and the trip computer has been upgraded to include more features, such as instant and average fuel consumption.

Dash plastics are a little unforgiving — unlike the soft-touch materials used in the Ford Focus, for example. We noted also that rear seat room is far from class leading.

Boot space of 253 litres is average for the small hatchback class, enough room for the shopping but not quite enough for an IKEA kitchen set. However, this expands to a more usable 992 litres with the seat down.

The sedan meanwhile has a much larger boot, with 515 litres, and is being marketed more towards the golf set rather than first car buyers, and this is evidenced via a higher level of specification, such as 17-inch alloy wheels and smatterings of chrome for a classier (and less rugged) image.

Suzuki has fitted an eight-speaker MP3-compatible CD stereo to all models, with S models getting a nine-speaker system (a central speaker is added). Stereo controls on the steering wheel and an AUX jack for external audio players such as iPods are also standard across the range.

— Better late than never.

With no stability control, Suzuki has had a tough time of things with the first-generation SX4 when compared on safety equipment. Now things have changed and the safety features list makes for better reading. Standard across the range is antilock brakes, brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control, and three-point seat belts for all five occupants.

All models except the entry-level front-wheel drive Hatch come with six airbags (twin front, side and curtain). It’s offered instead with just driver and front passenger airbags. Suzuki says the SX4 is not likely to be retested by ANCAP, and will retain its four-star safety rating.

— Standing out from the crowd

The first-generation SX4 saw less than 300 units finding buyers per month, but Tony Devers expects the updated model with its improved fuel economy and safety features to bump up sales to around 500 units per month in Australia. To do this it will need to pilfer sales from Asian and European rivals such as the Subaru Impreza and two-wheel drive competitors such as the Toyota Corolla, Holden Cruze, and Ford Focus.

Nissan Dualis is perhaps the car’s closest rival, however, top-selling models such as the Mazda3 will also provide competition for the crossover vehicle.

Suzuki sees its target market as couples aged between 35-54, and particularly those with an adventurous attitude, for whom all-wheel drive capability is a top concern. With that in mind the SX4 could also rival some compact SUVs, such as the new Hyundai ix35.

ON (AND OFF) THE ROAD

— Jack of all trades

Suzuki is well known for its fun-to-drive Swift. The new SX4 isn’t as wieldy as its top-selling light car sibling but it doesn’t stray far from this well-worn path.

The first car we drove was an entry-level manual model and with a commanding view of the road and a compliant ride, initial impressions were very positive. With a 10.6 metre turning circle the SX4 completed a U-turn effortlessly on a tight winding country road after we overshot our turn off, which also bodes well navigating urban environments.

Suzuki’s all-new 2.0-litre engine is more a willing powerplant than its predecessor and like most Suzuki engines it has a lot of character — which could be read as noise if you wanted to be ultra-critical. Granted, the engine does generate a bit of noise when the tacho needle nears the redline, but for this driver it served to add more satisfaction to the driving experience.

Working the steering wheel through both tight winding corners and open sweepers the SX4 delivered a relatively neutral feel with a touch of understeer and only mild levels of body roll.

Indeed, the suspension tune finds a happy medium between ride and handling, soaking up most of the bumps in the road while remaining composed and competent at higher speeds and when cornering. The brakes felt good too, with a strong (and reassuring) initial bite. Though the clutch uptake was a little high, the six-speed manual’s shift feel was pleasing and not too soggy and soft.

The only criticism to be levelled at the way the SX4 drives is the steering feel, which can be somewhat vague and woolly, but overall it is a good thing to drive.

Next up was the CVT automatic model, which was the pick of the two gearboxes (and this coming from a die-hard manual fan). Simply put, the CVT automatic gearbox seemed to unlock the engine’s sweet spot much more readily than the manual, which required regular revving of the engine to maintain momentum, particularly uphill. The auto also has six quasi-ratios which did a very good job of imitating regular ratios, delivering decent shift speeds too.

When the winding roads gave way to freeway cruising, the automatic-equipped SX4 sat at 2200rpm at 100km/h, which should result in impressive highway fuel consumption.

We also had the good fortune to take the all-wheel drive versions on a makeshift bush test course; essentially a few dirt mounds and a steep, boggy hill climb spanning about 300 metres. The SX4 failed to climb the first hill in 2WD, but when flicked to 4WD Auto via a quick button press it clambered up the ascent with ease. The front wheels would spin momentarily before the electronically controlled clutch coupling diverted torque to the rear wheels.

We also took Suzuki’s crossover car down a couple of fast gravel roads and this gave the stability and traction control a thorough workout. The car felt quite composed on loose gravel surfaces and the vehicle’s ride height advantage over standard small hatchbacks ensured that it avoided bottoming out through undulating sections.

Though most SX4 buyers probably won’t need to use the off-road drive modes available to 4WD Hatch models, it’s reassuring to know they are there. At the end of the launch, it is fair to say the SX4 has left a positive impression.

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Published. Tuesday, 23 March 2010

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