2008 Suzuki SX4 CrossoverPosted on May 16th, 2008
Suzuki’s all-wheel drive hatchback packs a lot of content in a subcompact package.
By Nina Russin
Last Fall, I was pleasantly surprised by the sporty performance of the Suzuki SX4 sedan. This week, I got behind the wheel of its five-door sibling, the SX4 Crossover. Standard all-wheel drive gives the crossover off-road capability, and an added measure of protection in wet weather.
On the down side, all-wheel drive adds weight to the hatchback: gas mileage is slightly worse than for the Sport. It also impacts ride and handling. Sixteen-inch wheels on the Touring grade improve the Crossover’s cornering, but it lacks the SX4 Sport’s high-speed finesse.
Having said that, drivers who need more cargo space than the SX4 sedan offers should consider the Crossover. For just under $17,000 Suzuki includes standard features rarely found in this price range: keyless entry and start, a XM ready, MP3 compatible sound system, four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel ABS, and standard electronic stability program.
Peppy, fuel efficient engine
Power for the SX4 comes from an inline four-cylinder engine. Both the block and cylinder heads are aluminum, minimizing engine weight. The engine reaches peak torque at 3500 rpm, so the driver can effectively use its power when accelerating into high-speed traffic.
Having seen many four-cylinder engines fall victim to broken timing belts, I love the fact that this one comes with a timing chain. It may be a little noisier, but it won’t leave the driver stuck on the side of the road with a string of bent valves.
The five-speed manual transmission is easy to shift. The clutch pedal is light enough to work in stop-and-go traffic, and the gears have enough range so the driver doesn’t have to shift constantly. A four-speed automatic transmission is available for drivers who don’t want the inconvenience of shifting.
Four-wheel disc brakes are firm and linear. Many compact cars in this price segment have rear drums, which don’t stop as well and are harder to service. The rear discs and standard antilock braking add value to Suzuki’s package.
Standard electronic stability program on the Touring grade uses the engine and brakes to prevent excessive yaw, and keep the wheels from spinning on wet surfaces. A shut-off switch on the center console gives the driver some extra control off-road, or when driving the car for sport.
Speed sensitive power steering adds more steering assist at lower speeds to make parking easier. Reduced assist at highway speeds gives the driver better control when making emergency evasive maneuvers.
While the Crossover is slightly less maneuverable than the SX4 Sport, it is easily capable of quick lane changes. Sixteen-inch wheels on the test car are an upgrade from fifteen-inch rims on the base model: they enhance the car’s footprint, improving stability on and off-road.
A toggle switch on the center console allows the driver to switch between front and all-wheel drive. On dry, paved roads, front-wheel drive optimizes the car’s fuel economy. An automatic setting engages the all-wheel drive, sending up to fifty percent of the engine torque to the rear axle when wheel slippage occurs. A lock mode for off-road driving maintains more power at the back wheels.
The SX4 Crossover has just under seven inches of ground clearance: ample for unimproved roads, and some off-road trails. The car’s short wheelbase gives it the ability to navigate through narrow turns.
Visibility around the car is good, with the exception of an annoying front pillar design. I’m not quite sure why designers put the A pillars so far forward. They are especially noticeable when cornering to the left.
Inside, the SX4 Crossover has most of the features active buyers want, including a few they might not expect. Keyless ignition allows the driver to open and close the doors by depressing a button on the door handles, as long as the remote fob is in his pocket. The car has a traditional ignition switch rather than a start button, but it will start the car without the use of a key.
The standard cloth upholstery is attractive and more practical than leather for those who like to get dirty on the weekends. All four doors have map pockets and bottle holders. There are two additional cupholders in the floor console and one behind the center console: all big enough for water bottles.
Though there isn’t a center console bin, front passengers should find adequate storage space in the oversized glovebox, and two open shelves at the base of the center stack. A twelve-volt power point on the center stack can recharge electronic devices.
The Touring grade comes with an AM/FM and XM-ready radio, and CD player. The nine-speaker sound system is MP3 compatible. Redundant audio controls on the steering wheel allow the driver to change programming with a minimum of distraction.
Though Suzuki calls the SX4 a five-passenger car, few adults will want to sit in the center rear position, since the transmission tunnel limits legroom. Legroom in the outboard positions is adequate for smaller adults. Head and shoulder room are not a problem.
The 60/40 split second-row seats tumble forward to extend the cargo floor. It’s an easy two-step operation: levers on the seatbacks fold them flat, while straps in back of the seat cushions releases them. The SX4 Crossover meets our bicycle-friendly standards. Standard roof rails are useful for carrying additional cargo.
New front-wheel drive model with standard navigation rolls out this summer.
Suzuki is introducing a front-wheel drive version of the SX4 Crossover for the 2009 model year: the new models roll into dealerships this summer. Having not driven that car, I can’t say whether its performance will come closer to the SX4 Sport. But it will certainly do better at the gas pump.
Suzuki is spicing up the front-wheel drive package with a standard navigation system. In addition to the car being a steal at $16,000, an option package adds Bluetooth capability and Microsoft software, including real-time traffic, weather, local event listings and a gas station finder. Buyers who don’t need the all-weather or all-terrain capability of all-wheel drive should wait a few months till the ’09 SX4 Crossovers come out.
All Suzuki models come with a seven-year, 100,000 mile fully transferable warranty. Suzuki builds the SX4 Crossover at its assembly plant in Konsai, Japan.
Likes: An affordable car with standard features rarely found in this price range, including all-wheel drive, four-channel antilock brakes, and electronic stability program. The hatchback’s rear seats are easy to fold out of the way: it easily meets our ALV bicycle friendly standards.
Dislike: A pillars obstruct the driver’s forward vision.
Model: SX4 Crossover Touring AWD
Base price: $16,870
As tested: $16,870
Horsepower: 143 Hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 136 @ 3500 rpm
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Fuel economy: 21/28 mpg city/highway
Comments: Suzuki is offering buyers three months of free gasoline with the purchase of any 2007 or 2008 model through June 30. Customers purchasing the SX4 Crossover receive a pre-paid card covering gasoline expenses up to $355.
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