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Manufacturer’s Website
Suzuki Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2012 Suzuki SX4 Hatch

Given our cold winters and unpredictable weather conditions, all-wheel drive makes a lot of sense in this country.  Look around and you’ll see a lot of 4X4 trucks, AWD SUVs and crossovers, and some AWD luxury cars—yet AWD cars are comparatively rare.  In the under-$25,000 price range, there are just five cars available with AWD:  the Suzuki SX4 AWD hatchback (which Suzuki calls a crossover), the Subaru Impreza, Toyota Matrix AWD, Jeep Compass 4X4, and Jeep Patriot 4X4 (the Jeep Wrangler is more of a truck…).

Test Drive: 2012 Suzuki SX4 JLX AWD car test drives suzuki
2012 Suzuki SX4 JLX AWD. Click image to enlarge

The Suzuki SX4 is the smallest of the bunch—a full 280 mm (11 in.) shorter than a Subaru Impreza hatchback—yet taller than the Impreza and Matrix, giving it a relatively tall and stubby appearance. Its shorter length and wheelbase have some advantages and disadvantages: it’s easy to manoeuvre and park in the city and feels more nimble than its competitors, but its cabin is smaller, particularly in the cargo area where the cargo capacity behind the rear seats is less than half that of its rivals.

The 2012 SX4 hatch is powered by a 150-hp 2.0L four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing.  This engine was new in 2010, as was the six-speed manual transmission (standard in JA and JX models) and the continuously variable transmission (optional in JA and JX, standard in JLX).  Acceleration is not particularly quick—Consumer Reports says a CVT-equipped SX4 hatchback has a 0–60 mph time of 10.3 seconds—and the CVT’s droning sound makes it feel slower than it is.  If you put your foot to the floor, engine revs will rise to about 5,500 rpm and stay there until you back off the throttle.  The engine is a bit noisy under acceleration, but not uncomfortably so, and when driving on a level freeway at 100 km/h, the engine turns over at just 2,000 rpm and is fairly quiet.  However, there is quite a bit of road noise at speed.

Test Drive: 2012 Suzuki SX4 JLX AWD car test drives suzuki
Test Drive: 2012 Suzuki SX4 JLX AWD car test drives suzuki
2012 Suzuki SX4 JLX AWD. Click image to enlarge

Though the SX4 hatchback is a lightweight car with a small engine, fuel economy is not impressive: fuel consumption is rated at 9.0/6.7 city/hwy (31/42 mpg) but my onboard fuel consumption display was showing 9.8 L/100 km with 2,600 km on the odometer.  In a similar 2011 SX4 Hatchback, contributor Peter Bleakney managed 9.0 L/100 km.  Still, the SX4’s official fuel consumption figures are better than the Matrix AWD four-speed auto (10.3/7.7) and Jeep Patriot CVT (9.2/7.2), but nowhere near the new Impreza CVT (7.5/5.5).

In the SX4 JLX model, the CVT has a manual shift mode operated by the floor lever or paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.  It simulates six gears and improves throttle responsiveness by allowing the driver to ‘downshift’ manually and raise engine revs quickly to improve acceleration.  The transmission doesn’t have to be in manual mode to do this; you can shift gears while in Drive and it will automatically revert back to automatic mode in about ten seconds unless you’re continuing to accelerate in a lower gear.  I found this handy when approaching a hill or when preparing to pass.  In general, the smaller the engine, the more I tend to use the manual shifting function of a manumatic.

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