2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Laurance Yap

Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada

Find this vehicle in Autos’s Classified Ads

I always liked the Suzuki Aerio because it was a car that seemed uniquely suited to the Canadian market. It was available as a hatchback as well as a sedan, which made it practical for our daily lives, able to haul people and things with ease thanks to the large opening at the back and a rear set of seats that would fold easily to the floor. It had a powerful engine for its class, making it a surprisingly good car to cover even very long distances in. And the availability of all-wheel-drive made it perfect for our winters: lots of grip to keep you safe, but with a surprising amount of tail-out action if you were in a more playful mood.

While you see enough Aerios around, there’s part of me that’s surprised you don’t see more. Perhaps it had to do with the curious Transformer-mask styling and the odd stance with its tiny wheels (I always kind of liked it). Maybe it was the symmetrical dashboard and the tiny digital readouts that constituted its instrument cluster, redesigned in later Aerios. Maybe it was the offbeat marketing campaign with the “Me and my Suzuki Aerio” jingle. Given its competitive pricing and unique blend of capabilities, I thought Suzuki should have sold squillions of Aerios; instead it merely sold lots.

The SX4 compact, which replaces the Aerio in the Canadian market, does all of the same things well that the Aerio did and fixes pretty much all of its shortcomings, perceived or real.

2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4. Click image to enlarge

First: the styling. Given our own market’s preference for hatchbacks, as well as growing acceptance of the format in the States, the SX4 is no longer available as a sedan. A good-looking hatchback it is, too, with a low hood that blends into a high, arcing roof with big windows for a great view out. More importantly, Suzuki’s designers have gotten the stance right: the new compact no longer looks like a fat guy standing on his tiptoes; large wheels (15-inchers on the base model and 16-inch five-spoke alloys on uplevel JLX) give the SX4 a planted, stable look. The detailing combines elements of sporty sedans and SUVs in a surprisingly convincing manner: there’s a deep front air dam flanked by a pair of fog lights, but there’s also some nicely integrated body cladding along the sides for a tougher look. In detailing if not in overall shape or execution, the SX4 kind of reminds me of the Audi Allroad, another car with a raised ride height that managed to look sporty and rugged at the same time.

2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the Suzuki doesn’t quite measure up to Audi levels of quality, but it can be forgiven given its $16,000 base price (the mid-level JX starts at $18,195 and the all-wheel-drive JLX starts at $21,495 with automatic climate control, a six-disc CD player, subwoofer and other equipment). Relative to its competitors in the same price class, the SX4 does have one of the nicest interiors. Build quality is excellent, with tight gaps between all of the various plastic and fabric panels and a truly solid feel that cars in this price range sometimes lack. The materials used are also richer than you would expect: soft-touch plastic on the dash, a durable-looking but supple technical cloth on the seats and leather on the steering wheel and shift knob. Small touches of metal throughout the cabin add an upscale touch, as do the sharply-lit instruments marked with clean, sophisticated graphics.

2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4. Click image to enlarge

You sit upright in the SX4, higher than pretty much any other small car but below where most minivan and small SUV drivers sit. Thanks to the big glass and a dashboard design which shrinks away from you, the view outwards is terrific (save for at the front corners, where two pillars frame a quarter-window where there’d normally only be one pillar). Driving the SX4 in town is thus a breeze: you can see clearly where the car ends and the controls make it easy to manoeuvre through tight urban streets and underground parking lots. On potholed downtown boulevards, the SX4’s high-riding suspension and big tires meant it rode smoothly where other small cars would crash and bang.

Indeed, between the smooth ride, a surprising lack of wind noise and a smooth-running engine, this is a very refined-feeling car. At highway speeds, there’s very little wind or road noise, even on rough pavement; the engine is smooth and quiet under most conditions. On country roads, however – and when you want a bit more performance – the SX4 can feel a bit more strained. The 2.0-litre engine produces 143 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque, which is adequate for most situations but requires downshifts to pass freeway traffic; throttle response off the line can also feel somewhat sluggish.

2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4. Click image to enlarge

Hills have the optional four-speed automatic transmission hunting between its gears and under full throttle, the engine can be pretty loud – if still surprisingly smooth. (Suzuki will be fielding an SX4 in the World Rally Championship in 2007; it will have a turbocharged engine. Hmmmm.)

The rest of the SX4 wants to drive in the same fairly relaxed manner that the powerplant prefers. The suspension – MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam in the rear – generates a surprising amount of grip along with the Bridgestone Turanzas, but the body leans a fair bit and the steering isn’t very communicative about what’s going on at the contact patches. The brakes – front discs and rear drums on the base car, all-wheel-discs on the JX and JLX, all with ABS as standard – are strong but the pedal feels kind of mushy. Use the SX4 as an urban commuter, you’ll scarcely notice these slight flaws, but Suzuki is pitching the car at “weekend warriors” who leave the city on weekends to pursue adventure in the mountains; drive the twists and turns on the way to a campsite or a cottage and the car can feel a bit numb and heavy.

2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4; photos by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

A feeling of heft – perhaps, one should say, of substance – permeates the SX4. It has a really substantial, high-quality feel reinforced not only by the materials used in the interior and the overall refinement, but in the way it’s constructed. The doors slam with authority and small details are well thought-out, like the bottle holders in the doors and the full-size headrests that emerge from the top of the rear seats when needed. Comfort for a small car is excellent, with plenty of headroom, decent legroom in the back and a theatre-seating arrangement that gives rear-seat passengers an excellent view out. The back seats fold up and out of the way, but they’re pretty awkward to work: you fold down the seatbacks with a lever, then pull up on a fabric loop to unlatch the seat base; you get them to stay upright by strapping them to the seat in front.

What makes the Suzuki stand out relative to its competition is its new three-mode all-wheel-drive system. When set to automatic, it monitors throttle, wheel speed and other parameters to determine just how much power (up to 50% of the total torque) to send to the rear wheels. You can also push a switch to lock it for low speeds (distributing 30% of the power to the rear) or switch off the rear axle altogether and cruise for fuel economy in 2WD mode. No other system in this price class offers this level of flexibility at such a low price.

2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4. Click image to enlarge

A mid-level JX model lists at under $20,000 including such amenities as air conditioning, six airbags, ABS, remote keyless entry, heated mirrors, side skirts and roof rails. At under $16,000, the base model comes only as a front-driver but includes all the same safety gear, power windows, locks and mirrors and a trip computer but does without air conditioning, and rear-wheel disc brakes; the uplevel JLX features steering-wheel audio controls, silver roof rails and other equipment.

Having sold 8,813 cars in Canada in 2005, Suzuki is hoping to grow its sales to over 20,000 cars by the time 2009 rolls around. The SX4 plays an important role in that growth as it’s destined to be the company’s volume leader. With its impressive packaging, high level of feature content and especially its available all-wheel-drive system, it should bring a lot of new buyers to the Suzuki brand.



Base price $15,995
Base price JX $18,195
Base price JX AWD $19,995
Base price JLX AWD $21,495
Type 4-door, 5-passenger subcompact hatchback
Layout Transverse front engine/FWD/AWD
Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 16 valves
Horsepower 143 @ 5800 rpm
Torque 136 @ 3500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (4-speed automatic opt.)
Transfer case On-demand AWD, selectable 2WD, 4WD Lock
Tires P195/65R15
Tires, JX and JLX P205/60R16
Curb weight (manual transmission) 1200 kg (2646 lb.) man.
Curb weight (automatic transmission) 1235 kg (2723 lb.) auto.
Wheelbase 2500 mm (98.4 in.)
Length 4115 mm (162.0 in.)
Width 1730 mm (68.1 in.)
Height 1575 mm (62.0 in.)
Ground clearance 165 mm (6.5 in.)
Cargo capacity 457 litres (16.2 cu. ft.) rear seats up; 1534 litres (54.3 cu. ft.) rear seats down
Fuel consumption (manual transmission) City: 9.2 L/100 km (31 mpg Imp); Hwy: 6.9 L/100 km (41 mpg Imp)
Fuel consumption (automatic transmission) City: 9.0 L/100 km (32 mpg Imp); Hwy: 6.5 L/100 km (44 mpg Imp)
Warranty 3 years, 60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 year, 100,000 km
Side airbags N/A base; standard JX, JLX
Curtain airbags N/A base; standard JX, JLX
Anti-lock brakes N/A base; standard JX, JLX
Stability control N/A
Assembly location Hammamatsu, Japan

Related stories on Autos


Crash test results

Manufacturer’s web site

Connect with Autos.ca