2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario – With current high fuel prices and slowing sales of big SUVs and trucks, we’re finally seeing more choice in the economy segment of the market. As you might expect, Japanese small vehicle specialist Suzuki is seizing the opportunity, and its new SX4 may be the car that brings this manufacturer significantly more sales in Canada.

The SX4 is a small, but not too small, four-door hatch that comes with front-wheel drive starting at $15,995, or with all-wheel drive for $19,995. According to Bill Porter, Suzuki Canada’s VP of Sales and Marketing, the SX4 will cross over three key segments representing 40% of Canadian new vehicle sales. Subcompact buyers, compact buyers and compact SUV buyers could all see the SX4 as the solution to their needs, suggests Mr. Porter.

Well, that’s nearly half the Canadian market, when you think about it, and the Suzuki SX4 definitely has key attributes in those three segments that small vehicle buyers are looking for.

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

First of all, the SX4 looks good. It replaces the somewhat gawky Aerio hatch (Fastback) with a much more appealing design.

Secondly, its interior space is quite sufficient for four adults, with decent rear legroom and lots of shoulder/hip room for front and rear occupants. There’s good cargo capacity behind the rear seat, too, with the rear seats able to fold and tumble forward to maximize space behind the driver.

As a tallish car there’s also a lot of headroom, and even though it’s a compact vehicle, you sit high in an SX4, so you’re almost up there with the compact SUV and minivan drivers. An added benefit of this height is the ease of entry and exit for the driver and passengers.

Third, there is impressive standard safety equipment that includes side impact airbags, side curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes (although unlike the American version, Canadians don’t get available stability control). Other standard equipment on the base vehicle includes 15-inch steel wheels, power windows and mirrors, tilt steering column, AM/FM/CD audio with WMV, an information display that shows fuel consumption, outside temperature and clock, and a cargo cover.

2007 Suzuki SX4
2007 Suzuki SX4. Click image to enlarge

Finally, compared with most other all-wheel drive vehicles, the SX4’s four-cylinder engine provides decent fuel economy of 9.2/7.1 L/100 km, city/highway for the FWD version with manual transmission, and 10.1/7.6 L/km for the AWD SX4 with manual transmission. Notable is that the AWD SX4 with automatic transmission returns 9.9/7.1 L/100km, which is better than the manual equipped SX4. The standard and only powerplant available is the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, rated at 143 horsepower and 136 pounds-feet of torque

The Suzuki SX4 is available in three trim levels: base, JX and JLX. Automatic transmission adds $1,100 to each of them, and the base model is offered with FWD only.

The $18,195 JX adds air conditioning, heated mirrors, black roof rails, 16″ five-spoke alloy wheels and four-wheel disc brakes. For $19,995 you get the JX with AWD.

The top-of-the-line JLX is $21,495, and comes with AWD only. It adds automatic climate control, a six-disc, in-dash CD changer with eight speakers, leather wrapped steering wheel with remote controls, cruise control and fog lamps.

With automatic transmission, the JLX is the most expensive SX4 at $22,595.

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

Interestingly, the AWD system in the SX4 has three modes of operation, selected with a switch located between the front seats. The FWD mode can be used for maximum fuel economy, the “Auto” mode shifts torque to the rear when front slip is detected, and the “Lock” mode balances power equally front-to-rear. The “Lock” mode has significant advantages when ploughing through mud, as discovered on a test section at the SX4 launch in Niagara. It is designed for low-speed applications, and switches to “Auto” at 18 km/h.

On the road, the SX4 handles well. The ride is comfortable and the interior is quiet. The car feels very strong and rigid. Seats provide good support for longer trips, and handling is sharp, with excellent braking. Cargo capacity is useful even with the rear seat in the upright position, and the hatchback is easy to operate. The glass all around is big, allowing for good visibility to the front, sides and rear, while making the cabin seem bright and spacious, and very large rear view mirrors. Although the A-pillars are large, there are correspondingly large supplementary windows between the A-pillars and the front of the doors that are effective when parking and turning. All in all, a very nice package indeed.

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

Power is not quite there, however, with slower than expected acceleration times from standstill and from 80-120 km/h. The manual transmission feels like it needs a sixth gear, and the automatic can hunt for the right gear more than you’d like. At highway speeds, however, the automatic enables the SX4 to operate from 2,000 to 2,500 rpm, for quiet, economical cruising.

Minor quibbles include the long reach required to operate the information display, the inability to fix the rear seats in their forward, tumbled position, the inaudible turn signal reminders, and the small gas tank (45 litres) of the AWD version. Fill-ups don’t cost much, but they’re frequent.

Competitors include the Dodge Caliber and Subaru Impreza, along with the Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe (although those vehicles are no longer available with AWD).

Suzuki has announced its participation in the Canadian Winter Rally this year, with Dan and Frank Sprongl signed up to drive the SX4. Also in the works, a debut at the 2008 World Rally Championship. In rally guise, the SX4 is very sharp indeed, and Suzuki should endeavour to get similar performance wheels, tires, spoilers, etc. in the showrooms to complement its launch of this vehicle.


At a glance: 2007 Suzuki SX4

  • Type – Compact hatchback
  • Price – $15, 995 – $22,595 (plus $1,095 freight/pdi)
  • Notable – AWD available, all-new design, well-equipped, versatile
  • Available – Fall, 2006

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