2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan
2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Michael Clark

Photo Gallery:
2008 Suzuki SX4

Why do cheap wheels have to feel so cheap?

It’s one thing in the land of entry-level, no A/C, tinny two-speaker stereo land where for MSRP’s hovering around 12-13 K, few customers will complain. But as one progresses through the price-tags, the problem is finding some indication of ‘semi-arrival’. Twenty-large is a pivotal number. You might be able to clinch a decent ‘Upgrademobile’ for the commute, but you’re usually still handling a stickshift. Equipment, and an automatic gearbox, starts to get expensive in a big hurry.

Suzuki thinks that their SX4 line might be the answer. The Sedan is the latest incarnation for the platform, which is a sensible distraction from the hatchywagon version. While the Sedan versions don’t get the all-wheel drive option, (yet) they do arrive with significant levels of finishing and equipment. The Sport version of the Sedan is the top juice. Let’s squeeze it, and see what comes out, with an MSRP of $20,095 for the automatic.

2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan
2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan
2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge


Cabin

Controls: It’s surprising just how many doo-hickeys arrive for you in the Sport edition. The three-spoke leather-wrapped wheel boasts audio controls, as well as cruise control triggers. The column gets a manual tilt, with a rather awkward underbelly lever – it could use telescopic action. The gauge array is clean and sensible, with tach, temp, and dual trip meters, plus quadrant selection for the automatic. Break-away mirrors are power-positioned, with the bonus of heated lenses for the Sport. Power window lifts are standard issue, with Auto descent for the driver. Wipers get the expected intermittency, while the washers spray three jets of the Clean and the Blue for your vision improvements. The HVAC boasts an Auto temperature setting feature, directly below the six-CD audio head unit. Rearward vision is good, especially with shingle-style head restraints for all three rear seating positions.

Convenience: You won’t find an overabundance of cubbies within the Sport for storage, but you will still be impressed by how much thought went in to the design. Front and rear doors all receive door cavities, each with a bottle-specific holder. The front cupholders, below the HVAC controls, have spring-loaded cinch tabs that don’t cinch much of anything, especially for take-out java.

2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan
2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge

There’s a provision for cup handles, which makes little sense, considering how low the cupholder voids are. In-between the holders and the HVAC are two open cubbies. The larger of the two has an angled floor, helping to retain items that could slide out. There’s a 12-volt DC powerpoint in the same vicinity. There are no rear seat pockets, or centre armrest provisions. Front visors receive unlit vanity reflections. Glove-box size is impressively large for this segment.

Seats: The Sport gets a unique fabric treatment, in that it hasn’t opted for some of the latest in goofy swatches. Texture is what it should be. There are no height or lumbar adjustments for the driver, though support is more than acceptable. While you’re having a seat, make a note on the armrests. There is absolutely zero padding.

2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan
2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan
2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan
2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan
2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge

Fit and finish: Everything was going quite well within the tight-tolerances cabin of the SX4 Sport. That is, until I turned off the Zeppelin. A healthy highway jog was producing annoying rattles from the rear parcel shelf. Here’s hoping that all it needs is a clip, because the rest of this low 20-something cabin finishing is spot-on. My favourite applique is the metallic strips that flank the sides of the centre stack.

Safety: There are an abundance of air baggies for your safety pleasure within the SX4. Frontal airbags join up with front seat side-mounted pillows, capped off with curtains fore and aft. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration scored the SX4 Sedan at four stars for frontal protection, five stars for front seat-sitting passengers, and four stars for rear-relaxing well-wishers. (www.safercar.gov)


Spare/Trunk/Cargo

I was a little miffed at the omission of a 60/40 fold-down seatback for the SX4. That is, until I realized that most folks will be hard-pressed to fill up this trunk. The cavern is trimmed well, with the innovation I’ve been screaming about forever; a way to hang the trunk floor up while you access the spare tire and accessories. Simply loop the loop onto the black plastic hook on the underside of the parcel shelf, and you’re ready to grab the Clown Yellow space-saver spare. (Talk about an incentive to get it fixed that day.) Suzuki will send in the Clown Yellow tire changers for you, for five years and unlimited kilometres. There appears to be no additional provisions for cargo nets or hooks.


Engine


2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan
2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Click image to enlarge

The 2.0-litre, 143-horsepower dual-cammer four has a minimal plastic engine cover, with impressive access for the fluid fill points. Serviceability of key components should be labour-low for the long haul.


Clarkey Rating

When I start to think of the additional bits I would like to see of the SX4, I back up slowly, and read the sticker again. $20,095, for the alloy wheel-wearing, six-CD’s a-changing, fog light-blinking bargain. I can’t really expect more in it for the bread. Minor snigglies put this week’s Inside Story at a healthy 4.5 stars.

Next week: 2008 Chevy Malibu

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