Thursday, January 1, 2009

Suzuki SX4 Review

Suzuki SX4

Suzuki became a serious player in the small car class with the Swift. Now it's trying to do the same in Corolla territory with the SX4.

The SX4 has confusing nomenclature. It's available with all wheel drive, where the SX4 name makes sense. But the car we're testing here is a more recent addition to the range, a conventional front wheel drive hatch and sedan. So why isn't it called the SX2?

Anyhow, the base model costs $19,990; the S is $22,990. The all wheel drive hatch costs $24,390.

The base model includes an MP3 compatible in-dash CD player with audio controls on the wheel, two front airbags, ABS brakes, 15 inch steel wheels (16s on the hatch) and air conditioning.

The S adds side and curtain airbags, automatic air, cruise control, and 16 inch alloy wheels (15s on the sedan).

Selected options: Four speed auto $2000.

You sit high in the SX4 hatch, almost as in a people mover. Vision is clear around the car, assisted by big side mirrors and wrap over rear seat head restraints.

There's plenty of headroom, seat height adjustment and enough seat travel for most drivers. No reach adjustment is provided for the wheel, but it protrudes quite a way into the cabin, so the overall driving position is acceptable for taller drivers.

The dash layout is similar to the Swift. Simplicity, clarity and functionality are reasonable, however there were some inefficiencies and annoyances on the test S.

The audible indicator on warning is too quiet, we can't see the point in a keyless starting system when a key slot is also provided, there's insufficient covered storage handy to the driver and the air conditioning was only just doing the job on a 30 degree day. Sound quality from the audio system is tinny, and there is no plug in for a music player.

Cruise control buttons are on the wheel of the Sport, the door bins will hold 750ml water bottles and a bag hook is provided on the rear of the front passenger seat, where it's easy for the driver to reach.

* The SX4 is comparable in size to a Toyota Corolla, but slightly smaller.
* It uses a 2.0 litre, four cylinder petrol engine which produces 107kW of power at 5800rpm and 184Nm of torque at 3500rpm. It's a long stroke design.
* A five speed manual gearbox is standard.
* Suspension is MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear.
* Front brakes are discs; the hatch has rear discs, while the sedan has drums.
* The sedan has 195/65 tyres on 15 inch wheels; the hatch has 205/60 tyres on 16 inch wheels.

The SX4S hatch, with front, side and curtain airbags, scored four stars out of five in Euro NCAP tests.

The SX4 hatch scored 55 points out of a possible 120 in the NRMA Insurance security ratings.

The driver's seat is big, with a broad cushion and supportive bolstering. The backrest could use more curvature towards the base for better lumbar support.

Access to the back seat is easy. You sit high, on a firm cushion, with good legroom and footroom. Tall adults aren't forced into a knees up posture as in some rivals. Headroom is sufficient for those to 185cm.

Three child restraint anchors are provided on the rear seat back.

Boot space in the hatch is reasonable - better than the Corolla. The floor is large and deep. It's easily extended to 1.3 metres by the old style tumble forward 60/40 rear seats, which involves minimal interference with front seat travel but does require the folded back seats to be secured with straps.

There's lots of plastic, as is common at the cheap and cheerful end of this class, but fit and finish are tight, as expected from a car that's made in Japan.

Australian standard average fuel consumption figures are at the thirsty end of this class: 8.6 litres/100 km for the manual and 9.5 litres/100 km for the auto. Regular unleaded is recommended. CO2 emissions are also high, at 200/221gkm.

The 2.0 litre is acceptably smooth but it's at the sluggish end of this class when it comes to performance, so you have to get busy with the gearbox. The midrange lacks torque, which isn't helped by gearing that's optimistically tall in the manual. In fifth, it dies a bit on highway hills, where the cruise control can't maintain a steady speed.

It would struggle with the four speed automatic.

The manual has a light, clicky action; it will baulk at the gate if you try to hurry a gearchange.

The Swift is one of the better handling small cars; the SX4 can't replicate its ability in this class, where there are some very competent rivals.

It has soft springs which are slightly mismatched with relatively firm dampers. In tight corners, understeer occurs early. Quick changes of direction can upset the car's balance. The back end can become very light under moderate braking, and it moves around a bit too.

The steering is light and the SX4 is easily manoeuvrable in town. It's rather vague on centre at highway speeds.

The suspension deals well with smaller bumps but can crash and bang when it's given a whack by larger ones, so while the ride is pretty good overall, and especially in town, it can get harsh or rough surfaces, which in extreme situations can also give the body a shake.

Not a strong point. Overall performance is relatively weak, and as mentioned previously the back end can become light and unstable under brakes, especially in a corner. The electronic brakeforce distribution system may need recalibrating.

Average for the class. The engine is one of the more refined 2.0 litre fours.

You can buy a better car than the Suzuki in this very competitive class. We'd suggest the Corolla, Ford Focus, Mitsubishi Lancer and Hyundai Elantra or i30 at base model level, and the Subaru Impreza, Holden Astra, or Mazda 3 if you have $25,000 to spend.

Source: my nrma

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