By on February 17, 2016

2009 Suzuki SX4

At least in the U.S., Suzuki always operated on the fringes of the auto industry. Save for those vehicles it rebadged for General Motors, Suzuki never seemed to match up well against the competition. The cars were either a half-size smaller than the competition — see Kizashi — or had no discernable competition whatsoever, like the inexplicable X-90.

Likewise, the dealers never had the best real estate, at least from my experience. Here in Columbus, for example, the local Suzuki dealers were set up in corners of Budget Car Rental locations. Hardly a recipe for success.

Shame, really, because Suzuki built some wonderfully interesting cars.


I mentioned the Kizashi, which I found to be a fun — if a slightly small — family car. I’d love to find an old Swift GTi as a cheap hot hatch, and the current Swift sold overseas is said to be spectacular. But today, we look at a model sold here recently, the 2009 Suzuki SX4. With some wrench time, this could be a fascinating alternative to other all-wheel-drive sports sedans.

Bear with me. The funky, high-top sneaker styling of the SX4 is cool and functional, with plenty of cargo room. But despite the departure of Suzuki from our market, there remains a tuner culture around this car, ready to take the SX4 to street machine or off-road adventurer. Road Race Motorsports, best known for Mitsubishi tuning, offers plenty of options, including a turbo kit that should produce around 220 horsepower.

Realistically, this is folly. It would likely take $8,000 in parts to make this aging hatch perform similarly to a Subaru WRX, which still has factory support, a huge aftermarket, and a massive online community of enthusiasts. But the appeal of standing out from the pack is ever present.

For those who choose to venture down the rocky path without thousands of forum fanboys to assist, I salute you.

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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78 Comments on “Digestible Collectible: 2009 Suzuki SX4...”


  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I’ll take two please!

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      For $4900, that isn’t a bad commuter/winter vehicle. I don’t know what it costs to fix though.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Yeah but they are STOOOOPID expensive in Canada. I’d be all over it a 5k CAD. But look!

        http://www.kijiji.ca/v-view-details.html?requestSource=b&adId=1104939097
        :-(

        And some fully loaded Kizashi’s, which I also really like and think would be a good replacement for our beater, are near 20k!

      • 0 avatar
        Barba

        Here in Europe the ownership experience didn’t go great, awkward engine bay to work in (changing an oil filter was a nightmare), loud and cheap cabin. Then it developed an intermittent issue with the brakes that after changing a variety of parts the dealer recommend changing the ABS unit without a guarentee of fixing the issue. That was two weeks ago on Friday it was traded in for an apparently much nicer Dacia Duster on Wednesday.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I always thought these were kind of charming. It’s the quirky Civic Wagon 4WD of modern times. But as you point out, you’re better off with a Subaru, or what about a Matrix AWD? It’ll be easier to run than this, and from the looks of things has more room all around.

    The dent really puts me off, it’s so tidy except for that part. It’ll never look perfect because of that, so I would pass. Miles are high as well.

    And how you talk bout Suzuki and no mention everyone’s favorite, the Samurai?! Still produced and sold today by Suzuki Maruti in India. The other problem they had was selling lots of rebadged Daewoo/GM garbage for many years. Forenza or Esteem anyone? The Sidekick was okay in my eyes growing up, as it was more rare than the Tracker, which I hated.

    Speaking of on-road 4×4, this video from Motorweek in 86 throws a lot of awesome things together – Subaru GL-10, Civic Wagon 4WD, 5000S Quattro, Vanagon Syncro, and something else. 25 minutes of vintage goodness.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQHuyLYKcwE

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed–I always liked the Samurai and Sidekick. Both were tough and durable and withstood all kinds of abuse. I’d consider them more collectible at this point than the SX4, which would make a good cheap commuter car.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Prepare for Esteem prices to take off, the way Aztec prices did, thanks to Better Call Saul.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Oddly, I had a ride in one of these a couple weeks ago. Went to lunch with a client who has one. And I too thought it was the son of the tall Civic wagons of old. I rather liked it! It’s tall in the right way, not jacked up off the ground pointlessly.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        On that video I linked up there from 86, the Civic Wagon 4WD was $10k, while they were asking $16k for the Subaru GL-10 sedan! That’s wak!

        And the 5000S Quattro was $31,000, which explains why they weren’t a huge seller in that guise here.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    I’ve got one of these at my house now, courtesy of my in laws while they winter in Florida. Same year and color. With AWD and a small parking footprint, it’s my winter commuting vehicle for the days when the roads aren’t safe for motorcycling. It’s a very practical, functional car – large greenhouse, high roofline, non-squashed cargo area.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The SX4 isn’t a bad car, but if I didn’t need AWD I’d go for the Astra or Elantra Touring and if I needed AWD I’d go for an Impreza or Matrix/Vibe.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I had an unnatural attraction to the sedan version of this. If they had offered with AWD I may very well have owned one.

    But as to today’s car, I don’t believe these will ever be “collectible.” It might be a good buy for a used car, but not an investment in the future. If I were to pick a Suzuki worth squirreling away it would be the Kizashi – a car I may own in the future myself.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    If I recall, these were rather slow and thirsty. Edmunds had a long termer and it was a 12-second to 60 car and their best fuel economy couldn’t crack 30mpg. Lot of glass space, though.

    I’m more sad about the departure of the Kizashi. From the descending front grill to the high quality interior with restrained styling, that car seemed to crib the MkV Jetta at about the time VW was launching the cheap ‘n nasty MkVI.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think the trim levels of the Kizashi accelerated too quickly above the station of Suzuki. It was a rather expensive Corolla-sized car, with a crap badge on the front.

      It needed to be bigger and cost the same, or that size and cost much less.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Oh, for sure. There was no market for the Kizashi. Except for outliers like me. I wanted a wagon when I bought my Jetta, but if I had been looking at the sedan the Kizashi in a lower trim with the manual would have been a serious contender.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        You guys are spot-on about it essentially taking the position of the Mk.5 Jetta. Thing is, where people are sometimes willing to pay ridiculous prices for a VW (and even then), they aren’t for a Suzuki.

        And I could have sworn it got categorized as mid-sized, too…

        BTW, Corey, search for a picture of a Kizashi key fob and see if it looks familiar to you.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Ah!

          Did they get the same supplier or something? It’s about 95% the same as the Infiniti key. The Infiniti one is more pointy at the top, and the buttons are all the same size, no taper.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I believe they do use the same supplier, Calsonic. But yeah, I thought you’d immediately recognize it as being similar to the Nissan / Infiniti smart key.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m mad.

            Jaguars and Suzuki keys make me mad today.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          “Thing is, where people are sometimes willing to pay ridiculous prices for a VW (and even then), they aren’t for a Suzuki.

          And I could have sworn it got categorized as mid-sized, too…”

          Yeah, I think this is a very valid point. The Kizashi was competing against larger CamCords for CamCord money, while the Jetta was competing against Civics and Corollas.

          But the Jetta was priced fairly close to the Civic. From what I remember the MSRP of a nicely equipped base Jetta 2.5 was about $18.5K while the Kizashi started north of $20K. Once you started loading up the Jetta like an entry level lux car and with TDI, the pricing really went up.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    While the official fuel economy numbers for the SX4 aren’t too bad at 23-25 combined, I heard the real world was actually in the upper teens which is pretty garbage if true.

    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymodel/2009_Suzuki_SX4.shtml

  • avatar
    sirwired

    $4,900 is more than a bit steep for a small, obscure, car with 128k on the clock, and $hitty parts availability.

  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    Here’s one point in its favor to balance your consideration against a comparable Subaru: http://st.motortrend.com/uploads/sites/5/2012/07/2012-Suzuki-SX4-Crossover-auto-lock.jpg

    Yes, my wife and I used to own one. Modern day cheap and cheerful, decent power, middling fuel economy, pretty noisy interior, good sound system but…a manual + AWD with the option to lock/split the power was pretty damn nice. It was a good little billy goat in the winter. After an 10 hour road trip in it, though, we had our fill of the poorly-insulated interior and traded it on an Acura TSX (that’s a whole other thing and a stupid decision I’ve tried to forget about).

    We also owned a Kizashi and an Equator. TTAC should give me an AMA session about bad decisions.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      You’ve owned more Suzukis than I have seen in the last two years.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      About half of Suzuki’s US sales are parked in your driveway.

      • 0 avatar
        GermanReliabilityMyth

        When word on the street was that Suzuki was gearing up to GTFO of the US and file bankruptcy, we bit the bullet and traded our Kizashi and Equator simultaneously. We actually did better on the deal than we had any right to. Still, it stung and it seems like our love of odd birds always gets us. We’ve owned a ’13 Outback from new (guzzled oil), a Honda Civic, etc and are now enjoying our 2.5 Sportwagen. Unfortunately, in the US, it seems that unless you’re willing to buy the same milquetoast crap as the rest of the buying public, the manufacturer of your vehicle is going to pack it in and head out on short notice.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          That’s true. But overall, I’d say that we pay less for better vehicles in the US. If that means no Suzuki, PSA, etc, then I’m okay with that.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            That’s the tradeoff — when consumers pay lower prices, producers end up with lower margins, which pushes them toward higher volume so that they can get efficiencies that can offset those lower margins.

            If we want more variety, then we have to be willing to pay for it. Literally.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I’ve driven the forbidden fruit. I don’t think we are missing much. Here’s the cold hard truth: for a vast majority of Americans, the Ford Escape and Ford Edge are better and cheaper vehicles than the Ford Focus wagon and Ford Fusion (Mondeo) wagon. It isn’t worth having them here because it would be a waste of money and resources.

        • 0 avatar
          suburbanokie

          Could have kept the Equator if parts were the issue – it was just a rebadged Nissan Frontier. I’d have bought one myself except the manual transmission didn’t make it through the rebranding.

          • 0 avatar
            GermanReliabilityMyth

            I was aware of that when I got it. Subjectively, I liked the styling of the Equator more and I believe it had slightly better suspension tuning. That said, I had no dealer nearby to honor any warranty repairs. Although, since I got it for ~$22K, I probably would’ve been okay in the long run.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      I’m not sure that I’ve seen more than a handful of Equators around at any point, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed one for sale. You seem to have an odd fetish for the most unpopular cars in existence. Maybe see if you can rustle up an Isuzu Oasis and maybe a Mitsubishi Raider while you’re at it. Get a Daihatsu Charade for your trifecta of rare cars that nobody wants to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        GermanReliabilityMyth

        The Equator was great. Still miss it. I definitely have an odd car fetish. I’ve looked at Edsels to buy, owned 3 classic SAABs, almost picked up a Sonnet and 99, several RWD Volvos, almost bought a Daihatsu Rocky, looked at several Monteros/Raiders, had an ’83 Stanza Wagon, an ’80 Celica Supra, an ’82 Subaru GL wagon, Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback and the list, well, it goes on. Looking forward to the day I can scoop up a last-gen SAAB 9-5 for cheap. But yeah, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

  • avatar
    dwford

    “Digestible Collectible” would be a big stretch for this car. Perhaps a new series called “Mildly Interesting But Unloved Cheap Cars You Probably Forgot About.”

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    A guy at work has one of these with what looks like a 2 inch lift kit, some Firestone Destination A/T tires, and a roof basket with driving lights. It looks the business. Like a home-brew Jeep Renegade of sorts. These have a AWD lock feature by the way, which gives it some more off road cred than the usual subcompact CUV suspects.

  • avatar

    That’s like a $2300 car at the block, just because its a bright color and its income tax refund time.

  • avatar

    I tried to get my mom into one of these things until I looked at the crash ratings. Back to the Civic we went.

  • avatar
    t0ast

    I came very close to grabbing one of these around 2011/2012 to handle the cargo and weather that my Miata couldn’t, but Suzuki’s impending USDM exit and me needing at least another foot of cargo area pushed me over into the Subaru camp instead. The SX4’s fuel economy isn’t the greatest either (high 20s in the real world if you’re lucky) but I was still tempted on account of it being a modern AWD mini-wagon with a manual transmission that could be had loaded for $18k. I really wish Suzuki would have been able to stick around here since they were just starting to shake off the crappy GM/Daewoo rebadgings and hit their stride with this, the Kizashi, and in other markets, the Swift.

  • avatar
    [email protected]

    Wow, look how much glass that thing has. No swoopy styling that pinches off windows, no vestigial (or completely blacked out) cargo area glass, no gunslit rear window forcing you to take random guesses when reversing or changing lane.

    You can see completely in and out of the vehicle.

    No wonder it didn’t sell well.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    I had a ’97 Sidekick Sport LJX 4X4 I baught after inheriting my grandfather’s Dodge Stratus ES in ’97. I got rid if the Stratus after a few months, because it was constantly at the dealership. When the power steering pump and head gasket went with less than 30K miles on it, I traded it in on the Suzuki. Best decision ever! My Suzuki gave me 70K miles of trouble free driving. I sold it in 2005 for a Mercedes. I should have kept it, and still purchased the Mercedes. That Sidekick was truly great!
    BTW…The Esteem was a real Suzuki, not a Daewoo. It was produced BEFORE GM started their bastardization of cars.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      My brother has had pretty good luck with his ’02 XL-7, equipped with a somewhat rare manual transmission paired to the small 2.7L V6. Surprisingly fun to drive on road, and more than holds its own offroad. True to the Church of 3800, the 2.7L displacement is truly cursed in a V6, as he had to tear into it to replace the timing chain tensioner, it’s like a 10+ hour job by the book. Thankfully he’s a mechanic so he did it himself.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    This could be a candidate for my 2018 trip to Patagonia via the Pan American highway. I’m in the very early planning stages now. I envision a convoy of 4-6 vehicles, heavily armed just in case we run in to some banditos. Biggest problems appear to be getting around the Darien gap in Panama, and securing permits to carry sufficient fire power since you’re pretty much on your own for security once you cross the southern US border.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Why a small and rare Suzuki car? Seems crazy, I’d take a older domestic SUV (1st gen explorer with a sorted transmission, Bronco, Blazer) or maybe a Toyota Pickup/4Runner or Land Cruiser, or Mitsubishi Montero (fullsize or Sport). Just in terms of parts availability in Central/South America.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Of all the concerns and potential problems with a road journey through bandito land and the was-never-heard-from-again Darien Gap, the use of a Suzuki seems to be to be among the smallest :)

        Felix, from text alone I cannot quite tell if your proposal is tongue-in-cheek or not.

        • 0 avatar
          Felix Hoenikker

          gtemnykh,
          Agreed, your recommendations are better.
          30-mile fetch,
          Much to my wife’s horror,I’m planning to do it if I can get a caravan together. I’ll be retiring in about 18 months, and have become obsessed with a trip like this.
          Now, it’s off to the practice range to work on my target shooting.

  • avatar
    adame24

    I purchased a dealer demo back in 2008, auto and 4wd. It was a good car for the first few years of ownership. Great city car but underpowered and noisy on the highway. In 2012 the alternator went and then several months later the engine went. Suzuki replaced the engine and I was under the impression it was a fairly common problem. A year later new engine was going again and I got rid of it.
    I shoulda bought a Honda Fit. The couple thousand more I would have spent would have been recouped in resale or just by being able to keep longer.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I thought Suzuki and Mitsubishi should have cut a deal and rebadged Kazashis as a new Galant.

  • avatar
    r129

    Back in February 2009, I was in the market for a cheap car, and considered a few options, including late model used cars or leasing something that had a lot of incentives at the time, such as the Subaru Impreza, which I test drove and hated. One day, an ad appeared in the newspaper for a brand new 2008 Suzuki SX4 Sport sedan, 5-speed manual transmission, fully loaded (including leather-wrapped steering wheel w/controls, automatic climate control, integrated Garmin GPS) for only $11,895! Even at that time, the price was incredibly low, about $5,000 below MSRP. I thought it must be too good to be true. I went to the dealer, test drove the car, and I loved it. It drove and handled better than any other compact car I had driven at the time except the Mazda3, and the interior was nicer and roomier than most. To top it off, they were offering 0% financing up to 60 months on top of the incredible discount. Normally I have to think over my automotive purchases, but not this time! I bought it on the spot, and drove it away later that afternoon.

    Aside from the compressor failing under warranty, an airbag recall that took forever for the parts to arrive, and an intermittent problem with the brake light also fixed under warranty, the car was trouble-free and enjoyable. When I finally got sick of it after almost 6 years, I posted it on Craigslist and sold it in one day for $5,500 to a couple from Turkey who arrived with an envelope full of cash. The most any dealer offered for a trade was $3,500, and they assured me that I’d never be able to find a buyer if I tried to sell it myself. The Turkish couple seemed pleased, and asked me why Suzuki wasn’t more popular in the U.S.

    It seemed appropriate that Suzuki exited the U.S. market, considering that my previous cars before the Suzuki included a Saturn, an Oldsmobile and a Merkur.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I cross-shopped new SX4s against new Impreza 2.5s in late 2011 when I was looking for a do-it-all hatch with a manual transmission.

    Similarly equipped the prices were about the same, which surprised me. The SX4 was poky and tippy, but actually not bad to drive. I liked the packaging and the glass area. The Impreza felt a bit more serious and fully-developed.

    Ultimately went with the Subaru because the crankshaft points the correct direction and I anticipated much better resale.

    I was apparently right about the resale, as KBB informs me that the Subaru is worth about 3x the Suzuki with the same options and mileage.

    I still have the Subaru, and feel like I made the right choice.

  • avatar
    09box

    Cool cars. It is a shame they were only out as short as they were. Someone up the street from me has one and I have dreams of putting off road tires on it when I see it.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Nonononono

    Do not add power to this drivetrain. My mother has one, and while the vehicles proposition is very unique the manual transmission does not have the metallurgy to handle even stock outputs. Specifically, the synchros to third will be in a near constant state of broken. She’s had her trans rebuilt twice, once her fault, so I’ve seen three examples of the same oem part fail. The oem fluid change interval recommendation dropped down to every twenty thousand miles, a sure sign that the brand is attempting to limit exposure to warranty claims. She just drives around the recalcitrant synchro now and that’s fine for the vehicles intended use as a winter beater.

    Awesome package though. Big na four cylinder, selectable awd, manual, cheap to the extreme. The suspension tuning is sloppy, the transmission isn’t durable, the gearing is epa long and the flywheel is heavy. The press was wrong about this being sporty, although the kizashi deserved that praise.

    A suspension lift would be the tits on this thing though.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    This is what an Encore/Trax would look like if it was lowered.

  • avatar
    sbspence

    Did anyone ever develop a lift kit for this model? If so, are there more aggressive tires to fit it and in what size? It could be an entertaining winter weather, summer fire road romper. Then again it won’t be long before you can buy a Jeep Patriot for $5k and it would be comparable in all areas and give greater ground clearance most likely.

  • avatar
    Pecci

    I drive a 2007 SX4 AWD Sport with a manual. It is my DD and mostly used for driving through the scenic, pristine LA Basin! My kids aptly named it “The Copperhead” back when it was purchased in Mizzou.

    Other than the airbag recall, this thing has been bullet-proof, although it still only has 58000 on the odo.

    It is one of the best modern day, slow car’s to drive fast. I do have an RRM rear sway bar and that makes it all the better, w/o any tipping (due to it’s higher profile).

    Great car and will be handed down (confidently) to my son next year. What for me next? I’ll definitely consider a Kizashi.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The SX4 I don’t recall seeing many here in Australia. I don’t mind Suzuki, my ex had a Holden Barina which was a Suzuki Swift. It was quite reliable, but also quite tiny.

    The Jimney we do have, we call it the Suzuki Sierra and I do see one or two a day. These are great off road. I wouldn’t want to drive one for more than 100km to go out 4×4’ing. The short wheelbase and live axles will make for a very uncomfortable and choppy ride. This doesn’t take into account the totally underpowered engine for one road driving. Off road the power is just acceptable. It needs one of those 1.2 litre turbo diesels.

    I do like the new Swift, it sort of reminds me of the orignal Morris Mini.

    The new Swift have a sub-culture following here with some owners modifying them.

    There is talk of the Japanese auto manufacturers rationalising their numbers and I’d bet Suzuki will end up like Diahatsu and bought out. Izuzu would be a contender as Izuzu doesn’t really have a car lineup anymore (I don’t think).

    The Kizashi I do like, I wanted to test drive one, but never got around to it. they sort of remind me of the Kia Optima.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I nearly traded in my xB on one of these when Suzuki America’s corpse was still twitching. It seemed like a perfect upgrade on everything the xB had going for it. A roomy interior that was a pleasure to be in, six speed stick, ON DEMAND AWD, enough cargo space to fit pinball machines, and available rally car parts to style it to my liking.

    Then I realized it was horribly overpriced for an economy car. MPG’s were horrible, with no power to justify that tradeoff. Durability was questionable. Parts availability was questionable. If I can still find parts for my 1987 Hijet, I could for an SX4, but it’s definitely not fun.

    Now I’ve seen a few pop up in the junkyard, and I feel I made the right decision to spend another decade in a worn, yet trusty, xB instead.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    This car was jointly developed by Suzuki and Fiat, and sold as a Fiat in Italy. It really is a good car. However, it’s exactly why I said, many moons ago, why Fiats would not sell in the US. It doesn’t matter how good it is.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    Drove one thinking it looked good but it turned out to be a 4 wheel motorcycle with all the drawbacks one could think of. Still looks good but driving would have been horrible except in slow city traffic.


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