Review: 2007 Suzuki SX4

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman
review 2007 suzuki sx4

What the Hell’s a Suzuki’s SX4? I know it’s my job to know about these things, but I swear the test car greeting me upon my return from Old Blighty was the first one I’ve ever seen. If first impressions last, this tall, decidedly Japanese runabout says Subaru Forrester meets Scion xA on the suburban side of town. (In keeping with the parlance of our times, Suzuki shuns the “w” word and calls the SX4 a crossover.) A quick walk around revealed four big wheels, four big disc brakes, a Prius style double A-pillar and an AWD badge. Hmmm…? Could this sub-radar Suzuki be a sleeper?

Every other passenger vehicle in Suzuki’s domestic lineup dorkidly screams nerd; the Reno, Aerio and Forenza all look pasty, awkward and four-eyed. The almost-but-not-quite butch SX4 offers a clear break from its geeky brothers, and a much appreciated change of direction for the otherwise bland brand. The SX4’s sharp proboscis confidently displays the samurai-slash family logo. The handsomely sculpted hood is reminiscent of Audi’s latest TT. Despite its lack of an intercooler, the lower-level air intake is quite EVO-ish. Not bad at all.

From the side, the SX4’s profile offers a strange amalgamation of standard issue sedan sheetmetal and seductive designs cues lifted from a certain retro-British roadster. Clock the SX4’s blistered black plastic wheel arches and the rear wheels pushed out to the corners. From the back, black plastic wraps around the faux-chrome lower-bumper. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, there’s a MINI blushing somewhere.

The SX4’s interior is resolutely lower-middle class; no effort was made to hide or disguise its inexpensive materials. And? The SX4’s designers used their plastic palette to create a cabin that’s a model of clarity and ergonomic ease. From a handsome, common sense radio head unit to funky air vents to a right-sized steering wheel, the SX4 proves that cost constriction is no barrier to good design. Sure, the helm and stick-shift are Rubbermaid, and the seats offer meager support or comfort. But this $15k vehicle is no penalty box.

Such modest money buys gadgets and gizmos aplenty: AC, six-disc in dash CD, daytime running lights, intermittent wipers, rear wiper, power locks with remote entry, power windows with driver auto-down, a exterior thermometer, four-mode trip computer, 60/40 split folding rear seat, ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), six airbags and driver selectable AWD. An old S-Class sold less for more.

The SX4’s on-demand AWD system is a particularly pukka party trick, reminiscent of Subarus of yore. For daily duty, the SX4 is a front-driver. Flip a switch near the handbrake and i-AWD kicks in. In this mode, 95% of the SX4’s torque is routed to the front wheels. Should either of the fronts lose purchase, up to 50% of the power is sent to the back wheels. If you get stuck in sand (posing for the requisite PR lifestyle surfer dude pictures), you can switch to full-time four wheel-drive and lock up the transfer case for an even split.

And if you have to split in a hurry, the SX4 is a corner carver par excellence. The base model’s blessed with fat 205 tires (the same size as a BMW 328i’s hoops) and a smartly-tuned chassis; the Sport version gains stability control (unique to this class). Surprisingly, body roll and grip are never an issue. Even better, the SX4’s rack and pinion steering is a revelation; the tiniest tiller inputs deliver an instant change of direction. Running in i-AWD I tackled my favorite corners as fast as I could in my (gulp) Subaru WRX.

And the hits keep happening. With a 2.0-liter DOHC I4 harnessing 143 scrappy little fillies, this little Suzy has some guts. To gain access to the mill’s 136 pound-feet of torque, your hand never leaves the stick shift knob but A) you’re only fighting against 2800lbs. and B) it’s fun. Short gearing ensures that the engine is constantly on the boil, while the user friendly clutch makes downshifting a breeze. OK, you can’t call a zero to sixty in 8.3 seconds car fast, but it ain’t slow neither.

There are downsides. The SX4’s ride, especially on the highway, is rocky and worrisome (blame the torture beam rear suspension). Though the Suzuki’s engine note isn’t especially dissonant, wind and engine noise are intrusive at speed. The high-pitched squeaks that tells you to buckle up, close the door and turn off the damn headlights are skull-splittingly awful. And 80mph puts over 4000rpm on the clock; no car is more in need of a sixth-gear.

For roughly the same money as a Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit or Nissan Versa, the Suzuki SX4 provides a larger, more powerful wagon — “crossover” with AWD, distinctive styling and hoonery. If Suzuki creates more driver friendly vehicles like the SX4, they’ll finally be building a brand worth remembering.

[Suzuki provided the vehicle, insurance and a tank of gas.]

Listen to JL and RF discuss the SX4 below.

Join the conversation
2 of 118 comments
  • JAdidas21 JAdidas21 on Jan 07, 2009

    Just a quick correction, it appears that Suzuki will still persue a North American release of the Kizashi for the 2010 model year. As it turns out, they felt it would end up costing more to postpone final development and launch of the Kizashi versus moving forward with it. Good news for Suzuki Dealerships thru out North America!

  • Btdevo Btdevo on Feb 16, 2009

    I've had my SX4 Touring Package 2 (top of the line with manual) for 10 months, and like it more than when I first purchased it. It really does respond to the drivers commands, and averaging 26.6 complaints at all.

  • Kcflyer on one hand it at least wont have dirty intake valves like Honda's entire lineup of direct injection ice vehicles. on the other hand a CRV offers more room, more range, faster fueling and lower price, hmm
  • Tassos BTW I thought this silly thing was always called the "Wienermobile".
  • Tassos I have a first cousin with same first and last name as my own, 17 years my junior even tho he is the son of my father's older brother, who has a summer home in the same country I do, and has bought a local A3 5-door hatch kinds thing, quite old by now.Last year he told me the thing broke down and he had to do major major repairs, replace the whole engine and other stuff, and had to rent a car for two weeks in a touristy location, and amazingly he paid more for the rental ( Euro1,500, or $1,650-$1,700) than for all the repairs, which of course were not done at the dealer (I doubt there was a dealer there anyway)
  • Tassos VW's EV program losses have already been horrific, and with (guess, Caveman!) the Berlin-Brandenburg Gigafactory growing by leaps and bounds, the future was already quite grim for VW and the VW Group.THis shutdown will not be so temporary.The German Government may have to reach in its deep pockets, no matter how much it hates to spend $, and bail it out."too big to fail"?
  • Billccm I had a 1980 TC3 Horizon and that car was as reliable as the sun. Underappreciated for sure.