It’s easy to dismiss entry level sub-compacts. They’re unlikely any buyers’ dream cars. And, really, what can a consumer expect for about half of the $30,000 average price of new car in the United States? How about a Suzuki? Really?
Yes, as Honda (Fit), Nissan (Versa), Smart (ForTwo) and Scion (XD) have all proven, there’s s much to offer in the sub-compact segment. And Suzuki should be included in fraternity of the surprisingly strong entry level sub-compacts with the 2009 SX4.
It’s not the most economical choice in the category, but Suzuki has found a unique way to market the car. It’s the least expensive vehicle available in the United States offering a navigation system as standard equipment.
My weekly test drive was the new sedan model, the SX4 Sport. It replaces the Aerio sedan and unlike other model trims, it’s available in only front wheel drive. (The hatchback automatic and manual trims have all-wheel drive options.)
All 2009 SX4 models are equipped with a 2.0-liter, 16-valve, 4-cylinder, 143-horsepower engine with manual or automatic transmissions. I had the latter. And despite some consumer publications that have criticized the vehicle for its lack of acceleration, the Suzuki did well for its size.
With its evenly weighted steering and stable cornering, the Suzuki Sport is aptly named. It scooted around town and found its way in freeway driving without difficultly as a little car that can. The surprisingly quiet ride, strong suspension and 17-inch wheels combine for an overall pleasant driving experience.
The Suzuki has several qualities that put it at the top of the sub-compact class. It’s the longest (177.6 inches), the second heaviest (2,745 pounds)]]> and has the most rear leg room (35.9 inches) of the 14 vehicles listed in the category in automotive consumer publications.
Beyond dimensions, the Suzuki SX4 has a cleanly designed interior with large, straightforward gauges and controls. Overall visibility is strong, particularly considering the small front side windows that give the car the “feel” of more interior room.
Standard equipment is inline with competitors, with the exception of the aforementioned removable navigation system. It’s mounted oddly on the top of the console and is slightly too far away for ideal readability.
But the 4.3-inch touch screen display works simply and the readout is clear. Included is one year of MSN Direct service. (It includes real time traffic, low price gas finder, news, weather and stocks.).
The navigation system opens and closes via a simple push button. Its ease of use complements nicely the impressive list of technology offerings for Suzuki’s class: Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls and keyless entry with alarm.
The SX4 is the lowest price vehicle in the Suzuki line, a manufacturer known for its low prices. But like just others in its class, don’t assume the worst. Sub-compacts may have an inferiority complex, but the SX4 doesn’t have anything to worry about if it gets a fair chance against the better-known dwellers in the class.
Safety Features — Driver and front passenger front side, side curtain and rear side airbags, ABS brakes, Traction control, antiskid system.
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 7 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion 3 years/unlimited mileage; Roadside assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles
Gas Mileage Estimates — 22 mpg (city); 30 mpg (highway).
Base Price — $17,639.
Price As Driven — $18,668.