Driving Northwest: The 2010 Suzuki SX4 SportBack

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by TOM VOELK / KING5 Car expert

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KING5.com

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 11:30 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 10 at 12:47 PM

Schooled in Italy. Enjoys sports. Does chores.  Sounds like a puffed up profile on Match.com. If you’re bringing home something with that description it might be wiser to choose a Suzuki SX4 SportBack. For starters cars don’t generally lie about their age. 

It’s possible you’ve seen this car in a crowd and wondered who the cute one was.  SX4 isn’t as well known as Honda Fit, Scion xB and Kia Soul. This shape, penned by the famed Italdesign studio has been around for a few years and sold as an all-wheel drive model called SX4 Crossover. The name SportBack pretty much sums up its mission. It’s outfitted for people who are looking for a good time.  Compared to Crossover, SportBack sports front drive, eliminates the roof rack and adds some aero tweaks all around. There’s performance tires and the suspension is lowered a smidge too.

It’s a cheap date

Building truly affordable cars that (A) people want to buy and (B) are profitable for the manufacturer is considered a bit of a black art. This particular SX4 SportBack I’m driving goes for $19,168 dollars including destination (and without incentives). Suzuki offers up quite a lot for that kind of coin.

Like many luxury cars SX4 is keyless. Keep the transponder fob in pocket or purse, locks are operated by pushing a little button on the front door handles and trunk lid.  Turn a knob where you’d expect to insert a key to start the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. There’s 150 horsepower and 140 lb.-ft of torque on tap. Choose between an $1,100 CVT automatic transmission or a standard 6-speed manual with light crisp throws (which are on the longer side). The manual’s clutch action is good with a light effort. The CVT gets simulated gear changes with steering wheel paddle shifters.

SX4 may have been sculpted in Italy but don’t expect Ferrari acceleration. 0-60 happens in a tick under 9 seconds. SportBack still lives up to it name though, it has moves. It’s lightweight dynamic is fun to fling around corners. The suspension is surprisingly comfortable and while that leads to a bit of body roll during slalom maneuvers, the car’s very entertaining to drive. Fairly quiet at highway speed too.

Fuel economy is 23 city, 30 highway for both transmissions, a little thirsty for this class (Fit gets 27/33).  Driving from Seattle to Portland and back, the trip computer reads 29.4. 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are especially responsive. Electronic stability control is standard.

Meeting someone for the first time?

Show up in the SX4 and they won’t discount you because the car looks low rent. The cabin with its matte finished black plastics looks pretty good even though it’s made of hard materials. Door armrests get a soft fabric covering and swing down units are mounted on the fairly comfortable cloth seats.  With a huge greenhouse, visibility is great.

The tilt steering wheel gets various controls for the sound system and cruise control and it’s wrapped up in leather. Too bad it doesn’t telescope. Single zone climate control is automatic, a Garmin navigation system is standard. Optional Bluetooth for phones is on this car, optional iPod interface isn’t.

Double dating?

Two adults will be perfectly fine in the rear, three should be good friends. Plenty of headroom, plenty of legroom, plenty of foot room.  There is no folding armrest so drinks will have to go in door pocket holders or the rear of the center console. Only one map pocket and no power port in back to charge electronics.

Other small gripes? There are cupholders in the center console but it could use a storage cubbie or two. A quick look around finds lots of button blanks. SX4 has no factory sunroof option and the sound system with XM tuner is modest, audiophiles will want to go aftermarket. Like many cars in this class the budget floor covering is hidden by floor mats, thick ones in this case. The Garmin navigation is a nice touch and it’s a well done unit but it’s a bit of a reach to program.

The average amount of baggage

One of the places manufactures cut costs is in the trunk. Less expensive materials can used since buyers don’t tend to scrutinize it in the showroom. Suzuki has done a decent job here.  Cargo is kept out of site by a cover, the load floor is sturdy with plastic with fabric covering to keep rattling down. Pull on it and there’s enough storage underneath to stash an athletic bag and computer satchel. There’s even small removable dividers.  Take out the floor and 5 packs of bath tissue just fit, slightly lower than average in this class. Seats split and fold, not quite as flexible as Fit but it can carry the baggage that some people come with.

Don’t like hatchbacks? There’s an attractive SX4 Sport sedan too. People living in snowy areas still have the all-wheel drive crossover to choose from too so in this case multiple personalities is a good thing. For many the biggest obstacle to getting into one of these is Suzuki’s smaller dealer network. Fun and frugal, you won’t see it coming and going 50 times a day.  It may not be fast but the affordable SX4 SportBack has a great personality and can show you a good time.
 

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