When most people think of a compact hatchback made by Suzuki it’s one model they usually have in mind — the Swift. But the Suzuki range has another small hatch within its ranks named the SX4. Riding higher than the Swift and with a larger engine the crossover-inspired SX4 hasn’t been able to match the Swift’s popularity since it was first introduced back in 2007. Back then, some claimed the SX4 was too thirsty for a small car and commented on the absence of a stability control system. Now for 2010, the SX4 is fighting back with a revised model range that features a CVT transmission, improved economy and better safety credentials. Car and SUV spent a week in the facelifted SX4 to see if it’s ready to emerge from behind its Swift sibling’s sizable shadow.
So what’s new on the 2010 model? Well, plenty, just not much in terms of exterior sheet metal. Some subtle tweaks feature up front in a new grille design and on our tested Ltd-spec model, sharp 17-inch alloys fill the guards. Elsewhere it’s a smart-looking hatchback with a tall but progressive stance, raked back headlights and a distinctive wrap-around rear windshield. The Ltd Sporthatch receives extras like front fog lamps and a sports-styled skirting kit with high mounted rear spoiler. Overall, the SX4’s looks aren’t exactly groundbreaking and while slightly generic, do still carry a broad modern appeal.
Step inside the SX4 and the changes are instantly more apparent with a new instrument cluster that contains dials and a digital display for various vehicle information. The climate control panel has also been redesigned and is very simple and easy-to-use. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has backlit audio and cruise control buttons and night time illumination is nicely done in orange and white. Comfort and quality have been a focus of the facelift with fold-down centre armrests for front occupants and improved quality cloth used on the seats and door trims. The front seats are comfortable but could use more support and visibility in the high-riding SX4 is very good with the exception of the driver’s-side split a-pillar which does create a blind spot. In the back seat legroom is good and the high roofline allows for excellent headroom even with grandstand-style raised seating. Luggage capacity in the hatch is small but usable at 253-litres, expanding out to 530-litres with the rear seatback folded down. The SX4 cabin is simple and ergonomically good, but some of the interior materials do feel hard and plasticky. While that used to be expected from budget vehicles, some of the SX4’s competitors like the Hyundai i30 are getting much better at making cheap plastics look quality.
The standard equipment list is very good for a vehicle in this price bracket and includes keyless entry and ignition, height-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, electric windows all round, 9-speaker CD stereo with aux input and climate control air-conditioning.
Under the SX4’s short bonnet lays a reworked version of Suzuki’s naturally aspirated 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder engine. Called the J20B it’s a variable-valve unit that produces 112kW of power, an increase of 5 percent over its predecessor, while torque is up from 184Nm to 190Nm. It’s not the most rapid 2-litre around but the updated engine has no problems moving the SX4’s 1245kg mass. Low-down torque is limited but it’s a hard-working motor that’s most proficient around town but also has fair pace on open road stints.
The old four-stage automatic has been replaced with a CVT transmission for the refreshed model and fuel consumption has lowered considerably. In 2WD form like on our tested vehicle the SX4 gets 7.6l/100km on the combined cycle. In terms of operation, Suzuki’s CVT works well in selecting the right gear ratio and controlling engine speed. However, its changes aren’t as quick and smooth as some other examples of this progressing technology. It also has a monotone whine that can be audible in the cabin at times. That said, on general driving duties the CVT is a good performer and if greater control is required steering wheel mounted paddles allow the driver access to six fixed gear ratios.
The CVT shifted power to the front wheels in our test car but the AWD SX4 models in the range direct torque to all four wheels when required. Even in 2WD form, handling is a strength of the SX4 with predictable dynamics and plenty of available grip during cornering. There is some body roll due to its tall stature and also torque steer can be a factor when setting off in haste. The steering feels a touch inaccurate at times but decent feedback can be felt through it. Refinement is good with only a small amount of mechanical and tyre noise entering the cabin and the suspension is well sorted for reasonable comfort on longer journeys.
When it comes to safety the facelift has brought with it a much-needed Electronic Stability Program on all SX4 models except the entry-level GLX. Our test car also had ABS brakes with EBD, seatbelt pre-tensioners for front occupants and six airbags included as standard fare.
So is the SX4 ready to push the Swift aside as Suzuki’s favourite son?
No, it isn’t. But the 2010 update has been effective in improving the SX4 in the key areas of powertrain, safety and fuel economy. It’s a dynamically capable vehicle, has good interior space for passengers if not luggage and is well powered. The bottom line is the SX4 is a good car for the money, but it’s competing with many good vehicles, not just hatchbacks but also a growing number of compact crossovers like Nissan’s successful Qashqai and Mitsubishi’s brand spankers ASX. It’s attractively priced even in higher-spec Ltd trim but unlike the Swift, the SX4 can’t claim to offer more for less. This tough fact will likely leave the SX4 playing the role of a competent journeyman rather than a big-selling superstar.
What we like:
- Facelift has included some crucial improvements
- Handles well
- Cabin space
What we don’t like:
- Small luggage area
- Limited torque
- Cheap cabin plastics
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
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Suzuki SX4 Ltd Sporthatch (2010) – Specifications
Overall length mm 4,135
Overall width mm 1,755
Overall height mm 1,570
Wheelbase mm 2,500
Track Front mm 1,500
Rear mm 1,495
Ground clearance mm 160
Minimum turning radius m 5.3
Curb weight 1,285
Gross vehicle weight kg 1,710
Number of cylinders / valves 4 / 16
Piston displacement 1,995
Bore stroke 84.0 x 90.0
Compression ratio 10.2:1
Maximum output 112/6,200
Maximum torque 190/4.000
Fuel distribution Multipoint injection
Fuel type 91RON
Fuel consumption (combined) L/100km Man / Auto 7.3 / 7.6
C02 emissions g/km Man / Auto 170 / 178
Steering – Electric power assisted rack and pinion
Brakes – Front Ventilated discs , Rear – Solid discs
Suspension – Front MacPherson strut & coil spring
Rear – Torsion beam
Seating capacity Persons 5
Luggage capacity Rear seatback folded Litres 530
Rear seatback raised Litres 253
Fuel tank capacity Litres 50