• New SX4 SportBack adds enhanced level of ‘Sport’ to utility
• Refinements in drivetrain boost performance and efficiency
• America’s #1 Warranty underscores Japanese build quality and refinement
Since its introduction in 2007, Suzuki’s SX4 Crossover has established a following by seamlessly blending the nimble handling of a compact five-door with the ‘adventure sport’ capability of standard all-wheel drive. Remaining, over its three model years, America’s least expensive automotive offering with all-wheel drive, the SX4 continues to
capture media attention and praise. KelleyBlueBook.com has recognized the SX4 as one of its ‘Top 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000,’ while the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) awarded the SX4 with its ‘Yankee Value Award’ for three consecutive years.
In 2008, Suzuki added to its menu a four-door, sport-oriented sedan, the SX4 Sport. With a lowered ride height, sport-tuned suspension and asphalt-specific rubber, the SX4 Sport continues to attract singles, couples, families and any car-shopper seeking quality, comfort and capability – minus the high cost normally associated with such a combination. The SX4 Sport delivers all the inherent value of the SX4 Crossover, and adds a chassis dynamic often reserved for those compacts with a German – and not Asian – pedigree.
With the 2009 model year boasting the addition of standard navigation – a segment first – Suzuki brings the SX4 Crossover into 2010 in an all-new guise, one combining the practicality of a five-door hatch and the neo-aggressive dynamic of a Eurocentric sport sedan. Sharing its profile – and utility – with the all-wheel-drive SX4 Crossover, the new SX4 SportBack brings to the generous greenhouse and usable two-box profile a handling dynamic fully appropriate to late braking and apex chasing.
The SX4 SportBack, of course, isn’t new territory for the design team at Suzuki. With its latest iteration of the Suzuki Swift – introduced in both Europe and Asia in 2005 – Suzuki has demonstrated its almost innate knowledge of both practical packaging and daring dynamic.
As the winner of numerous media awards – and consumer acclaim – the Swift fully matches the more established ‘hot hatches’ with its vehicular ‘groove,’ while substantially undercutting the segment in affordability. From its inception, the SX4 borrowed both the Swift’s handling DNA – along with select platform bits – to convey the spirit of a world-class entrant. And with the launch of the new SX4 SportBack, the various bits and pieces of earlier models have blossomed – at least dynamically – into a full-fledged cloning.
Beyond the SX4 SportBack’s functional modifications are visual enhancements to its exterior, and numerous refinements inside. This exterior/interior update makes the SX4 SportBack that much better for enjoying the enhanced driving experience. Outside, the SportBack prospects will note the deletion of the roof-mounted rack, along with the addition of a subtle – albeit effective – aero package, along with minor tweaks to both bumper and grille. A modest chin spoiler and side skirts direct air flow beneath the car, while a revised rear spoiler above the backlight better manages air over the car.
Inside, passenger comfort and convenience are addressed by more than a dozen improvements, including power windows and locks, dual power rearview mirrors, tilt steering wheel, trip computer, split folding rear seats and rear passenger floor vents. The SportBack’s interior trim enjoys an all-new instrument cluster, aluminum-look accents, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3 and XM Satellite Radio® compatibility, a driver’s information center and armrest for the driver’s seat. Integrated navigation, made standard on the 2009 SX4, continues on the 2010 SX4 SportBack – with notable enhancements: Airline arrival and departures, 3D graphics, lane guidance and Doppler weather maps. In addition, the folding rear seats and concealed storage behind those seats provide a completely flat load surface, which is perfect for the SX4 SportBack’s activity-oriented consumer target.
The good news continues under the hood. Since its introduction, the SX4 has benefited from a full 2.0 liters of displacement. That capacity, a little more than 120 cubic inches, provides a competitive edge when contrasted with the bulk of the SX4’s competitive segment; there, displacements of 1.6-1.8 liters are more often the norm. With this newest iteration, however, Suzuki utilizes an all-new 2.0-liter engine, boasting five percent more horsepower and 4 lb.-ft. of additional torque, while delivering – in the EPA cycle – 30 highway miles per gallon. This, in a larger 2.4-liter displacement, is the same engine architecture scheduled for the soon-to-be-announced Suzuki sport sedan.
As before, the 16-valve valvetrain is controlled by dual overhead cams. From the same company building the world’s fastest production motorcycle, one might expect competitive performance, and this new 2.0 liter delivers: 150 horsepower at 6,200 rpm, in combination with 140 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm. Beyond the numbers are a fluid delivery, instant responsiveness and a much smaller carbon footprint.
Connecting the improved powerplant to the SX4 SportBack’s front wheels is the choice of six-speed manual or all-new Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). With the addition of an extra cog, the SX4 SportBack driver benefits from six degrees of separation, especially when placing the Suzuki in its competitive segment. Ratios are more closely spaced, allowing the driver to stay in the sweet spot of the powerband throughout the acceleration cycle. And while the closely spaced ratios improve acceleration when merging or passing, the overdrive sixth allows for relaxed cruising at highway speeds, optimizing the driving experience while minimizing the SX4 SportBack’s thirst.
For added urban convenience, the new CVT optimizes – via console-mounted gear selector or paddle shifters – both performance and efficiency, better maintaining the engine’s rpm ‘sweet spot’ over a wide range of both in-town and freeway driving. The CVT, having already proven itself in both Asia and Europe, is enjoying an increased awareness and growing acceptance in North America.
The SX4 SportBack’s suspension retains MacPherson struts in the front, with a rear torsion beam in the back. Tuned to sport mode, and following the tradition of the urban-oriented SX4 sold in European markets, the SX4 SportBack benefits from a lower ride height, performance shocks and standard anti-roll bars. In testing by Suzuki’s platform team, steering and yaw performance, skid pad performance, braking and brake force control proved to be superior to the well-regarded Swift. Serving to further enhance the ride-and-handling balance are 17-inch alloy rims sporting 205/50 all-season Dunlops. The sticky, low-profile radials contribute to the SX4 SportBack’s sure braking, as do standard four-wheel, fade-resistant discs.
With more consumers interested in bringing to life the ‘fun’ in ‘functionality’, Suzuki expects the SX4 SportBack to further build on the SX4’s already-expansive appeal. Entering its fourth model year, Suzuki’s volume leader looks to turn up the volume, bringing the hot hatch segment to Suzuki showrooms throughout the country.
Price this car:
MSRP: $13,359 – $19,949
Invoice: $12,825 – $19,151
Source: Suzuki Press Release