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2011 Suzuki SX4 Crossover. Photo by David Arnouts.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR--AUTOWEEK.COM BOB GRITZINGER: The 2011 Suzuki SX4 Crossover is a great bargain--loads of usable space in a tight package, good step-in height and hip point, higher-end features including a pop-up navigation screen (though I could do without the cartoonish Garmin interface), reasonable ride and quietness, and all-wheel drive. The engine is peppy enough but the CVT seems to drag it down, even though I know, mechanically, it is getting the best possible efficiency from the engine. There's some body roll, but the brakes are responsive and the steering is quick.
Overall, except for the transmission, the SX4 feels fairly sporty and fun, with ample interior space. I'd love Suzuki (or Honda on the Fit) to engineer that little front port window to open like the vent windows on cars in the 1950s or '60s. How cool would that be?
A $20,000 price makes this vehicle a great deal. The low price and all the features make it a best buy in my book.
ART DIRECTOR CHERYL L. BLAHNIK: A little more than $20,000 for this? I'll admit, the all-wheel drive is enticing, but I was pegging this car to cost about $3,000 less. Visually, it looks so small that it's hard to fathom five people sitting inside it. But last night a Costco run was on the schedule, and I was interested to see how the SX4 handled it. Much to my surprise, there was a lot more room in the trunk than I thought. Nice.
Another bonus was the front seat heaters, but the seats themselves needed more side support. Sitting inside, there's generous headroom to add to the interior's airy feel.
However, I still can't see people rushing out to buy this car. Granted, the four-cylinder under the hood with 148 hp is peppy and is sufficient for the commute. But for the price, there are a lot of other small-car options out there that I find more appealing.
COPY EDITOR CYNTHIA L. OROSCO-WRIGHT: The SX4 was a fun little ride for an overnight. I liked the tall-car look, and it allowed for plenty of headroom inside. The sheetmetal looks good, and I'm with Bob on making those little port windows able to be opened. I didn't have reason to make use of the cargo space, but it looked to be bigger than what it appears to be from the outside. But I don't know how comfy this car would be for a longer drive; the driver's seat, for sure, could use more bolster. And, while I didn't use the navigation, I am not of fan of that pop-up setup. To me, it looks as if the nav was an afterthought and there was no place left to put it except for the top of the dash.
The drive was pretty basic, which is to say not inspiring, although the car handled well on the expressway aside from some roll around curves. There's decent power off the line and for passing, but man, this CVT is loud! Between that and the road noise entering the cabin, well, I either had to leave the radio off or blast it to be able to listen to some tunes.
While this car is a fine package, I can't see myself rushing out to buy one.
NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: This is a zippy, energetic little car, and I racked up considerable miles running errands, taking the girlfriend out to dinner and then visiting a gleaming new General Motors factory the next day. That's a lot of seat time, and a lot of time to reflect on this sporty little hatch.
I actually found it quite fun to drive. The proverb about driving a slow car fast, or at least to its limits, was something I tried to live on this short stint, and I hammered relentlessly on the throttle to accelerate into open spaces on the expressway. I kept banging up against the redline at 6,000 rpm, flexing all 148 horses, and there was more than adequate power on tap. The chassis is tight, and the body is reasonably well-mannered. It looks tall, and I'm not fan of the exterior styling, but I didn't detect any sort of tipping feeling, and I did my best to take corners as aggressively as possible. The steering returns decent feedback during turn-in, though there's a tinge of rubbery feel to it.
The interior was pretty pedestrian, but this is a reasonably low-cost car. The all-wheel-drive capability is a nice value for $20,000, but to me this car falls a touch short on the spec sheet in a number of areas. One, it doesn't feel like a $20,000 car, largely because of the below-average looks. The curb weight (even with AWD) is a bit heavier than I would expect, though it's not detrimental to the drive character. Plus, the fuel economy seems a bit low. In this day and age, you would think Suzuki would find a way to eek the mpg rating to more than 30. My other issues were that the four-banger is loud and revvy in the cabin, and the road and wind noise are evident.
But, overall this is a fun little car with function and a decent feel on the road. Still, a styling makeover wouldn't hurt.
INTERACTIVE ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Twenty grand is inexpensive, but I could certainly find something more entertaining and better-looking than this for that price.
All-wheel drive and navigation are upscale features, but I'd ditch both for a Kizashi if I was sticking with Suzuki. This car just looks poorly proportioned to me. It's too tall, and the roof rack makes it look even taller. It's narrow, too. I didn't feel like it was getting tipsy, but this car discourages any sort of spirited driving anyway.
Mileage was good at a bit more than 21 mpg on my tank. But I'm assuming most of that was done in two-wheel drive. I only switched to "auto" once; no weather to speak of so no need for all-wheel grip.
The CVT does what a CVT usually does, sapping the fun at every press of the accelerator. It's not terribly slow when you floor it. And I suppose it handles decently with relatively tight steering. It was a little choppier over bumps than I expected.
You do get some extra space in the rear area with the roof height, and it wouldn't be a bad car for shuttling tall plants to and from nurseries.
Bland looks, strange proportions and the fun-sapping CVT would make me spend my money elsewhere. A Mazda 5 at a few grand more, and a Mazda 3 at a few grand less, would be good options. But if you must have all-wheel drive and navigation at $20,000, the SX4 is on a short list.
ART DIRECTOR TARA KLEIN: At first glance, the 2011 Suzuki SX4 Crossover instantly evokes a sense of boredom, but I actually found it quite fun to scoot around in over the weekend. This car is by no means a performance-centric ride, but it did get me where I needed to go with few complaints.
On the outside, the SX4 needs some work. The contours resemble that of a go-kart and appear dated. However, the inside felt roomy and comfortable. While the materials and overall design were pretty plain, everything was clearly marked and easy to find, making the adaptation to this car simple. I did find the approach to the Garmin display to be a bit odd. It looked disconnected, and I wish it were considered more in the overall design of the center stack. The amount of headroom was nice, and the large windshield paired with the windows nestled in the A-pillar minimized blind spots.
I felt the SX4 was up to most tasks on the road, and having AWD is certainly a plus. Expressway driving and passing were no problem, but I agree with Cindy about how loud this is with the CVT. When accelerating, all I could hear was the buzz of the engine, no matter how cranked up the radio was.
On my drive into work, I also heard the "traffic ahead" notification, and I could find this to be helpful on long trips where alternate routes are available.
In the end, I found myself surprised and pleased that I wasn't disgusted with my experience with this Suzuki. I know I'm not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I still wish this cover was a bit more enticing.
2011 Suzuki SX4 Crossover
Base Price: $20,094
As-Tested Price: $20,469
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter I4; AWD, continuously variable transmission
Output: 148 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 140 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 2,954 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 25/23.5 mpg
Options: Bonus value features including 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps ($550); Bluetooth with screen graphics ($250) premium floor-mat set ($125); bonus value package discount (-$550)
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