Suzuki SX4 Sport – 2008 First Drive: Desire is one the strongest human emotions. It can bring success or lead to downfall. As an object of desire, the automobile ranks quite high in the brain of modern homo sapiens. But there’s a catch: The most desirable cars with the most desirable traits are often out of our financial grasp. We desire the sexy, high-performance sports car or sedan, but the budget says economy car in a flat monotone.
Fortunately, there are occasions when an automaker instills a few of the most desirable traits in a vehicle that isn’t out of reach. A few carmakers have spawned automotive icons by offering, for example, a small, well-balanced roadster, or an economy car with a dose of performance thrown in. That’s the tack Suzuki takes with the 2008 SX4 Sport sedan. Very much the economy car from its sub-$15,000 starting price to its thrifty fuel mileage, Suzuki injects the Sport with a good dose of performance. While the Sport uses the same engine as the all-wheel drive Crossover, Suzuki tunes the suspension and adds performance tires on 17-inch wheels. The result is a fun, quick drive in economy car clothing.
The range of compact economy cars goes from the basic and inexpensive to tarted-up and pricey. What Suzuki has brought to this mix is a combination of affordable price, a nice list of standard features and enough performance to be desirable.
The SX4 Sport sedan is based on the SX4 Crossover, and both are made in Japan. Overall, the SX4 models replace the Aerio.
All models of the SX4 Sport come with a 2.0 liter, dual overhead cam, inline-four engine, which puts out 143 horsepower and 136 lb.-ft. of torque. Standard features include keyless entry, 17-inch alloy wheels, six airbags, and four-wheel, antilock disc brakes with electronic brake distribution, tire-pressure monitoring, and side-impact and side-curtain airbags. The convenience package adds cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, automatic climate control and heated outside mirrors. The touring package builds onto that with stability and traction control, a rear spoiler, fog lights and upgrades the audio system to a six-disc player and nine speakers. An automatic is available for those who don’t want – or know how to use – a manual transmission.
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When it arrives at dealers in October, the SX4 Sport base model will list for $15,395, including the $625 destination charge. Those wanting the mid-level Sport with convenience package are looking at $15,895, including destination. For the buyer who wants all the factory options, touring package will set him or her back $16,895, including $625 destination charge. The automatic transmission is available on any model for $1,100.
Suzuki takes its SX4 Crossover and turns it into a sedan, so the front halves of the two models are pretty much identical. The flared wheel arches, the front quarter windows and the shape of the nose are retained from the Crossover. The sport gets a larger front mouth opening with egg-crate grill and runs on 17-inch wheels instead of 16s. Overall, the styling is different enough to stand out from other cars in the segment, but not so different to be awkward. The sedan’s greenhouse is well-proportioned and meets the trunk at the end of a rising beltline.
With the exception of the Crossover’s fold-down rear seats, the Sport appears to pick up just about everything from its all-wheel-drive sibling. A reinforcement bar in the rear precludes the rear seats from folding forward. Visibility is very good because of the ample size of the windows and the higher “Command” seating position.
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Under the Hood
While the same all-aluminum, 2.0 liter inline-four engine from the Crossover makes its way into the Sport, the former’s all-wheel drive system does not. The dual-overhead cam engine sends 143 horsepower and 136 lb.-ft. of torque to the front wheels. Peak torque is reached at 3,500 rpm and horsepower tops out at 5,800 rpm. Suzuki opts for a standard five-speed manual transmission, but an automatic is available. Fuel economy with the five-speed is estimated to be 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
Suzuki says the SX4’s suspension and chassis are inspired by the sporty Swift sub-compact. For the Sport model, Suzuki lowers the ride height, tunes the shock absorbers and swaps out the Crossover’s 16-inch wheels for 17s with Dunlop high-performance tires. It also sheds 180 pounds of weight, but boasts an improved body structure.
All of the safety features of the Crossover are in the sedan, including side-impact and side curtain airbags; four-wheel, antilock disc brakes; tire-pressure monitoring; and daytime running lights.
Again, much of what’s standard or available on the Crossover is retained on the Sport. Both audio systems are XM Satellite Radio capable, there’s an iPod interface kit sold at dealers, and a dealer-installed Bluetooth connectivity option.