Suzuki SX4 Review: SX4 combines Sportiness and Style

Suzuki SX4 Review: SX4 combines Sportiness and Style

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
09 Dec 2006

Suzuki seems to succeed by bucking all trends. In the last couple of years, each new model has hit bulls-eye, but they don’t seem to fit into any of the mainstream categories – the Swift is a sensational little hatchback that handles like an dream and is beautifully built, but is smaller than most of its rivals. The new Grand Vitara breaks new ground in having an integrated body and chassis, but hasn’t become a so soft that it has lost its off-roading credibility, like some of its rivals.

It can be said that Suzuki has a range of divergent niche models that are successful in their own segments, but share almost no common identity, except high-quality and good design. Well, this changes with the new SX4 – a refreshingly innovative 5-door hatchback that combines the Swift’s fine handling and drivability, with the out-going off-road nature of a Grand Vitara.

The SX4 replaces the Liana in the Suzuki line-up, and at least superficially, it looks like a straightforward model change. Both cars have 1.6-litre engines and 5-door hatchback styling, but this is where the similarities end. While the Liana seemed to be an attempt at the mainstream 1.6-litre hatchback with an off-beat personality, the focus of the SX4 is both stronger and clearer, yet still new and exciting – something not so easy to achieve in an increasingly crowded, copy-cat marketplace.

With the Liana not sure of what it was – tall and spacious like an MPV, but not quite as versatile – Suzuki took no risk with the styling of the SX4. The concept is for a dynamic and sporty hatchback, one that offers the rugged out-going nature of an SUV, and Suzuki entrusted the styling of this car to Giugiaro, the talented Italian designer that seems to thrive on creating vehicles that break into new sectors of the market.

This Italian influence has given the SX4 a handsome, well-proportioned body that is also tall and lean. Perhaps the most distinct area is that of the passenger cell, which has a low beltline, and an aggressively purposeful wedge shape. The treatment of the A-pillar is particularly interesting – like an MPV, there is a small triangular window ahead of the front door, and the plunges down just before the door before rising up again to give the SX4 its wedge-like stance. Although the SX4 doesn’t sit on a particularly long wheelbase, its relationship of the tall passenger cabin makes the car look lean and athletic – the front and rear overhangs are minimal, and the hidden D-pillar also takes away some ‘weight’.

To continue the sporty, athletic theme, Suzuki provides the SX4 with roof-rails and there is black trim around the wheel arches. The athletic styling works – park the next to a Corolla Altis, and the SX4 looks “fit”, while the other car looks “tired”. Park the SX4 next to an SUV, and the SX4 looks “trim” while the other car definitely looks “overweight”. In the same way a long-distance runner or sprinter is extremely lean, there seems to be no fat or excess weight on SX4, from which ever angle one looks at the car.

The impressive thing is, though, there is plenty of space in the SX4 – and in all the right places. Headroom, front and rear, is impressively generous, and like riding in an SUV, the driver has a commanding view of the road. Legroom is good too, not so much because there is a lot of room between the front and back seats, but more because one is sitting upright and ones legs tend to dangle downwards. Space within the cabin is very cleverly thought through, and the SX4 gets high marks for creatively optimizing it. There are also many storage areas – each of the doors has a pocket that can take bottles, and there is an under-seat tray under the front passenger seat.

As mentioned, the view from the driver’s seat is commanding, like in an SUV, but there is also a closeness and intimacy around the driver that definitely makes the SX4 feel more car-like. All the controls and instruments are well laid-out, and as we’ve seen in the Swift and Grand Vitara, the quality is of a very grade. There is even a digital panel that displays outside temperature, average fuel consumption and time, and all the controls and instruments are bathed in the same red hue – there is thoroughness and quality about the SX4’s cabin that one finds only in a much more expensive car.

On the road, the SX4 doesn’t disappoint. The steering has the feel and feedback that makes the new Swift so well-loved – it responds immediately, is well-weighted and it is quite clear that the SX4 and Swift share the same DNA. There are also satellite hi-fi controls on the leather-wrapped steering, further enhancing the SX4’s upmarket feel.

The response from the 1.6-litre VVT engine is similarly refined and classy. It is coupled to a 4-speed automatic transmission, and this combination makes the SX4 feel like a larger Swift, which is no bad thing. The SX4 is larger of course, and with a longer wheelbase, the ride is smoother and less agitated. For a relatively tall car, the SX4 does not feel top heavy or unstable – rather it feels firmly planted and positive, which drivers will definitely appreciate.

One thing that the driver of an SX4 may take a little while to get used to is the positioning of the door mirror – I found that it was closer to the driver than normal, and initially it took me some time to locate it.

In all other areas, the SX4 is quite remarkable – it effectively combines the Swift’s nimble handling with an athletic prowess that one normally associates with an SUV – giving us a truly new vehicle segment. As with all Suzuki products, the fit and finish on the SX4 is impressive, and the level of standard equipment is also of a high standard. It is no wonder that Suzuki remains so successful without a single ‘mass-market’ product in its line-up – the SX4 proves that its still possible to have something new and interesting in the increasingly homogenous 1.6-litre segment.

Credits: Justin Lee

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