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2008 Suzuki SX4 Sedan Review

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By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

The little Suzuki in my driveway looks stubby and high, sort of jelly-bean shaped. It’s not a motorcycle, you might have guessed. It’s the new-for-08 SX4 Sedan in “Touring” guise. That’s sort of like calling a hamburger a steak sandwich, a bit of hyperbole perhaps. Yes, it has disc brakes all around and 17-inch alloy wheels shod with sporty tires, a standard 5-speed stick and some nice looking body cladding. Beyond that I’m not sure what justifies that “touring” moniker. It’s a fine little sedan, though, for such a little thing.

Last year we tested the SX4 CUV and we were impressed with its utility, design and quality. I liked its looks. Stylish and modern, the SX4 was the equal of anything in its class. This little sedan is not as utilitarian, of course, but certainly as stylish.

Powered by a 143-hp, 2.0-liter four-banger acceleration is tepid but adequate. Just 136 pound-feet of torque is just enough to get it out of its own way. Shifting it ourselves would be at least a half step to sportiness but unfortunately our tester has a woosie 4-speed automatic. The powertrain is warranted for 100,000 miles or 7 years though, which is worth mentioning, but now everyone seems to be going to that level of powertrain warranty. The EPA rates this car at 23-city and 31-highway for the automatic, and 22/30 for the stick.

Some pretty good body cladding helps give the SX4 a somewhat sporty look. A nice chin spoiler juts out like a little cattle catcher on a steam engine. A rear spoiler on the trunk lid implies that it will go fast enough to be of some use. And, a silly little chrome exhaust extension mates visibly to a tiny exhaust pipe. An extra triangular window up front makes and interesting styling statement as its base swoops below the hood line for sort of an SUV sort of look.

The SX4’s light weight made for some squirrelly handling during particularly windy winter weather coming out of Detroit. It was late on a bitter winter night. The day’s wet snow on the roadway had been salted making for wet surfaces, but the intense drop in temperature refroze everything making for a pretty dicey drive. A sturdy cross wind didn’t help matters as it became impossible to tell whether we were sliding or just being buffeted by the wind. We got home fine without ever changing direction unintentionally or going belly-up. Otherwise the handling is pretty good.

One of the best features is the high roofline of the SX4 making it easy to get in and out even with my hat on. The overall shape reminds me of the late Toyota Echo, that is, round on both ends and high in the middle. Once inside it feels remarkably roomy for such a small car.

Materials, fit and finish are about what we would expect with a little inexpensive car, though it’s not really all that cheap. The design is contemporary and convenient but, for the price, we would expect a little better materials inside. Let’s not forget, though, how far everyone has come over the past 10 years in that regard. By those past standards this interior would have easily passed muster, and then some.

The Japanese-built SX4 starts at just over 14-grand for a base model. The sticker shows a base price of $16,270 for this ’08 SX4 Sedan Touring Pkg II, but that includes an impressive list of standard content. No options are listed on this car although, as I mentioned earlier, ours is equipped with the automatic transmission. Standard are all those features already listed plus: speed-sensitive power steering, electronic stability program, traction control, ABS, 6 airbags, tire pressure monitoring, impact door beams front and rear, remote keyless entry fob with panic alarm, automatic AC, power windows and locks, 6CD/AM/FM/MO3 XM-ready audio system with 9 speakers including subwoofer, cruise control, tilt wheel, and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. That really is a lot of stuff.

Civic and Corolla make for mighty stiff competition in this small sedan class. It would take some serious shopping to sort these out. But, as fuel prices continue to rise and the greening of American attitudes continue, these small, efficient but pretty cool cars will become even more competitive.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved