The Suzuki SX4 is the latest in a series of possible comeback cars from a company most Americans are only dimly aware of.
The little car is available in more varieties than many bigger sellers, offering among other things a wagon/hatchback variant and all wheel drive; but more than anything, it should firmly put memories of the late Samurai to rest.
The sole powerplant is a 2.0 liter dual-cam engine with 143 horsepower (5,800 rpm) and 136 lb-feet of torque (3,500), a rev-happy engine that is very slow off the line, but feels sprightly once the car is moving, thanks partly to a four-speed automatic that downshifts at any provocation (the base transmission is more enjoyable five-speed manual). That automatic often seemed confused because of its tendency to drop a gear with even a light tap of the gas, but it also avoided the “rubber-band” feel of many small-car automatics (including that of the Mazda6).
The engine has a timing chain, so those every-80,000-mile timing belt changes aren’t an issue. The whole car weighs in at a light 2,668 – 2,745 pounds (depending on the package and transmission; the automatic adds around 80 pounds).
The actual 0-60 time is claimed at 10.2 seconds, around the same as the old Dodge Neon automatic, and very close to both the 2.0 liter Mazda3, 2.4 liter Dodge Caliber CVT, and four-cylinder Nissan Sentra. It outdoes both Mazda3 (in I trim) and Sentra in cornering and braking, according to various tests.
The interior is light and airy, with huge amounts of glass and only very small blind spots. Extra glass in front, between the door and windshield, provides a vantage point not present in many cars, while the huge windshield, door glass, and rear window all create an expansive, bright feeling while making it easier to avoid hitting people or things; the only substantial blind spot is the usual passenger-side-rear pillar, and you can eliminate that by getting the wagon.
Headlights are bright and effective; sun visors are well designed but it would be good if they could slide out or had extenders. Mirrors are large and effective, and in our test car, the outside driver’s mirror had its own defroster as well.