2008 Suzuki SX4 Sport Road Test Review

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Category:$15,000 to $20,000 Front-wheel drive Compact Sedan
Who should buy this car:A person who wants a small sedan with spunky looks and great value for the money
Comparable models in this class:Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Spectra,  Mazda 3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra, Saturn Astra, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Rabbit

The folks at Suzuki may just be up to something that will make competitors and buyers sit up and take notice.

That something is the Suzuki SX4 Sport and the competitors are the usual suspects Toyota, Honda and Nissan. The reason the Sport may attract some special attention is that it has a few important ingredients that are not apparent on the surface.

First, the four-door sedan is fun. Its slightly awkward body style literally shouts practicality, but the peppy engine, smooth five-speed manual shifter and grippy suspension combine to give the front wheel-drive compact a sporty demeanor.

Second, the SX4 is available with a surprising amount of features, many of which arent available on similar sedans costing thousands of dollars more. Third, and most important, is the price. The Sport tab for manual-transmission sedans ranges from $14,770 to $16,270. For comparison purposes, its sort of like buying a Honda Civic at the price of a Honda Fit.

Those who would rather opt for the decidedly less sporty four-speed automatic transmission will have to add $1,100 to the price.

The sedan is Suzukis second SX4. A hatchback version with standard all-wheel drive – now officially known as the SX4 Crossover – was introduced in 2007.

The two vehicles share most mechanical components, but the sedan emphasizes its sportier demeanor with standard 17-inch wheels, performance-tuned shock absorbers, front and rear stabilizer bars, quicker power steering, and an aero body kit.

Power is supplied by an all-aluminum, two-liter engine that produces 143 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque. That sounds like a lot for a compact car, but acceleration is leisurely. The 2,760-pound sedan needs a little more than nine seconds to move from a stop to 60 mph.

On the other hand, the short-throw manual shifter makes it easy to keep the engine in the fat part of the power band and the SX4 will cruise effortlessly at extra-legal highway speeds while returning nearly 30 miles per gallon of regular fuel. For the record, the EPA lists fuel consumption at 22 mpg city/30 highway.

Inside, the tall sedan has room for four adults of almost any height, or two in front and three kids in the back. The gray and black upholstery, aluminum accents and plastics give the cabin a conservative, refined ambience.

The rear seatback does not fold forward to increase cargo space, but the trunk can hold a generous 15 cubic feet of luggage.

A comprehensive list of safety equipment includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, front and side airbags for front-seat passengers, tire-pressure monitors, side curtain airbags, side-impact beams and front and rear crumple zones

The manual-transmission car I drove came with the mid-level Convenience package and carried a sticker price of $15,270, a mere $500 more than the base price.

Included among the comfort and convenience features were automatic climate control; XM-ready, four-speaker am/fm/6-cd sound system with MP3 capability; cruise control; power windows and door locks; power, heated outside mirrors; and steering-wheel audio controls.

Those willing to spend another $1,000 for the Touring Package will also get traction control, stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, keyless starting and a nine-speaker sound system.

Suzuki, known primarily as a motorcycle manufacturer in the United States, has slowly been establishing a presence as an automobile company.

The value-packed SX4 Sport just might help to accelerate that pace.

Standard Equipment

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The Sport with convenience package adds…

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Major Available Options

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