Test Drive: Suzuki SX4 AWD Crossover

With most new crossovers wearing price tags from $25,000 to $40,000 the idea of a crossover/SUV priced at $20,094 makes one take notice.? It must be a bare bones model, or it?s one heck of a value.

The Suzuki SX4 AWD Crossover certainly qualifies as one heck of a value with a specification list that includes features like AWD, touch screen navigation with real time traffic, heated front seats and mirrors, alloy wheels, eight airbags, air conditioning, power windows, etc.

The SX4 won?t win many prizes for styling, but the petite five-door hatchback is attractive with a distinctive clean styling.? At 162-inches long, the SX4 is about 18 inches shorter than a Honda CR-V, but inside it feels nearly as roomy. ?The high roofline not only adds a spacious interior feel, but provides the driver with a good all-around view. ?Muscular wheel arches and roof rails give the little Suzuki more of the SUV ingredient in the crossover equation.

The interior is clean and straightforward with well positioned controls and instruments. The seating is upright, more like sitting on a table chair than in a lounge chair.? The configuration is very comfortable with a generous amount of legroom and headroom. For better passenger visibility the rear seat is higher than the front seats in a theater-style configuration.

Powered by an all-new 150-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the SX4 has a spunky feel, but it?s not going to win many red light dashes.? With the standard six-speed manual transmission you can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about nine seconds.? It takes a bit longer with optional CVT (continuously variable transmission).? Fuel economy with the CVT is 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway according to the EPA numbers.? We averaged 25.5 mpg during week in the little Suzuki. ?Order the SX4 with the Tech Value Package, and the automatic transmission gets steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters which simulate a six-speed automatic shift points.? The shifters give the driver better engine control and more driving fun.

The SX4 rides on MacPherson struts in the front and a torsion beam with coil springs in the rear.? The suspension produces a nice comfortable ride and respectable handling.

Initially, we would have guessed that a bargain basement all-wheel drive vehicle like this would be a full-time system, however, the SX4 has a three-mode intelligent system (i-AWD) that allows the driver to choose between ?2WD?, ?automatic? or ?lock? to best meet road conditions.

The SX4 gets a heavy dose of standard safety equipment on all trim levels including electronic stability control, traction control, brake assist and eight airbags.

Suzuki?s SX4 Crossover is available in base or premium trim and premium trim with a technology value package with either a manual or CVT transmission.? Starting at $17,774, including the destination charge, the base model has to be one of the best values on the market for an amazingly well-equipped AWD crossover.? The Premium model raises the price to $19,344 and adds the automatic transmission, steering wheel-mounted controls and cruise control.? Priced at $20,094, the top model, with the CVT and the technology package, adds alloy wheels, paddle shifters, fog lamps, and integrated touch screen navigation system and heated front seats. ?The only options are a metallic color paint ($130), floor mats ($125) and Bluetooth with on screen graphics ($250).

The big surprise is the standard navigation system on the Tech Package.? Designed by Garmin, the system manually folds out of the top of the dash and includes a full spectrum of navigation-related services.? Using the nuLink? advanced information services, which do require an annual subscription, features expand to include real-time traffic and weather reports in addition to flight and movie schedules, gas prices and a Google search capability.

The Suzuki Crossover is very comfortable to drive and the small size gives it an agile responsive feel around town and on the highway.

Suzuki offers even more value with other SX4 models including the SportBack and the sedan.

Barbara & Bill Schaffer