You don't usually associate sporty and Suzuki in the same breath, but the Japanese automaker is beginning to change their public image, especially now with the introduction of the new 2010 Suzuki Kizashi sedan and now the SX4 Sportback.
The 2010 SX4 Sportback is more than just a makeover, but a full redesign of the base SX4 from last year. The Suzuki engineers tried really hard to put some sport into the Sportback and also the Kizashi which I test drove 2 weeks ago. They have succeeded.
The only drawback for me is that Suzuki did away with the all-wheel-drive system in the Sportback and replaced it with a more fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive configuration. I can understand why they did this, as the Sportback has an EPA estimated 22/30 mpg city/highway fuel mileage rating using regular unleaded gas. It would have been nice if the all-wheel-drive would at least have been an option. But I live at 8500 feet in elevation in the heart of snow country.
Some of the biggest changes for the new Sportback come as a result of the engineers lowering the ride height by nearly a half an inch, and giving it new 17-inch wheels. On the outside they gave it an aerodynamic kit, a unique grille treatment, a hatch spoiler, and took off the luggage rack giving it a sportier look.
The inside didn't change as much from the previous generation SX4. The overall layout is the same with the exception of redesigned center console and climate controls. The instrument cluster also got a complete redo getting slick new lighting. The cloth seats are comfortable and the texture of the fabric is smooth. The rear seats now fold flat with an under-floor storage system for improved convenience. The Sportback comes standard with features like navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and keyless start adding to the overall appeal.
Underneath the hood, there is a new version of Suzuki's 150-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, with an increase of seven horsepower over last year's SX4 powerplant. Suzuki says it's also 2 mpg more fuel efficient, regardless of transmission choice, with an estimated combined fuel economy of 26 mpg. The entire 2010 SX4 lineup will share the same engine.
I tested the new six-speed manual transmission model and found it to have plenty of power under normal driving conditions around town. If you live in mountainous regions, it may be a little underpowered for extended trips. When you put the SX4 on the streets of the city, it is ideal for urban driving conditions. With its small stance and maneuverability, it is a perfect car for getting into tight spots and slipping around those bigger SUVs for the best parking spots.
The Sportback, with the sport-tuned suspension, does a good job cornering and handles like a sports car should. One feature that stood out was standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic stability control, which are both standard equipment. The four-wheel disc brakes do an adequate job of bring the car to a stop when you need it to. I had an old Ford pickup pull right in front of me on the Interstate and the brakes kept me from hitting him and being in an accident. Straightaway speed is fairly impressive for a vehicle of this size and power.
With the introduction of the SX4 SportBack and the Kizashi sport sedan, Suzuki has entered a whole new market. I'm not sure if the Sportback will be able to compete with the likes of a MINI, but it will probably give some competition to a number of other commuter cars because of the excellent fuel mileage. With its impressive handling, powertrain, fuel economy, standard features list, and $17,949 MSRP, it's poised to make some noise--the good kind.
MORE: Get the full reviews, specs and photos at TheCarConnection's 2010 Suzuki SX4 page