Built in a joint venture with Fiat, the SX4 shares all but a fettled front end and badge with its Italian counterpart, the Sedici. However, crucially, the Suzuki is likely to be cheaper than its Fiat sibling.
That needs qualifying: the SX4’s £9,999 start price is for the two-wheel drive version, which will account for 90% of its 4,000 annual UK sales. Fiat’s £12,495 entry is the switchable 4x4 – it is not bringing the two-wheel drive model to the UK.
Both cars sit on a stretched Suzuki Swift platform, with Fiat supplying its well-proven 1.9-litre Multijet diesel engine and Suzuki providing the 1.6-litre VVT petrol.
The SX4 is touted as a Sport crossover, offering the best features from both “a sporty compact and an SUV”. Suzuki says it is “pure Suzuki in nature: exciting, multi-dimensional, and playful”.
Well, it’s certainly quite an engaging car to drive. Both the petrol and diesel engines offer decent performance and response. The six-speed manual diesel is the pick of the bunch, offering 118bhp and 206lb ft of torque at 2,000rpm, to the petrol’s 107lb ft at 4,000rpm and 106bhp.
Although it will only account for 10% of UK sales, Suzuki is heralding the signature feature of the SX4 as its switchable i-AWD (intelligent all-wheel drive). An electric control coupling device enables 4WD-Auto, 4WD-Lock, and 2WD (front) modes.
Under normal driving conditions in 4WD-Auto mode, torque is not transferred to the rear. Torque is automatically fed to the rear wheels when front wheel slip is detected to produce 4x4 traction and enhance stability.
The result, especially when allied to the optional ESP, is a car with great levels of grip, resulting in a sure-footed driving experience.
Two trim levels, GL and GLX, are offered; the SX4 also comes as Urban-Line or Outdoor-Line. The latter sports chunky bumpers, mock front/ rear under-bumper protectors and roofbars. It’s the most convincing looking version.
Interior trim quality is good and the driving position is excellent. There’s plenty of space for passengers, but the thick A-pillar thickness spoils visibility for the driver.
Largely due to the success of the Swift and Grand Vitara, Suzuki’s global sales topped 2.01m in 2005, up 7%. European sales grew by 11% to 265,000 cars.
It is targeting a 17% increase to 310,000 European units this year, capturing a 2% market share, with 320,000 sales in 2007. It plans to produce 40,000 SX4s at its Hungarian factory for Europe this year.
Prices for 4WD models and 1.9 DDiS diesel will be announced when these variants go on sale in June/July.
Funky styling, competitive pricing, wide-spread appeal, 4x4 versatility
2WD version loses USP
Undercut Fiat twin on price
Potential buyers go for larger 4x4 options
Proven Suzuki durability in cut-price package
Engine: 1.6-litre 16V VVT petrol, 1.9-litre 16V DDiS diesel
Performance: 0-62mph: 10.7sec; 12.3sec; top speed: 106mph-118mph; 106bhp-118bhp; 107lb ft-206lb ft of torque
Transmission: Five-speed manual; six-speed automatic
Efficiency: 37.7mpg-44.8mpg (combined)
CAP RV: Not available
Rivals Fiat Sedici, Panda 4x4, Polo Dune, C3 XTR