• Oct 29, 2008
2008 Suzuki SX4 Sport with TRIP – Click above for high-res image gallery

For the 2009 model year, Suzuki will begin offering navigation as standard equipment on all SX4 Sport models. Starting at a buck under 16K, the new 'Zook is the cheapest car in America so equipped, and that news was very well received by the media and car shoppers alike. In fact, so positive was the response, the decision was made to begin offering the GPS navigation about six months early as part of the TRIP package. We were intrigued by the idea of a low-cost commuter car coming standard with such a desirable feature, so we decided to procure one such TRIP-equipped 2008.5 SX4 Sport for testing. Is the navigation nothing more than a gimmick to get you into a sub-standard car, or does the SX4 have more going for it than just being well equipped? Read on to find out.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Jeremy Korzeniewski / Weblogs, Inc.

First thing's first, how does that TRIP (Travel, Real-time traffic, Information and Play, if you cared) navigation system work? Quite well, thank you. The unit itself is supplied by Garmin and uses Navteq mapping software and preloaded street maps, so it functions just as well as any other system available. Featuring a 4.3-inch screen, it's not the most amazing system in the world, but it's not bad and gets the job done just fine. The GPS is fully integrated with the audio system and enclosed in a pop-up bin atop the center of the dash. Added bonuses include a built-in MP3 player along with MSN Direct, which includes such useful bits as real-time traffic, weather forecasts, news reports, stock quotes, movie times, local entertainment listings and a gas station finder. We used all of these features throughout the week we had the car, and we found they all worked exactly as promised. Let's move along, shall we?

The SX4 itself couldn't really be described as attractive per se, but it is definitely a useful shape. Ahead of the front A-pillars are two extra little triangular windows that look a bit funny but help conspire with the tall greenhouse and abundance of glass to make for an airy-feeling cockpit. Visibility proved beyond reproach, something that we can all appreciate in these days of fashionable slit-like windows and high belt-lines. Our car was painted a shade known as Vapor Blue Metallic, and it was universally panned by everyone who's opinion we asked. Our advice would be to choose a darker shade, as the car seems to look better in those hues. Alloy rims with P205/50R17 tires are included on the Sport model and we found them appropriately sporty-looking and feeling. More on that later.

Inside, space abounds for both front-seat passengers and those relegated to the rear. A penalty box this car is not, despite its relatively short 98.4-inch wheelbase. The trunk also proved rather commodious and is rated at 15-cubic feet. For those looking for more practicality, we would suggest checking out the Crossover version of the SX4, which features a hatchback and slightly less homely looks. A holdover from its crossover roots is the SX4's ample 6.3-inches of ground clearance, which means there's no worries at all about scraping on steep driveways or speed bumps. As you would expect in 2008, power windows and door locks are standard, as is air conditioning, tilt steering wheel and cruise control. The stereo is XM Satellite Radio ready and the steering wheel has buttons for the audio and cruise functions.

Driving the SX4 Sport proved rather enjoyable, as the 2.0-liter DOHC engine's 143 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque moves the car's 2,700-pounds fairly briskly. You won't set any speed records, but it more than holds its own compared to other vehicles in this modest price class. We definitely advise SX4 shoppers to stick with the standard five-speed manual transmission, as the optional four-speed auto really sucks the life out of the engine. Besides, the stick shift is a pretty sweet partner, with slickness that isn't quite up to Honda levels, but is worlds better than most of its competition from Korea and Detroit.

Suzuki works hard to make its vehicles different from the class leaders, and this fact shines through very clearly with the SX4. Nobody will confuse this car with a Corolla when sitting behind the wheel, as its been tuned for a sporty feel and has rather quick reflexes. Sure, it's no Civic Si or Cobalt SS, but it doesn't cost as much as either of those tuner cars and is more enjoyable to drive than its base-model competitors. The SX4 Sport's handling in particular always brought a smile to our faces. Although its limits are pretty low, getting the most from the chassis is extremely easy and you really need to do something truly boneheaded to get it out of shape.

Fuel economy is a big reason why people stick to this class of cars, and the Suzuki's EPA ratings of 22 city and 29 highway are noticeably lower than its main rivals from Honda and Toyota. Fortunately, there's an average fuel mileage display in the dash that proved very useful to tame our driving habits. Over the course of its stay in our garage, the SX4 Sport managed nearly 29 miles per gallon in mixed driving, which is really quite impressive considering that it's as enjoyable to drive as it is. Those who opt for the automatic actually benefit by one mile per gallon extra on the highway, though we've got to question whether that figure is as easy to achieve as it was with the stick.

We were genuinely impressed by the little Suzuki, and we'd seriously recommend the SX4 Sport to anybody looking for a small car that's a bit quirky and different from the mainstream competition. We'd probably opt for the Crossover, though, as its added practicality wouldn't take anything away from the platform's nice driving dynamics and looks better to our eyes. The standard navigation is really icing on the cake, as the car is competent enough to compete on level ground with the best from Japan, Korea and the United States. Factor in Suzuki's standard warranty, which includes powertrain coverage of 7-years or 100,000 miles, and the SX4 makes for a pretty compelling package.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Jeremy Korzeniewski / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have an '08 SX4. It's a great car, best value in the class in my opinion...that's why I bought one. Of course it really is ALONE in it's class..at least the 5 door with iAWD - actual locking diff got me out of 5" of mud where the trucks (and their light rear ends) were sliding around.

      The new silver-blue color is lame, even my g/f doesn't like it. I have a dark blue 5 door, it looks great although the paint quality is low. That is the one negative I would say. It is easy to work on and very well put together. I installed a short ram intake and it really woke up a lot, the factory system is poorer than most. I also have a rear swaybar waiting to go on, as well as a better flowing muffler. The exhaust pipe is sized correctly stock but the muffler is junk. I also plan to get aluminum skidplates (gotta protect the expensive bits) front and rear.

      There is also a lift kit out (www.rocky-road.com) but i don't think I'm going to get it as I love the handling and it rolls enough as is.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If you look at the JDM version, they have integrated NAV. I wonder why we didn't get then same unit? I think this one is far more basic too. In Japan, it is available with xenons, and heated seats.

      I love the look of this car, but only the hatch, not the sedan.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I am glad I am not the only one who would want more of the JDM features on this car to carry over. I guess we have to wait for the mild up dated version to really tell. Xeon light would be greats as well as a functional sunroof and better above the dash/center stack surfaces.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Although I truly do like this little car, that has to be the worst attempt at a gauge cluster I've ever seen - it looks like it came from a mid-'90's Hyundai. For something you check every few minutes, it should be fairly favorable to the eye. See: VW City Jetta, that's how its done.

        • 6 Years Ago
        hey Akboss, I had a 97 Elantra and Suzuki's gauge cluster ain't that bad, really!
      • 6 Years Ago

      Suzuki seems to be like Mazda providing good fun to drive Japanese cars.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I love my SX4 Crossover: AWD, stability control, EBD, six airbags, auto climate control, keyless go...all for a negotiated price of $16K out the door. I've been getting 30 mpg overall, now that it has a few thousand miles on it. And not one adjustment or problem. Haven't been back to the dealer at all.
        • 6 Years Ago
        JF, newsflash for you, but EVERY SUV is also a hatchback, even if you don't want to admit it. BFD!

        Oooooh... haaaaaaatchhhhhback. Get over it!

        Only an idiot buys a car with a trunk, if they have the choice.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Um...Crossover is its NAME. I realize it is a tall hatchback.
        • 6 Years Ago

        Suzuki may call it a "crossover" to trick you, but it's a HATCHBACK.

        Glad to hear you're liking it though.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It's a collaboration with Fiat. Fiat sells the Sedici, which is the same car with a different grille. No Daewoo DNA in here.
        • 6 Years Ago
        yes its the same car as the Sedici but ist still fully a Suzuki. the only reason that they are with Fiat is for their diesel engines.
        The SX4 is a great running, low maintenance, cheep car.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I was very impressed by the SX4 hatch. It really is a 2WD drive system that switches to AWD when the car starts to slip. You rarely ever get the rear tires powered.

      The car is put together very well with real metal accents instead of plastic. The standard equipment level is also very high.

      The only knock against the car is that the ride isn't very good compared to the competition driving through 3rd world Cleveland roads. My test driver had quite a few shakes and rattles.

      If you do look at one make sure you go for the stick. the auto is terrible. It feels liek it sucks 50hp out of the engine.

        • 6 Years Ago
        A co-worker has an AWD model, and it actually has a switch to turn the AWD system into one of two types, or off completely. One setting is just plain old FWD with no AWD intervention period, one is FWD-until-you-slip, and one makes the power split 50-50 for all conditions (like in manual Subarus). There's even a video on Youtube showing the three different settings in action.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have an 08 SX4 sedan with the convience
      package; I've had this vehicle about 10 months now. So far it's been a good vehicle.

      A couple of things that attracted me to this car were the high chairlike seating position,
      the handling, and the fact that the engine
      has a timing chain...not a rubber band timing belt.

      There seems to be some GM parts on this car, most notable, look at the steering wheel, it's GM issue except for the center hub ofcoarse.

      One nit is that the deep sea blue paint
      (dark blue) does scratch easily, so keep it waxed.

      When I got mine I also considered the
      hatchback model; but it only available in AWD at that time. A FWD version of it is
      now available. I'm curious why Suzuki
      doesn't offer the 17 in wheel package on the
      hatchback, they come with a 16 in wheel package.

      Overall I'm happy with mine, these cars
      are a great value for the money!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have to say that these have caught my eye before, esp in the cross-over guise.
      Also I think this was a pretty good write-up. I would like to see some performance numbers also, just like in the car mags. Yes I know I can go to the manufacturer site or umpteen-million other sites, but I like to browse AB and would rather keep my browsing pointed at their advertising.
      • 6 Years Ago
      By they way it's "Zuk" not "Zook".
        • 6 Years Ago
        And "the" not "they".

      • 6 Years Ago
      I test drove the Crossover and the Sport (the hatchback and the sedan) back to back. The Crossover is louder than the sport (hatchbacks always are) and the suspension was not as firm (the Sport is lowered 10 mm and has KYB shocks). I went in to buy the Crossover and came out with the Sport.

      The trim is NOT metal as I had to remove the trim to install the XM/iPod kit, but it looks good. Would love it if Suzuki painted them the same color as the car as an option. I too have the Deep Sea Blue and I have noticed the paint does seem less expensive than a Honda...but the car IS cheaper than a Honda so it is understandable. I should have bought a clear plastic overlay for the front end, it's peppered with chipped paint already.

      I have an '08 Sport with the Touring 2 package. Fully loaded with ESP, Traction Control, Keyless Go, all for $16,250...unbelievable value. And got it at 0 percent for 5 years. The car is one of my favorites and I've had 18 different vehicles, Hondas, VWs, BMWs...sedans and hatchbacks...
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have always been intrigued by the SX4 hatch... good looking vehicle. Wish my Stratus was worth more, I might consider making the swap. Hey, its better than the Caliber AWD, and there really aren't any other $15k AWD models available (unless I want a used rental fleet 30k mile Grand Chero or Durango, um... I'll pass)
        • 6 Years Ago
        No AWD in the sedan, booo.
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