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Suzuki SX4 sedan: Style and function

- - Thursday, August 4, 2011

Suzuki's SX4 family, including SX4 Crossover AWD with standard all-wheel drive; SX4 Sedan and youthful SX4 SportBack combine to offer the nimble handling of a compact sedan and five-door hatch with the full capability of standard all-wheel drive. Not traveling too far outside the family, the SX4 lineup embodies the sporty character and award-winning handling found in its European cousin, the Suzuki Swift. And the appeal doesn't end there, with the 2011 SX4 Crossover, SX4 Sedan and SX4 SportBack offering bold, youthful styling and a generous list of standard features.

With a lowered ride height (SX4 Sport), sport-tuned suspension and performance-oriented rubber, the 2011 SX4 Sedan continues to attract singles, couples, families and any car shopper seeking quality, comfort and capability - minus the high cost normally associated with that combination.

Outside, SX4 Sedan prospects will note an articulated beltline with "wedge" profile shape to indicate movement, as well as expressive headlamps inspired by the traditional Japanese Kabuki masks and a revised sporty grille. The SX4 Sedan's exterior is further distinguished by muscular wheel arches accented with a body kit (SX4 Sport) for an athletic stance. The high roofline provides extra visibility, a higher seating position, and a feeling of spaciousness similar to that of a much larger vehicle.

Passenger comfort and convenience are attended to by an interior that has a sophisticated feeling reminiscent of vehicles much higher in price. The center stack includes available automatic climate controls, aluminum-look accents, 60/40 split folding rear seats, and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system. Integrated Garmin2 navigation, with literally millions of points of interest, weather forecast, parking location assistance and voice prompts, is standard on SX4 Sedan Sport.

Safety technology in the SX4 Sedan includes eight standard airbags: driver and front passenger advanced frontal airbags; front seat-mounted side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags designed to help provide additional protection for front and outboard rear-seat passengers and, new for 2011, rear seat-mounted side-impact airbags. Active safety items include four-wheel disc brakes (SX4 Sport) with an anti-lock braking system and electronic brake-force distribution.

Passive safety continues with a reinforced body with front and rear crumple zones designed to help absorb impact energy and direct it away from the reinforced cabin. Front three-point seatbelts include pretensioners and force limiters. The SX4 Sedan also is equipped with ISOFIX-compliant child seat anchors and the LATCH system (Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children) for the rear outboard seat positions. These active and passive safety features, in combination with other features such as daytime running lights and a tire pressure monitoring system, make the SX4 Sedan one of the best-equipped cars in its class when it comes to safety.

With more consumers interested in bringing value to their purchase perspective, Suzuki expects the improvements to the SX4 Sedan to further build on the SX4's already broad appeal. With the addition of these enhancements, Suzuki's volume leader looks to turn up the volume, bringing the SX4 Sedan to an even wider audience of sport sedan intenders.

The good news continues under the hood. Since its introduction, the SX4 has benefited from a full 2.0 liters of displacement. That capacity, a little more than 120 cubic inches, provides a competitive edge when contrasted with the bulk of the SX4's competitive segment; there, a displacement of 1.8 liters is more often the norm. For 2011, Suzuki utilizes a 2.0-liter engine (new for MY2010) boasting five percent more horsepower and 4 lb.-ft. of additional torque than the previous (through MY2009) powerplant, while delivering - in the EPA cycle - 32 highway miles per gallon (manual). In a larger 2.4-liter displacement application, the same engine architecture is sported by Suzuki's all-new, technologically advanced 2011 Kizashi.

As before, the 16-valve valvetrain is controlled by dual overhead cams. From the same company building the world's fastest production motorcycle, one expects competitive performance, and this new 2.0 liter delivers: 150 horsepower at 6,200 rpm, in combination with 140 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm with the manual transmission (148 HP CVT). Beyond the numbers are a fluid delivery, instant responsiveness and a much smaller carbon footprint than its predecessor.

Connecting the improved powerplant to the SX4 Sedan's front wheels is the choice of a six-speed manual or a performance-tuned Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). With the addition of an extra cog, the SX4 driver benefits from six degrees of separation, especially when placing the Suzuki in its competitive segment. Lower gear ratios are more closely spaced, allowing the driver to stay in the sweet spot of the powerband throughout the acceleration cycle. And while the closely spaced ratios improve acceleration when merging or passing, the overdrive sixth gear allows for relaxed cruising at highway speeds, optimizing the driving experience while maximizing fuel efficiency.

For added convenience, the CVT optimizes performance and efficiency through a console-mounted gear selector and paddle shifters, better maintaining the engine's rpm 'sweet spot' over a wide range of in-town and freeway driving.

The SX4 Sport retains MacPherson struts in the front, with a rear torsion beam in the back. Refined in Europe - and drawing from the widely acclaimed Suzuki Swift - the sport-tuned suspension offers a 10mm lower ride height than non-Sport SX4 models, KYB performance shocks and standard stabilizer bars. The combination of a wide track and large 17-inch alloy wheels with low-profile 50-series tires optimizes the ride and handling balance, while adding to the vehicle's dynamic personality.

The SX4 Sedan comes in three trim levels: Base, LE and new Anniversary Edition value package that adds 17-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, remote keyless entry and paddle shifters to last year's LE Popular Value Package. The SX4 Sport SE offers all of the features on the SX4 Sedan, as well as standard rear disc brakes, aero body kit, fog lights, leather steering wheel, pop-up integrated navigation system (with standard advanced navigation features), cruise control, paddle shifters, remote keyless entry, 17-inch alloy wheels and an optional Bluetooth hands-free system.