First Drive: 2008 Suzuki SX4 Sport
Following last year's debut of the SX4 hatchback, Suzuki has a new sedan version of the car, dubbed SX4 Sport, for 2008. Suzuki bills the Sport as a value-oriented yet sporty compact car, and after driving it for a day on winding country roads in northern Michigan, that statement rings true.
The sedan carves confidently through fast, sweeping turns with minimal body roll, and steering effort is relatively light; the Sport responds eagerly to your command, which furthers its sporting nature. Large 17-inch wheels and tires are standard, and the Sport is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 143 hp and 136 pounds-feet of torque. The engine provided decent power during the drive, but it's not a fire-breather by any means. It remains relatively smooth at high rpms, though the sound it makes near its redline doesn't encourage you to stay there for long.
Buyers get a choice of a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic, and both transmissions drive the front wheels (the SX4 hatchback, meanwhile, has standard all-wheel drive). It takes a deliberate effort to shift from gear to gear with the manual, but the clutch engages easily with light pedal effort. The automatic shifts smoothly, even during hard acceleration. With the manual transmission, the Sport gets an estimated 22/30 mpg (city/highway); with the automatic, the estimate is 23/31 mpg.
While the Sport's cabin does have some cheapo elements, like the relatively crude levers for the fuel door and trunk releases, for the most part material quality and fit and finish is on par with Mazda's more affordable models, which puts it about midpack in the small-car world. However, the Sport needs a telescoping steering wheel to better accommodate drivers of different heights; with the driver's seat adjusted for me — a taller guy — it was a long reach to the wheel.
The SX4 Sport's base price of $15,395 (with destination) includes all-disc antilock brakes and side curtain airbags as well as comfort features like air conditioning and keyless entry. A full review of the SX4 Sport is forthcoming, but until then check out the photo gallery below.