Suzuki AD 50

2008 Suzuki SX4

Best known in America for high-value SUVs, Suzuki is moving to bolster its passenger-car presence here as well. Leading the charge is the new SX4 Sport, which arrives in a single, well-appointed trim level. Like the SX4 crossover introduced for 2007, this four-door sedan shares basic chassis and mechanical bits with the Suzuki Swift, a well-respected player in European and Asian markets.

Despite the SX4 nomenclature originated by its all-wheel-drive cousin, the Sport is strictly front-drive—at least for now. It’s also nearly 15 inches longer than the hatchback version, most of that stretch to accommodate its formal trunk. A step-up replacement for the Aerio, the SX4 Sport gives Suzuki an affordable compact entry that’s far more youthful and fun-to-drive than either its existing Forenza or Reno.

Drivers whose tastes run more towards hard-line performance—particularly with a Teutonic flavor—or who prefer more aggressive styling might be better off considering something slightly pricier, like a Honda Civic Si, Mazda3s or VW Jetta 2.5/GLI.

The new SX4 Sedan moves Suzuki closer than it’s ever been before to segment heavyweights like the Honda Civic. Mazda3, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla. Its higher-profile appearance and sportier handling characteristics are ideal complements to an impressive roster of standard equipment coupled with Suzuki’s traditional pricing advantage.

Driving Impressions Although it still ranks higher in practicality than in pure exhilaration, the SX4 Sport is a nicely balanced package with dynamic character that goes well beyond the original SX4 crossover.

With less weight to move and only two wheels to drive, the engine shows even greater enthusiasm here, but acceleration is definitely more spirited when it’s paired with the standard manual gearbox. The biggest difference, however, is in the suspension tuning, which is commendably crisp without being unduly harsh.

Suzuki AD 50

While the SX4’s basic MacPherson strut and torsion beam design carries over, the Sport’s more rigid body structure, lower ride height, upgraded shock absorbers and low-profile Dunlop tires on 17-inch alloy wheels (the crossover rides on 16-inchers) impart an entirely different temperament to the vehicle. Toss in communicative power steering and capable four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and the SX4 Sport reacts confidently to driver inputs, even without the optional traction and stability controls.

Under the Hood

All SX4 Sedans share the same 2.0-liter DOHC all-aluminum inline four-cylinder used in the SX4 crossover. Here, too, the engine makes a solid 143 horsepower and 136 lb.-ft. of torque and is fitted with a variable-runner intake manifold that helps broaden both those output curves.

Because of the more performance-oriented gear and axle ratios used in cars equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission, an SX4 Sport with the optional four-speed automatic actually earns slightly better EPA fuel economy numbers. In either case, the SX4 Sport’s front-drive-only configuration helps trim well over 100 pounds off its curb weight compared to the crossover, a factor that significantly improves acceleration.

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