The little Japanese hatchback doesn't get the recognition it probably deserves
There are some hidden ''gems'' in today's mine of compact cars. The 2011 Suzuki SX4 Hatchback is one of them. Many drivers don't even know about it, thinking that Suzuki only builds motorcycles and ATVs. It's not their fault: the company's advertising money is largely spent on motorcycles and ATVs – not cars – leaving dealers in a vicious circle that makes it that much harder to promote interesting products like the SX4.
I say interesting because of its price, value, practical interior and pleasant road manners. And of course the option of all-wheel drive. Only three other models in this segment offer the latter, including the Toyota Matrix, Subaru Impreza and Jeep Compass.
SX4 at a glance
The obscure Japanese has many things going for it, starting with two different body styles (a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback) and four trim levels (JA FWD, JX FWD, JX AWD and JLX AWD).
All 2011 SX4s use a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that produces 150 horsepower, which is only eight short of the Matrix AWD's 2.4-litre mill.
Two transmissions are available, although not with every model. The JA FWD and JX AWD can be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox or a continuously-variable transmission, while the JX FWD and JLX AWD only come with the CVT. Go figure!
Braking is handled by a classic disc/drum combo, which is definitely not something to get excited about, but if you ask me, it will likely get the job done for most SX4 buyers, meaning small, urban families. While ABS comes standard, stability control remains exclusive to the three higher-end models (standard on JLX).
Then there is Suzuki's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (iAWD), a three-mode, on-demand system with a switch on the centre console that allows the driver to select 2WD, Auto and Lock.