Almost everyone will be better served by a five-door

What is it?

This is one of those oddities usually confined to hire car compounds at Eastern European airports: a small saloon.

Based on the pseudo-SUV SX4, Suzuki’s new three-box has that car’s 1.6-litre petrol engine and a reasonably comprehensive kit list that includes six airbags, four electric windows, an MP3-compatible CD player, air-con and keyless entry (and all for a smidgen under 12 grand).

Unlike the hatchback, though, there’s no four-wheel drive option; the SX4 sedan is strictly a front-drive option.

What’s it like?

Competent, without ever coming close to offering entertainment. The 106bhp engine revs freely, but there’s not much torque and it’s thrashy higher up its range.

The five-speed gearbox is a little notchy but it’s slick enough providing you’re positive with it; no sixth means a motorway cruise of around 3750rpm, though, and the SX4’s just not refined enough to cope with those revs. You’ll soon find yourself raising your voice to maintain conversation above the motor’s tinny thrum.

Handling dynamics are pretty well resolved, if uninspiring. The power steering is nicely weighted, but it feels vague around the straight ahead. The SX4 is good enough at turning into corners, but any degree of real commitment thereafter will be greeted by wash-out understeer.

With on-road performance such as this, the Suzuki needs to impress in spec, cabin and practicality – but while its kit list is impressive enough at this money, the rest just isn’t up to scratch. Packaging is fair, and the front seats are comfortable (if a little flat), but Suzuki’s fascia materials are rugged at best, downright nasty at worst. Korean brands now do a better job of creating plush-feeling interiors.

The SX4’s origins are really betrayed by the driving position, too; you feel like you’re sitting on this car, instead of in it. And six-footers will probably grumble about rear knee and headroom. The boot capacity of 515 litres is beyond the SX4 hatchback’s standard loadbay – but then, it can extend to 1045 litres, more than double the space offered by the saloon.

So should I buy one?

Truth is, there aren’t many obvious rivals for the SX4 4dr in the British market, which is notoriously short on interest for cars of this type. Mazda does sell the 3 saloon here, but it’ll cost you a couple of thousand quid more.

There’s a reason for this: at this end of the market, people really want flexible practicality more than an aspirational mini-executive saloon (and the SX4 falls some way short of that anyway).

So if you’re desperate to recreate that Turkish rental car experience on your commute, go right ahead with the SX4 saloon; it is cheap, after all. But everyone else will be better served by a five-door.

John McIlroy

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theonlydt 30 October 2009

Re: Suzuki SX4 saloon

It's simple - this is for old people who like saloons, but can't afford or don't want something big. As you said, the only other new saloon in the market of this kind of size is the mazda 3, which is more expensive and I believe slightly larger.

In the North American market they at least fit the 2.0 to it, but it's not selling well.

I like Suzuki, I just hope they start updating their ranges soon. The Swift could do with replacement/heavy facelift and the SX4 could do with dashboard and engine updates (especially the diesel, for example why wasn't the 150bhp 1.9 diesel ever available).

38carssofar 30 October 2009

Re: Suzuki SX4 saloon

I look forward to seeing it thrashed mercilessly around the Top Gear test track...

moe360 29 October 2009

Re: Suzuki SX4 saloon

oh god this is one awful car !!! who ever buys this needs to have there eyes checked ! 12 grand get a 1 -2 year old Alfa 159 instead !