One of the most significant changes to the facelifted Suzuki SX4 is that the front-drive Limited model now looks exactly like the all-wheel-drive (i-AWD) version:
Same black wheel-arch extensions, side mouldings, alloy wheels and black roof rails. Ride height has also been raised by 15mm.
Nothing wrong with that I guess. The SX4 has always been a crossover-type vehicle anyway, with a high driving position and huge glass areas. These days, there are plenty of 'lifestyle' wagons that lack four-wheel drive because it's well-proven that people who buy these kinds of vehicles don't really take them off-road. Or even off-tarmac sometimes.
But the visual change is still a shame because I think it undermines the position of the proper SX4 i-AWD, which is a highly competent and often underrated machine.
The i-AWD is indeed the model being tested here. Again, it's a shame to have to tell you that, but it's no longer obvious from its body addenda and ground clearance.
The SX4 has a unique combination of talents which I find quite appealing. It's larger than a supermini, not quite a small car. It's generously powered with a 112kW/190Nm 2.0-litre engine. The chassis is nicely balanced for gravel-road driving and the all-wheel drive system is slick. You can run it in front-drive, auto (on-demand) or lock the drive 50/50 front/rear for particularly slippery conditions.
Dynamically, there are really only two bum notes. The first is the electric power steering system, which has been questionable on every SX4 I've ever drive. It's fine at speed, but in urban driving the weighting is inconsistent and loads up unexpectedly at the worst possible times.
The second is the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which is now standard on all SX4 Limited models. As CVTs go this one is actually quite good, so my complaint is only the usual one: that gearless transmissions take much of the involvement out of the driving experience. That's particularly sad in a car like the SX4 i-AWD, which I have driven in six-speed manual form (no longer available) and found to be highly entertaining.
Nor has the SX4 ever been especially thrifty, even with CVT. The i-AWD delivers 8.0 litres per 100km in the Combined cycle, which is merely acceptable for a small car. Consider the much larger Subaru VX crossover, which is also a 2.0-litre with CVT: it achieves 7.0 litres per 100km.
The SX4 i-AWD is still a likeable and surprisingly versatile package for $31,990. Aside from a minor facelift (new grille), the Limited has also gained new equipment including a Garmin touch-screen satellite navigation system that incorporates audio and Bluetooth cellphone connectivity.
There are eight versions of the SX4 available in New Zealand. Not all are great (the ghastly sedan springs to mind) but the i-AWD really does stand out because it's a bit special. Even if it doesn't look it any more.