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First drive: Suzuki SX4 ready for city and bush
Suzuki massages its roomy hatch with "intelligent" AWD and peppy performance
29 Jan 2007
SUZUKI’S new "sports cross vehicle" – the all-wheel drive SX4 hatchback – has landed in Australia ahead of its market introduction on February 1.
Joining the Swift and Grand Vitara as the third model in Suzuki’s latest product renewal, the five-door SX4 is being billed by the Japanese manufacturer as its first "sports crossover vehicle".
Launched in North America, Europe and Japan last year, SX4 sales have exceeded expectations, particularly in Europe and the US where more than 20,000 have been sold in less than a year.
Like the Swift, Suzuki is confident the SX4 will become a popular model in the line-up, chasing conquests from Subaru Impreza owners and, with the Daihatsu Terios no longer available, pitching into a sub-compact SUV market.
The SX4 uses the Swift platform and is also sold as a Fiat Sedici in Europe. It has a four-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating.
Australian cars are built in Japan and gain their momentum from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that develops 107kW at 5800rpm and 184Nm at 3500rpm.
Compared to other versions of this engine, this unit has undergone extensive development and is equipped with Suzuki’s Intake Manifold Tuning system, delivering more power across a broader rev range. The system also lifts power from 96kW at 6000rpm in other markets.
The 2.0-litre four is mated to a switchable 4WD system.
The SX4 will initially be available in a five-speed manual and automatic, starting from $23,990. A 1.9-litre turbo-diesel is also available in European markets but is unlikely for Australia.
Suzuki Australia managing director Takeshi Hayasaki said he was confident the SX4 would do well in Australia as it was a "perfect combination of design, assembly and attention to engineering detail".
The SX4 continues the trend established by the Swift and Grand Vitara in adopting European influences. The Suzuki design team travelled to Italy for styling ideas from various design studios in order to create a vehicle with 4WD wagon attributes but the elegance of a small hatch.
The vehicle’s smooth exterior lines and bold face with oversized headlights provide a sense of purpose to the car’s overall wedge design. Standard roof rails, 200mm ground clearance and protective wheelarch mouldings give the car a muscular on-road stance.
The body is relatively wide at 1755mm, with a wheelbase of 2500mm.
Like the Swift, the SX4 borrows a similar front independent MacPherson strut suspension set-up, which is mounted on a high-tensile steel suspension sub-frame to reduce noise and vibration transfer to the cabin. The rear suspension is a torsion beam configuration.
Suzuki claims the SX4 was designed from the outset to be 4x4 capable but essentially few owners will use it as a specific off-roader. It uses a switchable three-mode 4x4 system (2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock) to deliver all-wheel traction.
In 2WD, only the front wheels provide the drive on dry surfaces while 4WD Auto is the standard mode for driving, where almost all the torque is distributed to the front wheels. Torque is transferred to the rear automatically depending on the road conditions.
4WD Lock provides torque to rear wheels from start-up in low traction conditions such as mud or snow. The system automatically switches over to, and remains in, 4WD Auto at speeds above 60km/h.
An "intelligent" 4WD controller constantly monitors driving conditions in order to deliver the most efficient division of power. The key delivery component is the EMCD, an electronically controlled wet-type multi-plate clutch coupling, in which the degree of magnetic clutch action is modulated to match traction needs.
The coupling is regulated with an electrical current alternating between 2WD and 4WD modes, and a simple rocker switch is mounted at the centre console enabling simple operation of the i-AWD system for the driver.
Inside, the cabin’s ambience takes cues from the Swift and Grand Vitara with metallic accents, a similar dashboard housing the CD player, climate-control air-conditioning and a host of storage compartments, including an under-seat tray.
A centrally located information display cell shows the time, fuel consumption and outside temperature.
The SX4 is also offered with a keyless entry and start system, along with equipment more commonly associated with this segment such as power steering, cruise control, electric windows/mirrors, a multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel, front foglights, 16-inch alloys, ABS brakes and dual front, side and curtain airbags.
Key to the car’s versatility is its seating. With all seats in use, luggage capacity is 270 litres, while capacity increases to 625 litres with the rear seats tumble folded.
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