To carry through with the rugged impression of the SUV-like SX4, the local distributor has gone the whole nine yards when it came to specifications. It comes with roof rails, black rubber strips on the wheel arches and shiny ‘bash plates’ on the leading edge of the bumpers. The factory-fitted 16-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in tall 60-series tyres.
The very generous glass area, which is further exaggerated by the quarter-window ahead of the wing mirrors, reinforces the pseudo-SUV image. The car has a continental touch. Viewed from behind, the SX4 bears some resemblance to the Subaru Impreza Sports Wagon, albeit with a much higher roofline.
The cabin design is a fusion of themes seen on the current (2006-2007) generation of Suzuki models. There’s a bit of the Grand Vitara about the centre console’s design, while the instrument dials and other auxiliary displays are similar to the items in the Swift. The materials used score highly on tactility and overall impression of quality. Unique to the SX4 is the red illumination for all the switches and dials which, even at their dimmest setting, can be a little glaring at night.
That aside, the combination of generous glass area and the slightly higher than normal driving position does make the SX4’s cabin a comfortable place to be in. That extra 120mm of wheelbase enjoyed by the SX4 over the Swift is quite evidently felt in terms of rear legroom. Boot space is a little bigger, too. The height of the SX4’s seats make getting in and out effortless.
Being derived from the capable Swift hatchback endows the SX4 with sound dynamic abilities. The suspension setting seems to be a little softer than in the Swift. With its larger dimensions (wider wheel tracks, as well as a longer wheelbase) the SX4 has a more mature handling trait than the urgent and sometimes choppy Swift.
The electric power steering system has also been upgraded from the Swift’s. Building on the improvements made on the Swift Sport, the SX4’s helm feels natural and accurate. Especially on straight lines, where such systems tend to go AWOL and feel vague, the SX4’s tiller remains tight and true.
The 1.6-litre engine is essentially a less highly strung version of the lump that sees service in the Swift Sport. It doesn’t boast the big numbers on the higher reaches of the rev range, but the more generous spread of torque on the lower end definitely makes the SX4 easy and relaxing to drive. Its 4-speed automatic gearbox also seems slicker in its action than the one in the 1.5-litre Swift, again improving refinement.
At press time, a mere $1400 separates the SX4 from the standard Swift and that’s where the potential conundrum lies. The newer hatchback may boast a little more space, it is a little quieter and it is a slightly better drive than the Swift, but it is nowhere as cool-looking as the smaller Suzuki.