The SuzukiTRIP features MSN Direct, which provides traffic information, fuel prices, weather, movie times, and a host of other valuable information mentioned earlier. The navigation system also features Bluetooth hands-free, which we were able to pair with our test phone rather easily with a PIN. An SD-card slot on the device's side allows the playback of MP3s and Audible.com audiobooks, and JPEG photo slide shows. There is also a dedicated menu button for locating your nearest Suzuki dealer when it's time to service the vehicle.
All audio from the GPS device is played back through the standard AM/FM/CD audio system. The system supports playback of MP3/WMA-encoded CDs, but doesn't come standard with a line-in jack or a USB input. So for now, SX4 Sport owners are stuck using the SuzukiTRIP's SD-card slot for their digital audio fix. XM radio is, however, available as an option. Sound quality from the four-speaker system is actually quite good for a basic setup. There is very little bass distortion at moderate-to-loud volumes, but there is a barely noticeable clipping of the highs and midrange near max volume. Cranking the bass near max volume elicits major audio distortion and quite a bit of door panel rattle, but left at listenable volumes the sound quality is solid.
Under the hood
While the SX4 was once available with all-wheel drive, our SX4 Sport was a garden variety front-wheel drive model. Powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC four- cylinder engine, it outputs 143 horsepower and 136 foot-pounds of torque. This may not seem like a lot of power on paper, but it has a bigger engine with more grunt than the Honda Civic or Toyota's Corolla and more than enough power to briskly motivate the little sedan within the limits of the law.
Of course, the transmission is the gatekeeper of this power. Like many economy cars before it, the SX4 Sport suffers from an automatic transmission that always seems to be in too tall a gear to really take advantage of the 2.0-liter's power. During spirited driving, the transmission was constantly hunting for the proper gear, spoiling the otherwise fantastic ride. While it is definitely livable with the automatic for simple commutes and grocery-getting, the SX4 Sport is definitely a vehicle that would be more enjoyable with the five-speed manual gearbox.
We really liked the SX4 Sport's fantastic suspension. Despite being a tall sedan, the SX4 Sport exhibited very little body roll when pressed in the turns. It did, however, exhibit understeer, which was easily correctable with a slight lift off the accelerator or tap of the brakes to settle the chassis. The handling is quite predictable and very precise, with easily approachable limits. As front-wheel-driven economy cars go, the SX4 Sport rivals the current king of the hill, the Honda Civic.
We averaged 21.7mpg over a combined cycle of about 130 miles of city/highway driving and about 100 miles of pretty severe mountain-road flogging. Driven with a degree of civility, most drivers should have no problem staying within the EPA envelope of 22 city and 30 highway mpg.
We really liked the SX4 Sport's performance, but we docked a few points for the sluggish automatic transmission. We have the same complaint with just about every auto gearbox in this price range. We were also impressed by the unique cabin tech solution and pleasant, airy cabin, but we docked a few cabin comfort points for the lack of a line-input or iPod integration.
The rule for the Suzuki SX4 Sport seems to be great value in an unassuming package. You wouldn't think that an integrated portable navigation device could offer functionality rivaling a luxury OEM system, but it does. You also wouldn't think that the tall and round SX4 Sport could keep up with the svelte Honda Civic on a mountain pass, but it can.
Starting at $15,739 for the manually shifted version, the Suzuki SX4 Sport is already a steal compared with similarly priced vehicles, with its standard integrated portable GPS navigation, four-wheel disc brakes, 17-inch wheels, and body kit. Adding the $1,100 automatic transmission option and Technology Package equipped our test vehicle with fog lamps, the Bluetooth hands-free, and the very useful MSN Traffic and MSN Direct, bringing the total price to $17,639. That's still about $1,000 less than you would spend on a spartanand $1,681 less than the with no options.
Buyers with a bit more coin to burn could then step up to the Sport Touring package, which adds vehicle stability control, a premium audio system with nine speakers (one of which is a subwoofer), automatic climate control, and the SmartPass keyless entry and push-button starter system, bringing the MSRP to $18,639.