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SX4 1.6 Aerio
Click to view picture gallery“Increasingly popular is the mini-
breed, identified by
  bold, rugged looks made up of a
  combination of scaled-down
  SUV and passenger hatchback
  design elements — such as
Suzukis SX4...”

THE SX4 IS A FIVE-DOOR HATCHBACK that blends the sporty compact characteristics of the Suzuki Swift with those of Suzuki's lightweight SUV, the Grand Vitara. The result is a small family car with an unmistakable air of distinction.

Externally, the newly-revised SX4 continues with the tallish, wedge-shaped, rising-waistline body style with distinguishing triangular glazing forward of the front doors, 'hockey-stick' style headlamps, pronounced wheelarches, wide front and rear tracks, side-body mouldings and skid plates front and back.

But what has been significantly improved is what lies within; both under the bonnet and in the cabin. Starting under the bonnet, there's a comprehensively-revised 1.6-litre petrol engine with variable-valve timing that pumps out 118bhp. The good news is 10% more power; 10% lower fuel consumption; and 13% less CO2 emissions (now cut to 143g/km).

The 118bhp enables the SX4 to hit 62mph from standstill in 10.7 seconds and run on to a 115mph top speed. Fuel-wise, the official figures are 45.6mpg in the combined cycle and 35.8 and 54.3mpg respectively for the urban and extra-urban cycles. Over the course of a week-long test, our five-speed manual SX4 chalked up a rather impressive 43.9mpg.

Overall the SX4 has an
easy-going nature but
it’s more than happy to
play — press on and
ll find the SX4 has
predictable and agile
handling helped by
decent body control;
and it
s not shy about
showing you how nimbly
it can scoot round
The other area that has clearly benefited from the makeover is the cabin: the predominantly black two-tone interior, highlighted with metallic accents and good quality, well fitted trim materials, now presents a far more upmarket air.

Climbing aboard is easy thanks to ideal seat heights and good ground clearance, large door openings and, of course, the high roofline that provides additional headroom.

The dash layout is straightforward and improved by big, bold switches and smooth-acting controls. The main instruments are clear and easy to read, and the audio unit — sited sensibly high on the centre stack — intuitive to use.

Rotary controls for the fully automatic and very efficient dual-zone air conditioning feature 'ring' lights that are a boon for night-time driving. The steering wheel-mounted remote audio controls are also illuminated.

For added convenience there are damped grab handles, cupholders, a decent-sized glovebox, cushioned outer armrests in the doors and a number of useful storage compartments backed up by large pockets incorporating bottle holders on all doors and a handy tray beneath the front passenger seat. Well considered touches include a parking ticket holder and sturdy pop-out bag holder on the backrest of the front passenger seat.

An MP3/WMA-compatible CD tuner with eight speakers serves up the sounds. Other standard kit on the SZ4 model includes electric power steering, six airbags (driver and front passenger plus side and curtain airbags), automatic air conditioning with pollen filter, remote central locking with deadlocks, four electric windows, driver information display, fog lamps, 16-inch alloy wheels, side body protection, keyless entry and start, alloy wheels, tinted glass and heated power door mirrors.

The special edition Aerio reviewed here (it's based on the SZ4 1.6-litre petrol model and comes with manual transmission only) offers an alternative 'Urban' look and more sporting appearance than its brethren — in lieu of black body trim and front and rear skid plates it gets front, side and rear under-spoilers plus a roof spoiler, rear privacy glass and the deletion of roof rails.

The SX4 is an easy
drive. It’s also easy on
the pocket both at
purchase time and for
day-to-day running costs
The driver and passengers will all appreciate the higher than normal seating positions; they'll also like the firm and supportive two-tone seats with ribbed centre panels. And there's plenty of head, leg and shoulder room to go round, even for rear seat passengers.

Getting comfortable behind the good-to-hold leather-wrapped wheel is easy thanks to a height-adjustable seat. And although there's no reach adjustment of the steering column — just tilt — all of our road testers quickly found a decent driving position. Height adjustable front seatbelt are another 'plus'.

Cabin ambience is pleasant, enhanced by the high roofline and a wide cabin, and there's more than enough room in the back for an expanding family. The rear seats are also set slightly higher, so those in the back enjoy good all-round views. For the record, four near-six-footers can travel comfortably in the SX4.

There's sufficient room, too, for luggage. The 270-litre boot is easily extended to 625 litres by nothing more arduous than pulling a cord; this folds the 60:40 split back seat forward and tumbles it behind the front seatbacks, creating a completely flat load floor. One particularly useful Aerio feature is a foldable boot floor cover which allows for extra secure storage underneath as well as ensuring a totally flat load bay floor when the seats are folded. Removed, it deepens the boot by six inches.

Although it looks a dash 4x4-ish, the SX4 comes as a two-wheel driver (SZ3/SZ4) unless you opt for the top of the range SZ5 model that features 'proper' all-wheel drive. We tested the two-wheel drive SZ4 which has a five-speed manual gearbox as standard — one with a crisp gear change action that's a real pleasure to use.

And a good match it is with the quick, well weighted and precise steering. Overall the SX4 has an easy-going nature but it's more than happy to play — press on and you'll find that the latest torsionally-stiffer SX4 has predictable and agile handling helped by decent body control; and it's not shy about showing you how nimbly it can scoot round corners. Throw in light controls and a firm-ish (but not uncomfortable) ride that copes well with speed humps plus progressive drama-free brakes and the SX4 can serve up a spirited and fun drive.

The 118bhp engine
is a willing little number
s happy to be
revved; use it and you
find yourself whizzing
along faster
than you expect
Courtesy of the mechanical upgrades, the cleaner Euro 5 118bhp engine is more refined. It's also rewarding to use around town, on B-roads and on motorways where, even cruising at the legal limit, there's still strong pick-up in 5th gear.

With 115lb ft of torque at 4,400rpm, it's a willing little number that's happy to be revved but which never feels stressed; use the revs and you'll find yourself whizzing along faster than you expect. Zero to 62mph takes 10.7 seconds and the top speed is 115mph.

Travelling in the SX4 is a stress-free experience, made better by low levels of engine, road and wind noise. And, being of compact dimensions, the SX4 is easy to park (front, side and over-the-shoulder visibility is A1; the rear headrests sit low on the seatback when not in use) and with a minimum turning circle of 10.6 metres, easy to manoeuvre.

The SX4 is an easy drive. It's also easy on the pocket both at purchase time and for day-to-day running costs. Overall, it's ideal for the urbanite on a modest budget who wants to stand out from the crowd and who wants a practical and enjoyable-to-drive vehicle; in particular one that that will easily accommodate regular forays outside the city limits. — MotorBar

SX4 1.6 Aerio
| 12,495
Maximum speed: 115mph | 0-62mph: 10.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 43.9mpg
Power: 118bhp | Torque: 115lb ft | CO2 143g/km