On the Road: 2010 Suzuki SX4 Sportback
- March 16, 2010
- On The Road: Driving Impressions, Suzuki, Technology & New Features
- Posted by George Peterson
- 1 Comment
Who Says You Can’t Get Standard Navigation for $18,500? Not Suzuki
We called up the kind folks over at Suzuki this winter and asked if we could check out one of their latest additions, the 2010 SX4 Sportback. Specifically, we wanted to check out the standard integrated Garmin navigation system. Having spent a reasonable amount of time with systems that range from $1500 to $2500, the idea of a cheap but functional system appeals. The expensive systems generally have great graphics, bigger screens, and are nicely integrated into the car’s center stack. But are they worth it?
Suzuki is also making some noise with what is now the second-oldest vehicle in its range, the five-door SX4, for 2010MY. Launched for the 2007MY, this five-door hatchback was introduced as an AWD model, causing some to initially confuse it with a small SUV. The range was expanded to include a sedan with the 2008MY, and a front-drive version of the hatchback became available for 2009MY. With 2010MY, these cars take a new engine that boosts power to 150HP and also comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission.
Much of what we’ve said before about the SX4 (we reviewed the sedan in September 2007) still applies. This car is cheeky good fun, and offers decent value for the money. It can be a happy car, offering decent materials for a good price, though not necessarily as much zoom as a Mazda3 or as much visual impact as the upcoming Ford Fiesta. The Sportback gets a standard rear spoiler, front chin spoiler, and functional side skirts, giving it a little more street cred than the SX4 all-wheel-drive model, called SX4 Crossover in Suzuki parlance. The SX4 SportBack skips the roof rack and is lowered by 15mm versus the Crossover, and the seventeen-inch alloy wheels also help dress up this five-door practical car.
The six-speed manual and 7HP allow stick-shifters to have a bit more fun, as the new gearbox does feel nicer than the five-speed manual. But, still, most buyers in this range opt for the manual to save money more often than for the joy of shifting. Even in this relatively light car (about 2750 pounds), the front-drive layout posed no issues during some early February Michigan snow, but the all-season tires were not what one would call grabby on the snow. The ensuing slip was easy enough to manage, Of course, aside from Bridgestone Blizzak engineers or maybe the guys over at Tire Rack, I am easily the biggest proponent of snow tires I know.
So, What About the Navigation?
Inside, the SportBack takes a standard Garmin navigation system. The system uses a 3.5-inch-diameter touch-control screen with good resolution and graphics. The points of interest were well stocked, it recalculates quickly, and is very easy to use. Garmin builds a worthy (and affordable) unit, and this is a clever way for Suzuki to get navigation standard at their price point. The car we drove had the $259 Bluetooth with Text Message Display option, though we had no incoming texts to display, the Bluetooth system worked as well as any other.
But that this is a cheap solution is not disguised as anything but. One might say that if the core functions work well (and they definitely do), then there’s nothing to complain about. On the other hand, as Suzuki develops the next-generation SX4, they may be able to better integrate the feature and address my admittedly minor quibbles.
I appreciated that the system muted the radio when the navigation lady was giving directions, but not the three- or four-second delay between the direction being delivered and the music being unmuted. Maybe if I had truly been lost or in unfamiliar territory, I would have been more grateful to the system for taking the music away.
Reach was a problem for me. Suzuki put this unit about the only place in the interior that they could, and get bonus points for being able to hide it. For people taller than me it is probably just fine. But because the screen was hard for me to reach, I found it difficult to adjust zoom or volume while driving. I had to stretch to reach to program it, too, but that I didn’t attempt while driving. Functions like that should be easy to work with while driving. Being positioned as it is at the top and dead center of the dashboard, I simply had to lean too far forward to easily operate it.
The other minor issue was with the navigation holder itself. The screen sits in a plastic component that folds flush. It also looks like you could pull the Garmin out and use it outside of the car, too, another cool bonus. But the navi door cover didn’t open or close all that smoothly, and while the screen looked straight when it was up, it wasn’t squarely set in the housing.
If you’re shopping to this price point, this is a much more elegant way to get standard navigation that doesn’t force you to glue velcro strips to the windshield or dash!