THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Suzuki SX4 Sport sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: This all-new sedan, an addition to the existing SX4 hatchback, offers not just bold styling but also a smooth ride with reasonable handling. Sitting on a steel unibody structure, the front-wheel-drive car has just enough power to enable you to zip by in peak-hour traffic or relax and cruise the highway.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 2.0-liter V-4 engine develops 143 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 136 pounds-feet of torque at 3500 rpm. Mated to a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission, the SX4 sedan gets a MacPherson strut in the front and a rear torsion beam suspension. Riding on 17-inch, 10-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, the car stays the course, thanks to a rack-and-pinion power steering system. Best of all, in the era of rising gasoline prices, the SX4 ends up with praiseworthy figures of 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway in its 13.2-gallon fuel tank.
LOOK & FEEL: Triangular-shaped windows, forward of the front doors, will instantly draw attention as you walk toward the front of this wide-tracked sedan. Multi-reflector headlights sandwich a honeycomb mesh grille with a centered 'S' as in Suzuki. The initial for the car maker also graces the trunk door. The interior is straightforward and clutter-free with aluminum trim on the circular climate and audio controls. The analog tachometer, speedometer and fuel and temperature gauges on the instrument panel portray an elegant, sophisticated look. But what I found useful was the digital display atop the dashboard showing a clock, outside temperature and fuel consumption figures. The three-spoke leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel offers an unyielding grip, as does the round-shaped shifter knob. Though this is by definition a compact sedan, the trunk opens up 15 cubic feet of storage space.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system, daytime running lights, front seatbelts with pretensioners, front and rear crumple zones and three-point rear safety belts are standard.
OUT THE DOOR: $16,370, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P205/50R17; wheelbase, 98.4 inches; length, 177.6 inches; weight, 2,668 pounds; fuel capacity, 13.2 gallons; highway, 31 mpg; city, 23 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: The fuel-sipping SX4 sedan is a welcome addition to the Suzuki lineup. Affordably priced at less than $16,500, it could be the perfect car for a first-time driver. The 100,000-mile, 7-year transferable powertrain limited warranty makes the deal even sweeter.