Basic Power

This year's four-cylinder engine gains some guts — it makes 150 horsepower, up from last year's 143 — and it works through either a stick shift or a new continuously variable automatic transmission. The CVT is far from my favorite: Dig into the gas, and it takes too long to get power in return. At least when you get there it has ample acceleration, though the engine doesn't sound refined in the process.

The transmission's sluggishness doesn't hurt as much around town, but on a few occasions another editor and I noticed it seemed to disengage when coming to a stop. Our test car was a preproduction model, so it's possible the stopping issue has since been resolved, but keep an eye out for it on your test drive.

Speaking of stopping, my test car's four-wheel-disc antilock brakes delivered exceptional performance. The brake pedal operates in a linear fashion, and with a little practice it's easy to fine-tune your deceleration. All SX4s get standard antilock brakes, though lesser models have rear drum brakes.

The EPA pegs combined mileage at 28 mpg for the SX4 Sedan and 26 mpg for the SX4 Sport, both with the CVT. That's an increase of 1 to 2 mpg over last year's four-speed automatic. In my Sport tester, another editor and I managed 27.5 mpg in a week of city and highway driving. The stick shift's rating rounds to 26 mpg overall in both the Sedan and Sport, though their highway rating is slightly different (23/33 mpg in the Sedan, 23/32 mpg in the Sport). It's unclear why Sport models get worse mileage than the Sedan, and Suzuki spokesman David Boldt says the automaker is still finalizing all the press details for 2010. Either way, those mileage figures are on the lower side in the SX4's segment. The Civic, for example, gets 12 percent better mileage overall.

Combined City/Highway Mileage (mpg)* Automatic Manual
Toyota Corolla 1.8L 29 30 Kia Forte 2.0L 28-30 28
Honda Civic 1.8L 29 29
Hyundai Elantra 2.0L 29 29 Nissan Sentra 2.0L 29 27 Ford Focus 2.0L 28 28
Chevrolet Cobalt 2.2L 27 29-30 Mazda3 2.0L 27 28
Suzuki SX4 2.0L 26-28 26 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0L 26 25 *Base engines and sedan versions of 2010 models; ranges account for various mechanical differences — i.e., the SX4 is rated differently depending on trim, and the Forte offers a four- or five-speed automatic. All cars listed use regular (87-octane) fuel.

Source: EPA data

See also:

Automatic Heating and Air Conditioning System (Climate Control)
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Seat Belts and Child Restraint Systems
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Plain (Petite) Jane
Shop the competition, and the first thing you'll notice about the SX4 is its diminutive size. A family friend who owns a Honda Fit said my test car looked tiny. Technically, it isn't: The SX4 has ...

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