What It All Means

The steering has a nice weight, meaning it's not overly power-assisted to the point of being twitchy on the highway, nor does it require too much effort at slow speeds. It's also precise, meaning you turn the steering wheel and the car goes exactly where you intend it to; there's no vagueness between turning the wheel and getting a response.

This helps you feel confident when you approach turns at a decent speed. I got the SX4 out of the city and onto some winding roads, and the handling was quite good. It feels flat going through bends, and it responds to corrections without throwing a fit. That's with me being safe and sane, though. I'm not sure what it would be like in the hands of a hooligan on a racetrack. Also, it's worth pointing out again we had more track-specific tires than what comes with the production SportBack. That can really affect a car's handling.

Sometimes all the things that make a car so much fun on a smooth racetrack or winding road can make it painful as a daily driver. The SX4 still doesn't do as well as the segment leaders in this regard, but it's not nearly as uncomfortable as some other sporty small hatchbacks I've driven (namely the Honda Fit Sport).

This isn't to say it's a grand tourer by any stretch of the imagination, though. I've found that the SX4 seems to hop when encountering bumps in the road; it feels as if the car is going straight up in the air. The SportBack keeps this family trait. You really notice it when you cross expansion joints in the road. Each is greeted with a resounding "BAM," and the car hops. What's interesting is that this car is better behaved when the road looks like asphalt oatmeal.

The biggest downside to the SportBack is its engine — there's no sprinting from red lights. To get the maximum use out of what power is there, you have to get fairly high up in the rev range, and then stay there. Even so, it won't knock you back in your seat. You have to really pay attention and stay on top of your shifting — but for not much reward. It's a shame; the handling is so much better than the power.

See also:

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