When most people see the 2009 Suzuki SX4 Sport, they don't immediately think about the Japanese automaker's rally pedigree. They don't think about high-revving turbocharged powerplants or all-wheel-drive vehicles that are in this car's DNA. Instead, they think of a cheap econo-box, which is a shame, because there is a lot to like about this modest little sedan.
For one, the SX4 Sport comes standard with an unconventional, but (as we learned) very useful, navigation system. It matches its competition for handling and outclasses them in power. In Sport trim, the SX4 also gets four-wheel disc brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, and an aero package consisting of a more aggressive front air dam, side skirts, and rear diffuser. You get all of this for hundreds of dollars less than the most base-model compact sedan from Toyota or Honda.
Test the tech: You call that a navigation option?
Our SX4 Sport was equipped with the SuzukiTRIP navigation package, which--when we accepted delivery of the test car--we found out meant that a Garmin Nuvi 760 portable navigation device had been integrated into the dashboard beneath a flip-up panel. At first, we were disappointed by what looked like a half-hearted attempt at adding cabin tech, but we decided to run some errands with the system to see how well it worked and were pleasantly surprised.
The first part of the system that surprised us was the integration with the audio system. After searching for our local electronics retailer, we set out to pick up a new CD. When the GPS system's text-to-speech prompted us for a turn or notified us of traffic ahead, the audio played back through the stereo system. Using the car's speakers is really cool for audibility, but the hack used to make the integration work doesn't attenuate the music. Rather, playback is stopped altogether. When listening to CDs, the constant stopping and starting causes awkward pauses in the music while the disc spins up.
Satisfied that the SX4 Sport's navigation system could get us where we were going, we looked to see what else it could do. Diving into the menus, we found that the Garmin device features Bluetooth hands-free and MP3 playback from the SD-card slot, all of which played back through the car's audio system. We were beginning to think that we'd underestimated the utility of this GPS option.
We also discovered that our GPS system was equipped with MSN Direct, which features--in addition to real-time traffic--a fuel price finder, movie times, news, weather, airport delay info, and stock price updates. In this respect, the SuzukiTRIP/Garmin system is actually more advanced than many OEM integrated systems. We were going to head to the park, but a quick peek at the three-day weather forecast showed that rain was expected. So, we used the Movie Times feature to find a film that was playing nearby. After finding a film, we were able to call the theater with our Bluetooth-paired phone and set the destination with the touch of a button.
At the end of our test of the Suzuki SX4 Sport's GPS system, we found that not only did it feature excellent navigation with traffic data, but it also came with the bonus features of MSN Direct, Bluetooth hands-free, and MP3 playback. Being modular also means that the system can be removed for security or transferred to other vehicles. All in all, we'd say the SuzukiTRIP is a well-integrated solution to add a suite of cabin tech to the SX4 Sport.
In the cabin
One of the first things we noticed about the SX4 upon approach was its tall, bulbous greenhouse. For a vehicle that's meant to compete directly with the Civic bunch, it was odd to see a roof that was nearly as tall as that of a Honda CR-V. However, upon settling into the SX4 Sport's cabin, we were pleased by the great amounts of headroom and visibility the vehicle's tall stance afforded. Blind spots are minimized and rearward visibility is at a maximum. Small winglet windows in the A-pillars allow the windshield to sit toward the front of the car without creating blind spots at the front corners. This creates the pleasant illusion of sitting in a vehicle much larger than the SX4's small footprint.
For 2009, every trim level of the SX4 Sport is equipped with a standard GPS navigation in the form of an integrated and rebadged Garmin portable navigation device (PND). In the case of the SX4 Sport with the Technology Package, the device in question is a Nuvi 760. This PND features a 4.8-inch-wide touch screen and Garmin's intuitive interface and battery of features. The screen is a bit on the small side compared with other integrated systems, but it is bright and clearly visible in direct sunlight. The screen sits right in the top-center of the dashboard, perfect for easy viewing while driving, but also just outside of comfortable reaching range. You'll want to make sure the vehicle is stopped before trying to enter data.
The SuzukiTRIP features MSN Direct, which provides traffic information, fuel prices, weather, movie times, and a host of other valuable information mentioned earlier. The navigation system also features Bluetooth hands-free, which we were able to pair with our test phone rather easily with a PIN. An SD-card slot on the device's side allows the playback of MP3s and Audible.com audiobooks, and JPEG photo slide shows. There is also a dedicated menu button for locating your nearest Suzuki dealer when it's time to service the vehicle.