Suzuki’s brand new SX4 is a distinctive 5-door hatchback that blends the characteristics of sporty compacts exemplified by the Swift, with those of lightweight SUVs such as the recently launched Grand Vitara, to create an exciting small car alternative. The resulting ‘sport X-over’ combines responsive driving dynamics, 4×4 capability, high levels of practicality and styling that suggests a freestyle approach to life.

The initial UK line-up comprises three models powered by a 107 PS 1.6 litre VVT petrol engine: a front-wheel drive model in either GL or GLX grades and the 4GRIP GLX with selectable/automatic four-wheel drive. They will be joined later in the year by a 120 PS 1.9 litre DDiS diesel derivative which uses a highly flexible engine supplied by Fiat.

Following Swift and Grand Vitara, the SX4 represents Suzuki’s third global strategic model. It also forms the basis for its new World Rally Championship challenger.

The all-new SX4 is the result of a joint development agreement between Suzuki and Fiat Auto S.p.A., with Suzuki taking the initiative for the project management from concept to mass production. SX4 models sold in Europe are built at Magyar Suzuki Corporation in Hungary where 60,000 units will be produced during 2006, 40,000 for Suzuki’s European markets and 20,000 for Fiat.

UK sales commence in early April with the diesel derivative joining the line-up in the summer alongside a 4-speed automatic option for the 1.6 GLX.

The Suzuki SX4 is styled to look good in any setting. Fusing the dynamism of SUVs with the elegance of passenger cars resulted in poise and presence beyond the model’s compact size. A flowing form, which is elegant in its simplicity, sits atop a purposefully dynamic and substantial underlying structure. A low, rising waistline and large, triangular windows ahead of the front doors give rise to a characteristic sporty wedge shape indicative of dynamic performance, while the pronounced wheelarches and wide tracks help create an appearance of stability and traction. The compelling design suggests potential unseen in conventional compacts and is pure Suzuki in nature: exciting, multi-dimensional, and, visually, highly appealing.

Two distinct model grades enable customers to find the Suzuki SX4 right for them. GLX and 4GRIP models are distinctly SUV in appearance with alloy wheels, wheel arch extensions, side protection mouldings, side under protection mouldings and front and rear skid plates. The GL grade emphasises the passenger car characteristics with fewer SUV elements.

The "X-over" design continues inside. Soothing curves and forms gently wrap around the occupants and add to the quality look and feel of the materials and fabrics. Circular motifs and a flowing centre panel – used to critical acclaim in other Suzuki models – hint at the car’s dynamic performance and an active lifestyle.

The two-tone interior is predominantly black highlighted with metallic coloured accents and wedge-shaped motifs, for a look that is both refined and aggressive. The ergonomic design of the instrument panel affords intuitive use of key meters and controls. The large three-dial cluster provides important information at a glance and echoes the metallic, circular motifs of the side air outlets and other controls, bringing cohesion to the overall dynamism.

The centre panel houses an audio system, climate control dials, and other amenities in a striking example of functionality and format. The large dials of the optional fully automatic air conditioner have ring lights, which make them easier to see and use while adding to the interior’s refined feel. Both the standard air conditioning (automatic on GLX models) and audio system are flush with the surface in keeping with the sophistication and quality levels.

The Suzuki SX4 comfortably accommodates up to five people and their luggage needs, while retaining its sleek and stylish look. The 4×4 models have exterior length-width-height dimensions of 4,140 mm x 1,755 mm x 1,620 mm (4×2 models: 4,100 mm x 1,730 mm x 1,565 mm (1605 mm with roof rails). The efficient dimensions and a minimum turning radius of 5.3 metres help drivers to negotiate narrow urban streets with relative ease and park in spots too small for bigger SUVs.

The roomy interior offers plenty of legroom and shoulder room, even for the rear passengers. Nonetheless, comfort is taken to a higher level without relying solely on space. The seats’ configuration and positioning afford natural seating postures, a key factor in comfortable long-distance travel. Additionally, ideal seat heights, large door openings, and high ground clearance ease access. The rear seats are slightly higher, so even the rear occupants enjoy a liberating field of vision.

The rear seats are split 60:40 to enable stowage of long items while still seating one or two rear passengers. They can be tumbled forward to create an almost fully flat load floor. Boot capacity is 270 litres (VDA), which increases to 625 litres (VDA) when the rear seats are folded.

Discreet storage compartments throughout the cabin add further convenience. All doors have large pockets and large bottle holders.

The Suzuki SX4 was engineered from the outset to be 4×4-capable yet still deliver sharp, dynamic performance. The DNA of sporty compacts comes through in the form of responsive driving dynamics and comfortable long-distance travel, while Suzuki’s extensive experience in 4×4 technology comes out in all-wheel traction more than adequate for everyday situations. Of note, the Suzuki SX4 is the first car in the class that features a combination of a 4×4 system, six-speed manual transmission, and diesel engine.

Advanced powerplant and drivetrain technologies enable fun, dynamic performance in any environment. SX4 is initially launched in the UK with a 107 PS 1.6 litre VVT (variable valve timing) petrol engine, with a 120 PS 1.9 litre Fiat DDiS diesel engine joining the line-up during the summer.

As well as VVT, the petrol engine also features drive by wire throttle control for good drivability and response. It powers the 4×2 models from 0 to 62 mph in 10.8 seconds and the 4GRIP model in 11.2 seconds. 4×2 models can also stretch a gallon of fuel to cover 41 miles in the Combined cycle, while the SX4 4GRIP achieves a comparable figure of 39.8 mpg.

The 1.9-litre intercooled turbocharged direct-injection diesel engine boasts a flat torque curve guaranteeing powerful acceleration and smooth performance throughout the rev range. Its common-rail direct-injection system helps cut down emissions, while making the engine one of the most powerful in the class. The engine generates 120 PS at 3,500 rpm and 280 Nm torque at 2,000 rpm. A diesel particulate filter is fitted as standard.

A six-speed manual transmission newly developed by Suzuki is paired to the diesel engine, its close-ratio set up allowing the engine’s potential to be fully realised. Of note, the Suzuki SX4 will be the only car in its class to feature the combination of diesel, 6MT and 4×4. The petrol engine is equipped with a five-speed manual.

The signature feature of the Suzuki SX4 4GRIP GLX model is its i-AWD switchable three-mode 4×4 system. An Electric Control Coupling Device provides 4WD-Auto, 4WD-Lock, and 2WD modes to deliver superb traction and a reassuring sense of security when grip deteriorates.

Under normal driving conditions while in 4WD-Auto mode, there is no torque transfer to the rear, and the SX4 4GRIP effectively operates as a front-wheel drive vehicle. However, as soon as there is pronounced front wheel slip, torque is automatically apportioned to the rear wheels to produce all-wheel traction so enhancing stability. The 4WD-Lock mode is maintained up to around 40 mph for full traction, before automatically switching over to the 4WD-Auto mode for smooth cruising. The 2WD mode offers excellent fuel economy.

The Suzuki SX4 provides crisp, predictable handling that should more than satisfy European driving tastes. This has been achieved by carefully matching the suspension characteristics to the highly rigid platform.

The body has evolved from the fundamental design that helped carry the Suzuki Swift to numerous awards throughout the world, including Car magazine’s Car of the Year. Its high levels of bending and torsional rigidity and reinforced suspension mounts allow the front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam suspension to perform to their full potential. Wide 1,500 mm tracks (1,495 mm for 4×4 models) and large 205/60R16 tyres help add to the already stable ride feeling.

Ventilated front discs and leading-and-trailing rear drums actuated by a 10-inch booster provide sure stopping power and a brake feel that many will appreciate.

Extensive fine-tuning of the chassis was conducted in Europe to ensure the type of performance Europeans demand and need.

The Suzuki SX4 has an extensive array of safety features engineered to inspire confidence. Active safety features include an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), which is standard on all models.

Overall SX4 has an outstandingly crashworthy structure which has been awarded 4 Stars for occupant protection by Euro NCAP. It features extensive use of high tensile steel and tailored blanks to achieve strength without the penalty of added weight.

Passive safety features start with the commanding driving position that provides a wide field of vision and a reinforced body that provides class-leading levels of protection. Front and rear crush zones absorb impact energy, while the frame design directs much of the impact energy away from the highly reinforced cabin.

The Suzuki SX4 is also designed to provide high levels of protection for pedestrians and smaller passengers, measures which have received 3 Star Euro NCAP pedestrian and child protection ratings respectively, particularly impressive for a compact car.

Other standard safety features include: a front airbag system and front 3-point seat belts with pretensioners and force-limiters, side and curtain airbags, 3-point ELR (emergency locking retractor) rear seatbelts, ISO FIX-compliant child seat anchors, and a high-mount stop lamp.