with reporting from Ken Zino
Conventional wisdom in theU.S. market says hatchback configurations are less desirable than the more formal sedan in the compact car market. The SX4 hatchback is the least expensive, all-wheel-drive vehicle here and its sales at 15,000 units annually restricted by manufacturing capacity. With the introduction of the SX4 sedan this fall, capacity will increase to 40,000 for the Japanese-built cars and allow for a real marketplace clinic between configurations.
Unlike the hatchback, the sedan will only come in front-wheel drive and be priced under it, starting around in the $13,000 and selling up to roughly $18,000. Unlike the compact value-based Suzuki Forenza, SX4 has a decided equipment and performance bias, with many of the ride and handling characteristics of the Swift sold in Europe and Japan . Suzuki claims that SX4 is equal to Swift in steering response, and better in acceleration, braking, and skidpad numbers.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter, 143 horsepower transmitted through a five-speed manual transaxle. KYB dampers, Bosch four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution, and front and rear stabilizer bars are also standard. The 17-inch tires and wheels are the largest in the compact segment. The aero body kit is standard, but not the rear spoiler.
SX4 has more interior room than Civic or Corolla. Power windows, locks, and mirrors are standard. In addition, there are six standard airbags - driver and front passenger airbags, seat-mounted front airbags and side curtain airbags for front and outside rear passengers. Predictions right now are that hatchbacks will still comprise more than 50 percent of sales. We shall see.
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