SUZUKI never fails to produce likable cars.
They all seem stylish, clever and just so easy to live with.
The compact and sporty Swift has plenty of fans and the versatile Grand Vitara SUV is a winner with those who have a great sense of adventure.
Somewhere in the middle is the SX4, which while not rising to hero status, is also most agreeable.
This solid-looking five-door hatch is sold as a “cross over vehicle’’_ part town car, part bush.
However, while the all-wheel-drive sits taller than traditional small cars, there is insufficient ground clearance for it to be a successful off-roader.
The key changes for 2010 are a punchier 2.0-litre engine, different transmissions and an array of comfort and convenience features.
The 2010 SX4 AWDs are available in GLX and saucier S series levels of specification.
SX4 comes as a hatch only and prices start at $23,490 for the manual GLX and climb to $27,690 for the S Series with continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), as tested.
The latest model comes with a revised front grille, new exterior colours, smarter instrument meter cluster which integrates more information, black seat fabric, front seat arm rests, extra padding on door arm rests, a centre-mounted dashboard speaker, MP3 socket, single fold rear seat and new automatic air conditioner control panel.
Size-wise, this Suzi is best for singles and couples, or budget conscious families with small children.
Inside, the layout is functional rather than flashy and there is good head and leg room in all seats.
The boot, though, is far from impressive and putting our week of groceries into it required considerable lateral thinking.
The SX4 is an easy car to drive and does most things well, without shining.
It does not feel as solid on the road as the Swift, but there is an array of safety equipment, including electronic stability control.
There is more than enough punch from the lively 2-litre engine for most drivers and it copes equally well slicing through city traffic or sitting comfortably and quite frugally on the highway speed limit.
Fuel consumption is an attractive 7.6 litres (average) for every 100km covered.
Power output has been boosted from 107 kW to 112, while torque has increased from 184 Newton-metres to 190, ensuring SX4 performance levels are near best in class.
The extra performance has been matched with significant efficiency improvements that make the SX4 one of the greenest cars in the small car market.
The CVT automatically provides an almost unlimited number of transmission ratios, electronically controlled according to torque and load.
It does take a little getting used to, and seems a little vague at times as it thinks about things for a while before getting down to business.
The driver also can control the shift points via fingertip paddles located on the steering wheel or using the centre-mounted shift lever.
All attributes considered, the Suzuki SX4 is sure to find favour with those chasing a spirited small car with sporty looks, a high degree of functionality and a hint of adventure.