It wasn’t so long ago that if a designer penned a hatchback she’d know that it was unlikely to ever see clay, to say nothing of sheetmetal. But now the five-door hatchback has become the latest craze, with automakers now tripping over each other to introduce another “innovative” product designed to capture a piece of the expected 60% growth in demand for hatchbacks in 2007. Suzuki is the latest to enter the fray, with its 2007 SX4, which evolved from the Suzuki Swift. What makes the SX4 stand out from the rest of the pack? Suzuki hopes the standard all-wheel-drive and its low $14,999 base price will capture the attention of frugal hatchback buyers. Suzuki is branding the system i-AWD and it operates in three modes: two-wheel-drive, automatic and all-wheel-drive lock mode. The various modes can be selected via a switch on the lower center console, which activates an electronic control device located in front of the rear differential. When in the lock mode between 30%-50% of power can be distributed to the rear wheels, except if the vehicle is operating above 36 mph, when the system automatically switches to automatic mode.
The SX4 will be joined by a newly redesigned XL7 crossover, which rides on a stretched version of GM’s Theta unibody platform—shared with the Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent. Sharing continues under the hood, where the XL7 is powered by a GM-engineered 3.6L V6 producing 252 hp and 243 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The XL7 isn’t just a copy of its Chevy and Pontiac siblings, especially when it comes to styling. Suzuki designers tried capturing some of the aggressive styling found in its popular motorcycle products, especially in the shape of the headlamps. Suzuki hopes the decision to make AWD standard on the SX4 and the addition of a refined XL7 that truly seats seven will help propel the automaker on its way to boosting sales from the 100,000 unit level predicted in 2006 to more than 250,000 units by 2010.—KMK