The Suzuki SX4 is a quiet champion. We've always been impressed by the value proposition this little-known car from a little-known brand presents to buyers — an attractive cabin and the cheapest buy-in for all-wheel drive in the U.S. market, plus a convenient hatchback and seating for five adults. Apparently, that wasn't enough. Attention SX4 shoppers: Today's blue-light special is standard navigation for under $16,000.
That price will get you a front-wheel drive, manual-equipped car, but pricing doesn't jump too far from there; our all-wheel, manual car with metallic paint and a technology package costs $17,223. The tech package adds a bunch of goodies, including Bluetooth and navigation featuring including real-time traffic, nearby fuel price listings, and news and weather information. Those are incredible features to see in a system at this price point, and we'd image they would have worked very well had someone at Suzuki PR remembered to pay the subscription.
Saying the SX4's navigation comes from the factory is a bit misleading because it isn't the perfectly integrated in-dash setup with which you're probably familiar. Suzuki managed to make this addition so cheap because the SX4's navigation is little more than a well thought-out installation of a Garmin Nuvi with a Suzuki-specific start-up screen and wiring to pipe the navigation lady's voice through the car's stereo system. As with anything done on a tight budget, the system has its goods and bads.
Representing the good, Garmin's interface is clean, intuitive, and full of good features like a square that displays the current speed limit. The 4.3-inch touch screen responds quickly and displays maps legibly. Unlike a unit you'd buy in a store, the Suzuki Garmin hides away inside the dash with the push of a finger, and unlike most OEM systems, it's inexpensive and does without the unnecessary integration of heat or radio controls. This is navigation in its simplest form, right from the dealer. It can also be removed and can operate on battery power for a few hours, so you could use it while your Suzuki is parked.
The bad? Well, the flip-up dash panel is far forward in the center of the dash, making the touch-screen hard to reach for shorter drivers or anyone trying to concentrate on the road ahead, though this high mounting point does promote minimal time with one's eyes off the road. Furthermore, the spring-loaded door to raise or lower the nav is a bit stubborn, requiring a heavy push at the corner before it jumps into action. We know this car's a bargain proposition, but we don't need to be reminded every time we stow the Garmin out of sight.
Ignoring those few nits, the addition of an inexpensive navigation system makes the impressive SX4 all that more enticing in a busy segment of Honda Fits, Nissan Versas, and Toyota Yarises. None of those models can match the one-two punch of all-wheel drive and navigation at such a crazy-low price, not to mention that we find the SX4 more attractive inside and out than the competition. It buzzes down the road well, too, so long as you stick with the standard manual tranny. Giving in to, rather than trying to compete with, the aftermarket navigation companies would be silly in the upper segments of the market, but it makes total sense here. We congratulate you, Suzuki, for being the first to make this step. Bargain hunters everywhere will thank you and, hopefully, it's just the attention grabber this little car needs to climb its way up the sales ladder.