Which Small SUV Should I Buy?


Hi John,

I'm thinking about buying a small SUV. What are your thoughts on the Suzuki SX4 compared to the Mazda CX-5 and the Hyundai ix35 SUVs.

Thank you,



Hi Ed,

The Suzuki SX4 is a smaller, more basic animal than the other two. That doesn't make it better or worse, just different.

Price ranges on all three are (recommended retail prices)

  • Suzuki SX4: $18,990 to $26,790
  • Hyundai ix35: $26,990 to $40,490
  • Mazda CX-5: $27,880 to $49,220

So you can see that the fully loaded SX4 is about the same price as the absolute botton end of the other two.

Basically the Suzuki SX4 is a good vehicle that's a little smaller than the other two: It's about 400mm shorter than the CX-5, and most of that is in the cargo area. The Suzuki is more of a pumped up hatch whereas the other two are more authentically wagons.

I also answered a very similar question a little earlier. If you're in the market for an ix35, then by definition you are also in the market for a Kia Sportage. They are essentially the same car. Full explanation on where the Kia Sportage fits int to the mix here.


The drivelines are interesting. (Obviously there's no diesel option on the Suzuki.) Comparing the petrols:

Suzuki SX4

2014 Suzuki SX4 front.jpg
  • Capacity - 2.0 litres
  • Max power - 112kW @ 6200rpm
  • Max torque - 190Nm @ 4000rpm
  • Trans - 6sp CVT
  • Kerb weight - 1255kg
  • Official combined cycle economy (2WD manual): 7.3 litres/100km

Mazda CX-5

2014 Mazda CX-5 front .jpg
  • Capacity - 2.5 litres
  • Max power - 138kW @ 5700rpm
  • Max torque - 250Nm @ 4000rpm
  • Trans - 6sp auto
  • Kerb weight - 1559kg
  • Official combined cycle economy (2WD manual): 6.4 litres/100km

Hyundai ix35

2014 Hyundai ix35 front .jpg
  • Capacity - 2.0 litres
  • Max power - 122kW @ 6200rpm
  • Max torque - 205Nm @ 4000rpm
  • Trans - 6sp auto
  • Kerb weight - 1485kg
  • Official combined cycle fuel economy (2WD manual): 8.2 litres/100km


Here's what you learn from this: The straight line performance of the Suzuki SX4 and the Mazda CX-5 are quite similar. (The Mazda CX-5 is about 25 per cent heavier than the Suzuki SX4, but the Mazda's engine is about 25 per cent more powerful.) The Hyundai ix35 is 18 per cent heavier and only 9 per cent more powerful, so not as good in a straight line. (Hyundai has a track record of building excellent diesel engines and sort of acceptable petrol engines in its product range.)

The Hyundai ix35 has the worst economy because that's what happens when you pump up the weight and don't add enough engine. Also, the Mazda has its SKYACTIV technology aimed squarely at efficiency. Hyundai has no such commitment to economy - it's more value oriented. The Suzuki SX4 tackes the problem the low-tech way: give it a decent engine and cut the weight.

The Mazda CX-5 and the Hyundai ix35 have both earned five stars for safety in the independent ANCAP crash testing programme. The SX4 was tested in Europe (by EuroNCAP - ANCAP's Euro cousin) and earned four stars. Basically it didn't do well enough for five stars in the offset front crash test (designed to simulate a head-on at 64km/h) but it aced the side impact and pole impact test - so it's still a pretty safe car. Check out the full EuroNCAP SX4 crash report here if you want.

The other consideration is when you get an actual all-wheel drive system. All three offer only front-wheel-drive in the entry-level models. The base model comes as a front-wheel drive.

You don't get actual all-wheel drive on the Suzuki SX4 until you spend $22,990 - that's a $4000 additional cost. So, you're really not getting the tractive benefits of an SUV with AWD (added sure-footedness - especially in the wet and on unsealed surfaces) until you spend another four grand. Up until that point the SX4 is more like a Mazda3 or Toyota Corolla with extra ground clearance.

The Hyundai ix35 Active and Trophy models are front-wheel-drive only; you don't get AWD until you spend $35,490 on the Elite - that's almost $8500 more. The Mazda CX-5's AWD kicks in with the $32880 Maxx model - that's a $5000 additional spend.

The SX4 has a CVT-type auto transmission. This is excellent for economy, but takes some getting used to. Doesn't feel as refined as a conventional auto. 

The Suzuki SX4 and the Mazda CX-5 are both made in Japan; the Hyundai ix35 is made in South Korea.


Mazda CX-5

2014 Mazda CX-5 CROP 1a .jpg


  • Impressive build quality
  • Great drive dynamics
  • Best technology
  • Great petrol fuel efficiency


  • Can't match Hyundai on warranty (Mazda: 3yrs/100,000km)
  • Most expensive
2014 Mazda CX-5 front .jpg
2014 Mazda CX-5 side .jpg
2014 Mazda CX-5 interior .jpg
2014 Mazda CX-5 rear .jpg

Hyundai ix35

2014 Hyundai ix35 CROP 2a .jpg


  • Best value proposition overall
  • Best warranty (5yrs/unlimited kilometres)


  • Can't match the Mazda on refinement or tech
  • Petrol engine performance only average
  • Worst economy (petrol)
2014 Hyundai ix35 front 2.jpg
2014 Hyundai ix35 CROP 1 .jpg
2014 Hyundai ix35 rear .jpg
2014 Hyundai ix35 interior .jpg

Suzuki SX4

2014 Suzuki SX4 CROP 1a.jpg


  • Good straight line performance
  • Great pricing
  • Compactness
  • Unbeatable price


  • Cheap-feeling interior (hard plastics)
  • Only offers four-star safety (the other pair: five)
  • No diesel engine offering in lineup
  • Doesn't ride as well as the other two
2014 Suzuki SX4 front.jpg
2014 Suzuki SX4 front 2.jpg
2014 Suzuki SX4 rear.jpg
2014 Suzuki SX4 interior.jpg