I have a 2008 Suzuki SX4, but with a standard transmission. The car has really grown on me over the years, with nimble handling and great brakes that make driving fun. It has been super reliable for me, with only minor repairs in 65k miles. (The only two non-standard maintenance items were new spark plugs at 30k miles and the windshield washer system blew out a 50-cent hose.)
The AWD works fine in snow -- perhaps a little less confident than my 1995 Subaru Legacy, but the Suzuki SX4 has wider tires than the Subaru. Wider tires are great for grip on dry roads but not on wet/icy/snowy roads. If you put winter tires on the car -- maybe a little taller and narrower -- it should work as good as a Subaru in the snow. Unlike the Subaru, the 2008 Suzuki SX4 lets you switch in and out of AWD. I don't sense any better handling or operation in 2WD mode, but I like that we're given an option.
The standard transmission in my car has been fine and the gear ratios are chosen fairly well for the engine's torque range. There's not a lot of oomph at low RPM, but it's adequate. I can't comment on the CVT transmission, as I have not driven this car with a CVT.
Good luck! I like my 2008 SX4 so much that I've been thinking about getting a 2011 or 2012 if it's a steal. My biggest negatives are that parts are harder to come by and the engine really could use a bit more oomph off the line. The ride is on the jiggly side, due to the short wheelbase. However, the same short wheelbase makes the SX4 super nimble and sporty. It's a great around-town car and surprisingly good at hauling stuff from Home Depot.