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When it comes to largely forgotten but worthwhile vehicles, the Suzuki Kizashi mid-sized sedan might well be the byword.
Over the ensuing six-and-a-bit years, though, the mid-sized game has changed at a pace unmatched by Suzuki, a conservative brand with shallower pockets than some of its heavyweight rivals.
But does the Kizashi still offer enough to warrant a look? It might sell in the most minuscule numbers of the mid-sized sedan brigade — its 0.2 per cent market share must make the one-percenters jealous — but that doesn’t always paint an accurate picture.
Furthermore, let’s remember that our company tagline promises coverage of “every” new car, not “most”. Here we test the up-spec Suzuki Kizashi Sport Prestige variant, with a recommended retail price of $37,990 plus on-road costs (bet you can do better than that).
Right off the bat, the Kizashi’s design remains understated but still attractive and well-proportioned, as if carved from a single hunk of metal. This is most obvious from the rear, with the curvaceous boot lines, pronounced haunches and characterful exhaust outlets. The body kit errs towards tacky, but it’s still a low-key looker.
Size-wise, the Suzuki Kizashi somewhat straddles segments, and this has always been a major problem. At 4650mm long, it’s about in-between a Mazda 3 and a Mazda 6, and its 2700mm wheelbase is the same length as the former. This is not a big ‘mid-sizer’.
The Kizashi’s starting RRP in Sport Prestige guise puts it in the same bracket as mid-spec versions of the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Sonata, Subaru Liberty and Volkswagen Passat — all heavy hitters. Flagship small cars such as the Mazda 3 SP25 Astina also give it a nudge.
On the face of it, that’s not out of the ordinary, though a challenger car really needs an eye-opening price to lure punters, especially in such a crowded market segment. We can’t help but think you’d haggle a better price if you genuinely wanted one. Suzuki would surely be happy for the deal at this point.
Befitting the Kizashi Sport Premium’s upmarket positioning, it comes relatively well-equipped with comfort features.
You get keyless start, climate control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, leather seats with 10-way power adjustment for the driver and heating, a touchscreen with satellite navigation, USB/Bluetooth connections, reversing camera and all-round sensors, a sunroof, HID headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels.
You also get seven airbags, and the Kizashi got the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2011. However, you can’t get any modern active safety features such as AEB, blind-spot monitoring or radar-guided cruise control — features trickling down to some rivals.
The cabin has a lot to like. The doors almost thunk and the materials — such as the padded leather doors wth silver-ringed soft internal handles and the lovely wheel — exude a quality not found on cheaper Suzuki models. In a decade from now, this cabin will look and feel little different. It’s proper old-school Japanese, built like a battle tank.
The ergonomics and comfort levels are good, with ample steering wheel reach and rake adjustment, well-positioned buttons and comfortable seats with lots of adjustments and acceptable bolstering for long trips. While there’s almost zero flair to be found, unlike the almost glamorous Mazda 6, the Passat and Mondeo aren’t paragons of design either…
What lets the team down up front is the garish climate control interface and, more importantly, the infotainment system. It offers the key features — sat-nav and audio/phone connections with voice control — but it looks so aftermarket, like an after-thought. Suzuki’s own Vitara has a sophisticated unit with Apple CarPlay these days, so it’s not like the company can't get it right. The Kizashi just isn’t a priority.
As the dimensions of the car suggest, the rear seats aren’t the biggest in class. You can swing a cat in the back of a Hyundai Sonata or Ford Mondeo, but the Kizashi feels more like a big small-car than a moderate medium-car. If you follow. We must commend the decent quality leather and the ample padding.
Boot space is listed as 461 litres with the split-fold seats in place, which is less than a Nissan Pulsar sedan. To its credit, the spare wheel under the floor is a full-sized alloy spare.
Under the bonnet is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 131kW of power at 6500rpm and 230Nm at 4000rpm, which is fine for the class. At 1530kg, the Kizashi is actually heavier than a Mazda 6 Touring, which goes against Suzuki’s typically lightweight designs.
Torque is sent to the front wheels or, for an extra $2000, you can get one with an on-demand AWD version that automatically controls torque distribution between the axles. This latter point is a novel feature in the mid-sized segment shared with the Subaru Liberty and its full-time symmetrical AWD system.
Fuel use with the CVT is a claimed 7.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, which is again competitive. We managed low 8s. Towing capacity with a braked trailer is 1700kg.
Matched as standard to the upper-spec Sport Prestige and Sport AWD is a CVT with manual mode offering six stepped ratios. It’s not inspiring, but keeps the engine at its optimal rev band without too much clutch-slip-aping droning. Still, people used to conventionally defined ratios will need to adjust.
Note: you can get the base Kizashi Sport Touring with a six-speed manual, which is surely a niche within a niche within a niche. Niche-ception.
One of the hallmarks of the Kizashi has always been its affable driving dynamics. Its electronic power steering offers some resistance and directness, its MacPherson Strut/Multi-link suspension layout is well-calibrated for a decent road-holding and comfort balance, and its 18-inch wheels don’t send too much ambient noise into the cabin.
It’s a genuinely nice car to drive, with a chassis more than capable of handling extra grunt. Shame that mooted turbo Kizashi never materialised…
From an ownership perspective, Suzuki sells its cars with a three-year/100,000km warranty and has capped-price servicing (over ordinary intervals of six months) listed at either $249 or $295 a pop. Decent, not stellar.
So that about encapsulates the forgotten son of the mid-sized sedan market. Still good-looking, still nice enough to drive, and still well-made. Also still too small, a little dated, and somewhat pricey at RRP.
With a list of super-talented rivals as long as your arm, the Kizashi’s life won’t get any easier. It’s a shame, because while it’s proverbially collected a little dust, the raw ingredients of a great car remain.
Click the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser
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