A mixture of superb driving dynamics, sexy looks and refined interior comfort justify the Kizashi as a serious contender in the mid-size segment
The all-new Suzuki Kizashi represents the best car the Japanese manufacturer has offered to date. A mixture of superb driving dynamics, sexy looks and refined interior comfort justify the Suzuki Kazashi as a serious contender in the mid-size segment.
The Suzuki Kizashi is the Japanese company's first entry into this segment and goes up against the likes of Mazda6, Honda Accord, Subaru Liberty, Hyundai i45, Toyota Camry and more. So then, why would Suzuki enter a segment so congested?
The answer is rather simple, given how well the Suzuki Swift has done over the last few years, Suzuki needs a car to capture its existing buyers as they grow up. The SX4 started this process by offering a small car (although it hasn't been as successful as Suzuki may have hoped) and the Kizashi is here to finish up the stable with the best in the range.
Although names like Vitara and Jimny have been synonymous with excellent four-wheel drive capabilities, ask an average joe and he will tell you Suzuki is most famous for motorcycles followed by its compact cars such as the Swift. The Japanese manufacturer has so far struggled to progress past this preconceived image.
Hence the Kizashi has two tasks, to become the best medium-sized car in the segment and also act as a branding exercise for Suzuki as it aims to restructure its image into an everyday manufacturer known for producing cars of all sizes and shapes.
Work on the Suzuki Kizashi project began all the way back in 2004 with the first Kizashi concept seen at the 2007 Frankfurt motorshow. This was followed by two other iterations, Kizashi 2 and Kizashi 3. Although altered heavily from its original concept, the Kizashi still represents one of the better looking cars in its segment.
Looking at the Kizashi from afar it can be quite deceptive in its size. Thanks to its small front and rear overhangs the Suzuki manages to look compact whilst still offering the same levels of interior space as its bulkier-looking rivals.
Frontal design is a showcase for the Suzuki logo embedded in the grille sitting on a rather curvy bonnet. With big headlights and European inspired taut shoulder lines, in some ways it looks rather similar to a Volkswagen Jetta (which shouldn't be an issue as Volkswagen now own almost 20 percent of Suzuki).
Sitting on a long wheelbase (2,700mm), the Kizashi measures 4,650mm long, 1820mm wide and 1480mm tall. It has a rather large boot (load capacity of 461 litres) and also comes with 60:40-split-folding rear seats.
The highlight of the entire design is the rear which follows the same curvey but symmetrical design ideas from the front with the addition of stainless-steel exhaust covers (paying homage to Suzuki’s motorcycle designs). No matter which way you look at it, it certainly stands out as it drives past you.
Open and close the Kizashi's doors and you'll be pleased by that crisp door-closing sound that can tell you a lot about a car's build quality.
Once inside you might notice the A-pillar (pillar next to the driver's door) is relatively chunky, this can be a nuisance if you're driving up twisty roads with tight right handers as they become somewhat hard to see into. However the reason for the over-sized A-pillars is all safety related, the Kizashi wouldn't have achieved its high five-star American safety rating if it didn't come equipped with high side-impact protection.
You'll be glad to know all safety features are standard across the Kizashi range. All variants come with six airbags and a whole bunch of electronic safety features that will ensure you remain on course at all times.
The Suzuki Kizashi will be offered in Australia in two variants: Kizashi XL and XLS.
Both are powered by the brand's own 2.4-litre DOHC in-line four cylinder engine (J24B) which is a modification of the one found in the Grand Vitara. Delivering 131 kW at 6500 rpm and 230 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm, the Kizashi engine is mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT- auto). Both configuration result in fuel economy figures of just 7.9L/100km in the combined highway and city cycle.
For those unfamiliar with CVT transmissions, they differ from an automatic in their inherent engineering design. For the majority of drivers it makes no difference as the gearbox still does all the work for you (although with far more engineering finesse than a standard automatic).
To explain CVT it in one sentence, instead of having set gear ratios (1 to 6), the transmission system has an infinite number of ratios it can pick from as it expands and retracts as requested. This way it can keep the engine in the right rev point when under full acceleration, resulting in quicker 0-100km/h times and better fuel economy overall.
Figures aside, the Suzuki Kizashi is a drivers car in all regards. It's built to be driven more than just as an A->B car. Of course it can do the boring stuff too (and it can do that rather well) but the Kizashi's strength is foremost in its driving dynamics and handling ability.
So much so that Suzuki Australia decided to gather the best Australian car journalists and let them drive Kizashis from Gold Coast all the way to Warwick (south west of Brisbane) and spend an afternoon 'exploring' the car's handling abilities at Morgan Park raceway.
Before getting to the track, the twisty mountain drive from Gold Coast to Warwick allowed for some enthusiastic driving. It's a rather simple drive formula with the front-wheel drive Kizashi, do 80 percent of your braking before a corner, leave the last 20 percent for trail-braking into the corner (this helps keep the car's front down allowing for much more grip into a corner - if you lift off the brakes right before a corner you will have little grip at the front thanks to the weight transfer to the rear) and once the wheels are pointed in the right direction you simply apply as much power as needed. Torque steer is momentarily present but not much of an issue.
Despite being a front-wheel drive it behaves the same as a Subaru Liberty into corners (although it doesn't have the out-of-corner finesse that you get with all-wheel drive). The Kizashi may indeed come to Australia as an all-wheel drive V6 in the future, but for now we will have to make do with this setup.
CarAdvice has raced at Morgan Park raceway numerous times in the past and it was with great excitement that Kizashi was track tested. It's always a good sign when a manufacturer has enough faith in their product to allow journalist to explore it at its limits. The Kizashi, although not really made for the race track, proved to be an efficient car around Warwick's famous race course.
With 131 kW it was never going to be fast on the straight but it certainly makes up for it in corners. There is something about the car's stiff chassis which results in next to no body roll around corners whilst still being comfortable enough for Brisbane's horrid roads. It's similar in its driving dynamics to the BMW 3 Series (minus the benefits of rear-wheel drive).
In regards to manual or CVT, it's a personal choice. The CVT is a good option if you can get over it sitting at around 5,500 rpm and staying there as you flatten the accelerator. However the six-speed manual gearbox is a breeze to use and would be my pick.
So that rounds up the looks and driving dynamics, what about the interior? It would all be meaningless if the interior wasn't up to the rest of the package. Those familiar with Swift and other Suzuki models' will have a hard time finding any real resemblance once inside.
No doubt the interior still screams Japanese and in some ways lacks the elegant ambience that you find in the more expensive medium-sized European rivals, but the Kizashi starts at just $27,990 and for that price, it's a damn good interior. Have a look for yourself:
A very clean design to the instrument cluster with standard support for iPhones and iPods through the cars stereo. The steering wheel is fully adjustable and feels great to hold. There is soft plastics used throughout the cabin and lots of other little touches that raise it above most of its rivals. The car's computer can also report instant fuel usage, average fuel usage, distance to empty and average speed.
Despite having native support for iPod and iPhone, plugging in my iPhone 3GS meant having to use the car's built in music system to select my desired track. This was practically impossible as it was hard to see a list of songs or select between them with any accuracy. Furthermore the audio system would read even my voice recordings from the iPhone and not just the stored music (a rather interesting issue that I've yet to encounter with other cars).
Nonetheless if you do end up going for the XLS variant, it comes with a Rockford Fosgate® audio system which pumps out an impressive 425W through a 10 speaker setup (yes, 10 speakers). A quick test of this at high volume resulted in momentary deafness.
XLS variant for an extra $6,000 and you gain:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Front fog lamps
- 10-way power driver’s seat with memory
- 4-way power passenger seat
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Automatic headlamps
- 10-speaker 425 watt AM/FM/CD Rockford Fosgate® audio system
- Photochromatic rear vision mirror
- Leather upholstery
- Self-leveling High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps
- Front and rear parking assist
XLS Worth it? Yes if you can afford it. The 18-inch alloys and foglights give it a far more aggressive look. Meanwhile the upgraded stereo and the addition of a sunroof and leather upholstery create a great interior ambience.
Overall the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi is a surprising little package and certainly worth test driving if you're in the market for a car this size.
The Japanese manufacturer is so confident in the car's ability that it wants you to come in to showrooms and test drive a Kizashi, if you end up buying one of its rivals (Mazda6, Honda Accord etc), it will give you $200. Really? What have you got to lose?
Update: Read - Suzuki Kizashi AWD Review