What is it?
This is Suzuki’s first ever crack at the D-sector, the Kizashi. It's a smart, premium-feel four-door that’s smaller and a touch heavier than a Ford Mondeo.
Suzuki originally planned a whole new family of Kizashis, but the global economic crisis put a stop to all that and the only version out so far is this four-door saloon with 2.4-litre petrol engine.
At present its main markets will be America and Japan, because in the current economic climate Suzuki says it wants to take it slow and steady with Kizashi, its most ambitious model to date.
This 2.4’s on the market in Tokyo for the equivalent of £18,600. Good value? Sure, but that's still big money for a Suzuki. Can it justify it?
What's it like?
Dynamically, the standout is the chassis. Whether it’s driving through town or attacking some good B-road corners, the Kizashi feels crisp, poised and super responsive - a real quality act.
Suzuki has come up with a taut, Eurocentric chassis – front struts, rear multi-link – which is all-new. Steering, at just 2.6 turns lock to lock, is both accurate and quick, while overall body balance and control are outstanding.
You can go late, hard and deep into a bend and the Kizashi is still there with you, strongly resisting understeer or body lean, staying resolutely on line. Then there are the brakes: pedal feel and modulation are first rate.
One (minor) dynamic fly in the ointment is Suzuki’s insistence on faddish 18-inch wheels. They're fine for grip and roadholding, but these meaty Dunlops take the edge off the Kizashi’s motorway ride, which is overly firm and knobbly. At low to medium speeds, though, the Suzuki’s ride is sportingly firm but perfectly okay.
The Kizashi’s 2.4-litre engine, tried here with a continuously variable transmission, is smooth, refined and free-revving. Also, with 184bhp on tap, the Suzuki rarely feels slow. The CVT, with steering wheel paddle shifters, is one of the best yet from Japan and is good for economy. However, it blunts top end pace, so keen drivers may well prefer the optional six-speed manual ’box.
Inside, spec is high and the standard leather seats are stylish and very comfortable. Cabin space is excellent all round. Doors shut with an upscale thunk and cabin trim and plastics are well up on repmobile class. Suzuki, in fact, benchmarked BMW, Audi and VW, which explains the strong, solid Germanic feel to the interior as a whole.
The instruments are nice and clear, but maybe Suzuki took the Teutonic thing a bit too far as the dashboard is a pretty dour affair.
Outside, the Kizashi is also a looker, with a sleek, high-waist profile, nicely balanced front end and twin exhausts faired into the rear bumper. With a BMW-like 'Bangle bustle' boot rounding things off, it’s not totally original, but it works.
Should I buy one?
Suzuki is probably not the first company that springs to mind when the call goes out to produce a credible new Mondeo rival from scratch. But on this evidence you’d be surprised.