Suzuki’s first family saloon shows promise as a niche alternative to a boring four-door hack

What is it?

Proof of the remarkable ambition of little-regarded Japanese car-maker Suzuki.

The outfit is already world-reknowned for its ability to make profitable small cars and 4x4s, it has 50 per cent of the burgeoning Indian car market, and has entered into an important relationship with the giant Volkswagen Group. Most recently, it’s branched out by launching its first ever medium-sized saloon onto the global market: the Kizashi.

This car’s already on sale in Japan, North America and elsewhere. As a compact family four-door, it’s intended as an alternative to the Renault Laguna or VW Jetta rather than bigger, pricier four-doors like the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia.

What’s it like?

We drove a Japanese-spec Kizashi with Suzuki’s Sport pack. Powered by a transversely mounted, normally aspirated 2.4-litre petrol four-pot driving the front wheels, the car has all-independent suspension and a six-speed manual gearbox.

The Kizashi offers just enough interior space to be competitive at the compact end of the Mondeo class. Standards of both material cabin quality and fit and finish are decent rather than great. Suzuki UK is likely to offer plenty of standard equipment in order to make up for the one of two areas where perceived quality could be improved.

On the road, the Kizashi shows off a surprisingly athletic chassis. It has grip, balance and body control to match a £35k, 300bhp sports saloon, albeit only with 176bhp to call upon. An incisive and fluent, Mondeo-like steering system would compliment that chassis perfectly; unfortunately, the Kizashi has a woolly-feeling wheel with too much weight, that feels inconsistent at times, and that’s hampered by a little torquesteer and plenty of kickback over potholes.

The Kizashi’s engine is well-insulated at low speed, if a little thrashy at high rpm, where its best work is done; meanwhile, a firm town ride is the trade-off for all that backroad composure.

Should I buy one?

Next to the downsized petrol turbos that it will undoubtedly be compared with, the Kizashi seems noisy, thirsty and short on low-down torque. And yet with slightly softer chassis settings and a more fluent steering system – changes that are within Suzuki UK’s power to make for imported cars – it could make a worthy alternative to a petrol-powered Mazda 6. There’s potential for a likable and entertaining car here, if its maker can send it to finishing school.

Suzuki UK is currently evaluating the Kizashi for a UK market introduction in late 2011. There will be no diesel version, so it’s likely to be bit-part player in the segment at best. However, assuming Suzuki UK can make a few refinements to the car and bring it in cheaply enough, it could be worth further investigation for low-mileage private buyers looking for affordable fun.

Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 Sport

Price: £tbc; Top speed: 134mph; 0-62mph: 7.8sec Economy: 35.8mpg; CO2: 183g/km; Kerbweight: 1475kg; Engine: 4cyls in line, 2393cc, normally aspirated, petrol; Power: 176bhp at 6500rpm; Torque: 170lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Zeddy 28 November 2010

Re: Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 Sport

Ask VW nicely, Suzuki, and they may sell you the 1.4 TSFI.

That might help sell the car in the UK.

jelly7961 28 November 2010

Re: Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 Sport

michael knight wrote:
Legacy R

A very elegant looking car. The Suzuki is quite a common sight in Italy already - strange when there is no diesel but it does not look that good in the flesh. It did not translate well from the concept at all. And from front on it is indistiguishable from an old (well still current) Jetta. The signor that I know has an AWD version and loves it.
Citytiger 27 November 2010

Re: Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 Sport

Matt Saunders wrote:
Not to let facts get in the way, Citytiger, but you'll find the new Jetta, to which I was referring, is substantially bigger than the current one. A Jetta's now 4628mm long. A Laguna's 4695mm long. A Mondeo's 4778mm long. And a Megane saloon's not even 4.5 metres long. So now you tell me where the 4650mm Kizashi belongs. With the Laguna and Jetta, perhaps?

Irrespective of the length of the new Jetta, it is to the layman a Golf with a boot - is that not correct? The golf lies in the same sector as the Megane, Focus, Astra et al. The Laguna lies in the same sector as the Passat, A4, Mondeo, Insignia et al. It just proves that the Jetta is now too big for the sector it lies in. Perhaps there is a reason for that, are VW now trying to pass off the new Jetta as a rival for the sector above, coincidently its the same length as the new Volvo S60.

So is the Volvo too small or is the Jetta too big?