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