I'm still trying to get my head around the Suzuki Kizashi. To my mind, this has to be one of the most extraordinary cars out of Japan this year, or any year come to that.

Who would have thought that Suzuki, at a first attempt, could turn out a brand new D-sector saloon with front drive handling and chassis balance to rival the best in Europe? A car that's smaller and more exclusive than a Mondeo and has BMW levels of quality to match?

Suzuki Kizashi first drive review

Hi-res Suzuki Kizashi pictures

Stranger than fiction and against the run of play, you could say, but that's just what Suzuki's has served up.

Truth is, the Kizashi's been a bit alternative right from the start. There were three quite promising Kizashi show cars between 2007-08. Then silence...

The Kizashi eventually launched at a WWII memorial site in the US this summer... Then, without warning, it turned up again at the Tokyo show, where Suzuki just parked it by the side of the stage and, er, that was pretty much it.

So going along to Suzuki's Tokyo office, I had no idea what to expect. I knew the 2.79 yen million base price was pretty strong for a Suzuki (that's some £18.9K at current rates). Order 4WD and the ask is over £20K. That in itself is all something new and racy for Suzuki. But what would it be like to drive?

Maybe the excellence of the new Swift and Swift Sports, should have put me onto something. Even so, I would never have guessed that Suzuki could produce a car this rewarding, so well set up and, yes, flat out entertaining.

Maybe the styling's a touch derivative, a bit VW here, some BMW there, but still surely catches the eye in the right way. Nice cabin too with a real premium feel.

Now comes the hard part: selling it. Suzuki so far is only committing to this four door saloon with 2.4 petrol engine (a spec aimed mainly at the US). Kizashi is still on hold for Europe and will surely stay that way until a Euro V diesel and/or a sports wagon gets added to the mix.

In Japan, meantime, it's austerity city. There's been no press launch and Suzuki is spending next to nothing to promote it. The Kizashi is being sold to special order only and having Suzuki's no-frills dealer network handle it (think Ryanair but for cars) could be an experience all in itself.  

Yet despite zero promotion, the Kizashi's already getting people talking in Tokyo and many seem fascinated by it.

So there you have it. The Suzuki Kizashi, a sharp new drivers' saloon and enigma machine, all rolled into one.