Impressive, refined, enjoyable and even brilliant. Paul Gover heaps the superlatives on a mid-size marvel
TWENTY kilometres on the worst bitumen road I have driven in 20 years has won me on the Suzuki Kizashi. Until we hit the horror strip on the haul to Warwick in Queensland, I’m using words such as cute, nice, safe, sensible and refined to describe the Kizashi. With a special mention for a $27,990 starting price.
As we emerge from the nastiness, and a road that would run an Audi A4 ragged, my Kizashi vocabulary has switched to composed, refined, impressive, enjoyable and— wait for it— brilliant.
The turnaround happens as quickly as one evil, nasty corner that would turn most cars into a bucking bronco.
The Kizashi crushes it and even though the rear suspension bottoms heavily, there is no lasting damage of any sort.
My passenger and I are both smiling — and things get better with every kilometre.
This is a big surprise because Suzuki is moving into unknown and uncharted territory with the Kizashi, its first mid-sized car and one that must compete with the Honda Euro, Mazda6 and perhaps even the Audi A4.
Suzuki made its name with grotty little 660cc city runabouts.
It produces them in vast numbers, even badging them for Mazda and Nissan.
Suzuki began its move upmarket with the impressive Swift, a carsGuide Car of the Year winner, and continued with the latest Grand Vitara. The SX4 is OK, but not in the same class.
Now it has the Kizashi, a safe but smooth design with impressive quality in every area.
And, as I discover on the track to Warwick, world-class steering, suspension and noise control.
The car has been developed for more than four years and, despite losing some of the sensational styling of Kizashi concept cars, it’s an impressive job.
But it needs to be good because Kizashi is up against tough rivals and has no history or reputation to help it.
Tak Hayasaki, managing director of Suzuki Australia, says: ‘‘Kizashi is a car we have all been looking forward to since the Frankfurt Show in 2007. It is a car that is immensely important for Australia. We are confident it will redefine the Suzuki brand here in Australia.’’
The basics for the Kizashi are the medium-class body, a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, six-speed
manual and six-speed CVT automatic transmissions, and plenty of standard equipment. There are only two models, the XL and XLS. The basic car is well equipped, with keyless entry and start, six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-skid brakes, 17-inch alloys and dualzone airconditioning.
The XLS picks up everything including leather seats and a sunroof.
Pricing is $27,990 and $30,490 for the XL or $34,990 and $37,990 for the XLS.
THE Kizashi is a good-looking car and the quality is first-rate, but I wonder at first about the size.
Looks are deceiving with such short overhangs, but the boot is good and there is Eurosized space for four adults in the cabin.
It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position but taller drivers — and those not much over 180cm— report restricted headroom in the XLS. Suzuki is investigating making the sunroof an option, not standard.
The car is quiet, the six-speed manual gearshift is slick and the CVT does not produce the annoying engine roar of some rivals. And it will do good economy numbers.
The 2.4-litre engine is smooth but lacking any real mid-range punch, which is a shortcoming when you have a few people on board.
But a V6, a future engine choice, would probably make the car heavy in the nose and upset the ride and handling.
And that’s where the Kizashi is a real winner, cashing in on the development work done at the Nurburgring.
The steering is sharp and responsive, the car is neutral at all speeds in all types of corners and the way the suspension absorbs bumps is nothing short of — that word again — brilliant.
When you look at the car’s value and the quality of the engineering, the only shortcoming is the Suzuki badge. It’s not that a Suzuki is bad, just that no one will expect a car like the Kizashi in the mid-sized ruck.
If the latest Honda Euro or Mazda6 were as capable as the Kizashi they would rewrite the rules for mid-sized motoring, just as they did when they hit as the first Euro-Japanese midsized contenders.
Winning ways: the impressive Kizashi is Suzuki’s first mid-sized car.