Sporty touch for Kiza­shi

Suzuki now has an AWD chal­lenger in its line-up, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

THE start­ing line-up for this year’s

cars­Guide Car of the Year con­test al­ready in­cludes the Suzuki Kiza­shi. Now we have the Kiza­shi Sport, com­plete with all-wheel drive and a range of other tweaks, to make an ex­tra claim.

The Sport has ar­rived ear­lier than planned, only a cou­ple of months af­ter the reg­u­lar Kiza­shi, but Suzuki Aus­tralia is ready and will­ing to take it on and tackle a range of tough ri­vals led by the Subaru Lib­erty.

The head of Suzuki Aus­tralia, Tak Hayasaki, says: ‘‘The orig­i­nal vi­sion for Suzuki’s first mid­sized car al­ways in­cluded an all-wheel-drive model.’’

The Sport is priced from $39,990, com­plete with a con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sion and the lux­ury equip­ment — in­clud­ing leather seats and a sun­roof — al­ready fit­ted to the Kiza­shi XLS at $34,990.

Suzuki be­lieves the Sport could lift Kiza­shi sales by about 50 per cent, adding an­other 100 cars a month to its roll­out, by ap­peal­ing to slightly younger buy­ers.

But it’s not promis­ing a WRX-style per­for­mance punch.

‘‘I want to be very clear,’’ Tony Dev­ers, gen­eral man­ager of Suzuki Aus­tralia says, ‘‘it is not a race car.

‘‘What it does bring, how­ever, is a new driv­ing bench­mark for the brand.

‘‘We have a true driver’s car that pro­motes the tra­di­tional strengths of all Suzuki ve­hi­cles.’’

But the Sport does not get any ex­tra help from the en­gine room, al­ready seen as a short­com­ing in the ba­sic car. Suzuki knows a tur­bocharged en­gine would be ideal in the car, but cur­rently has no plans for one.

Value

THE Sport con­tin­ues Suzuki’s value-first ap­proach with the Kiza­shi, which starts at $27,990 in a class where the Lib­erty is priced from $33,990, the Mazda6 starts at $27,310 and the Honda Ac­cord Euro runs from $33,490.

It’s a $5000 step up from the XLS but most of that can be costed into the CVT trans­mis­sion, which makes the all-wheel-drive sys­tem look like a bar­gain.

The Sport is not a huge de­par­ture from the other Kiza­shi mod­els, but gets 18-inch al­loys in a slightly dif­fer­ent de­sign, mesh in the lower part of the grill, side skirts and a rear spoiler and — most im­por­tantly — the fac­tory Blue­tooth con­nec­tion cur­rently missing from the rest of the range.

There’s also a sports steer­ing wheel, of course.

Technology

THE key to the Sport is its all-wheel-drive sys­tem.

Un­like most oth­ers, it’s switch­able and that means you can flick to front-drive.

Cars­Guide is not sure of any ben­e­fit, but Suzuki claims it can give a slight im­prove­ment in fuel econ­omy dur­ing high­way cruis­ing.

Suzuki says it draws on 40 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence back to the orig­i­nal Jimny, but it’s re­ally just a devel­op­ment from the SX4 sys­tem.

It can feed up to 50 per cent of the drive to the back wheels and has a sys­tem to limit front-end push in cor­ners, even pro­vid­ing a de­gree of counter-steer­ing if the car is head­ing to­wards a rear-end slide. The car is 70kg heav­ier which takes the fuel econ­omy up to 8.4 litres/100km and Suzuki has not com­pen­sated in the en­gine, which still makes 121kW and 230Nm.

The CVT has a six-speed ‘‘man­ual’’ set­ting and comes with pad­dles be­hind the wheel for shift­ing, as well as a lever set for sporty driv­ing with a push for­ward for down­changes and a tug back for up­shifts.

De­sign

A TINY rear spoiler, the al­loys and changes to the nose are the ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ences in the Sport.

But the car is also set 10mm lower on its sus­pen­sion, to im­prove corner­ing grip, and that helps with the looks.

The changes are just enough to give the Sport a bit more im­pact in a car park, and work well with the ba­sic Kiza­shi de­sign.

The car still looks smaller than its ri­vals but Suzuki — again — punches home the mes­sage that it’s the same size in­side as its class ri­vals and has a very us­able boot.

Safety

THE all-wheel-drive sys­tem is an im­por­tant safety boost, par­tic­u­larly for peo­ple who will be driv­ing in snow or other slushy con­di­tions.

The car has five-star safety and the usual suite of safety gear, from front-side-cur­tain airbags to ABS brakes with elec­tronic brake dis­tri­bu­tion, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and trac­tion con­trol.

Suzuki demon­strates the strengths of the Sport with snow-driv­ing tri­als at the mo­tor in­dus­try prov­ing ground in the moun­tains

Con­tender: the Kiza­shi Sport’s slightly lower ride height seems to work well with the all-wheel-drive sys­tem.

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