Sporty touch for Kizashi
Suzuki now has an AWD challenger in its line-up, writes Paul Gover
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.