Kizashi to be a true stayer

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE -

IN THE fu­ture, the Suzuki Kizashi will be­come the Dat­sun 1600. Go to a rally meet­ing and see how many Dat­sun 1600s are still run­ning around.

They have a great lit­tle chas­sis, ex­cel­lent han­dling and bul­let-proof me­chan­ics. The same could be said for the new Kizashi, the first mid-sized car from the Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer and pos­si­bly the fu­ture favourite of am­a­teur rally driv­ers.

Now Suzuki has given the Kizashi a sportier look and added all-wheel drive, but still kept the price un­der $40,000. The Kizashi Sport AWD costs $39,990, which is $3000 more than the topselling XLS with con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion.

That puts it in com­pe­ti­tion with the slightly larger Subaru Lib­erty, which starts at $35,490 but equiv­a­lent equip­ment level mod­els are over $40,000.

You get more than just AWD­for the ex­tra $3000.

Out­side there is a newlook grille with black chrome mesh, big­ger air dams, new 18-inch al­loys, chrome side high­lights and fog light sur­rounds, a rear boot spoiler, side skirts and 10mm lower sus­pen­sion with stiffer springs.

In the cabin there is a new leather steer­ing wheel with chromed ac­cents, a sil­ver dou­ble-stitch­ing high­light on the leather seats and trim and Blue­tooth with con­trols on the steer­ing wheel and the abil­ity to play your mu­sic. This is all on top of a very high level of spec­i­fi­ca­tion in theFWD­mod­els.

The car re­tains its 2.4-litre four-cylin­der petrol en­gine, but there is a strong push from Suzuki Aus­tralia to in­tro­duce a turbo-pow­ered unit, such is their be­lief in the chas­sis to safely han­dle the ex­tra power.

On the styling front, for some, there may be a bit too much bling, but sports driv­ers quite like that.

I think it’s a hand­some cab with enough touches of chrome bling to make it look a step up on the top-spec XLS with­out over­do­ing it.

Take it for a drive and words such as re­fined, quiet and poised come to mind. But when we took the stan­dard Kizashi on Cars­guide

In the cabin there is a new leather steer­ing wheel with chromed ac­cents, a sil­ver dou­ble-stitch­ing high­light on the leather seats and trim and Blue­tooth

Car of the Year test­ing in Novem­ber, we were sur­prised by the lack of lat­eral grip from the Yoko­hama low-noise tyres on wet hot- mix as­phalt sur­faces. So I went search­ing for sim­i­lar sur­faces in the rain to see if the lack of grip in the AWD model led to the same squirmy han­dling we ex­pe­ri­enced in theFWD­model.

While the Yoko­hama tyres are still com­pro­mised for wet lat­eral grip, the AWD sys­tem works over­time to re­duce the over­steer and un­der­steer shenani­gans.

In coun­ter­steer sit­u­a­tions, the power steer­ing also light­ens the wheel weight to help you cor­rect a skid.

Apart from the tyres, my only other con­cern is the gear­box. It is one of the bet­ter con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sions I’ve tried with a quick re­sponse and lit­tle flar­ing. How­ever, I heard it groan a cou­ple of times when pushed. It would be nice if Suzuki of­fered their six-speed man­ual gear­box from the stan­dard model and truly earned that ‘‘Sport’’ tag.

That said, what is the ver­dict? The car is so quiet, you can af­ford to slap on some de­cent rub­ber that makes a bit more road noise but pro­vides more as­sur­ing wet weather grip. Given Suzuki’s rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity and this car’s ex­cel­lent han­dling charac-ter­is­tics, in 20 years there’s a good chance you could still be run­ning it com­pet­i­tively at your lo­cal rally track.

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