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Suzuki Kizashi Sport

Click to view picture gallery“When the new 12-plate Suzuki
  Kizashi Sport saloon enters
Mondeo
  Land
in the UKs peak sales month,
  anything could happen...”


THE NEW '12' REGISTRATION plate starts today 1 March 2012 and there's a lot of competition and deals on the table for new buyers who are looking for value and more specification for their money. And for some of them, Suzuki's new four-door Kizashi could be just the right motor.

The Mondeo-sized 21,995 Kizashi saloon is unlikely to have a huge effect on sales but only because just 500 units will be available here this year. UK motorists may not have heard the name before but the Kizashi is already well-known elsewhere, with over 25,000 global sales so far in Japan, the USA, Australasia and India.

The biggest drawback it has here is that it's only available with a petrol engine, and in this sector diesel engines are the most popular sellers by a significant margin.

“The Kizashi looks
very smart and sporty.
It’s also well equipped
and physically
stands out from the
commonplace volume-
selling competition
...”
The Kizashi's 176bhp 2.4-litre four-cylinder unit also only comes, at least for the moment, with a CVT automatic transmission along with a 2/4WD system. However, CO2 emissions of 191g/km and 445 First Year road tax (then still 245 for the second year onwards) are much higher than for Vauxhall's Insignia or Ford's Mondeo. That noted, Suzuki is planning a manual transmission model and a diesel engine is on the cards although they're not likely soon.

Of course, Suzuki's loyal band of retail buyers who are looking for a larger car but not an out-and-out 4WD SUV such as the Grand Vitara, may well be tempted. So too might business user-choosers who actually own their business because the Kizashi does look very smart and sporty. It's also well equipped and physically stands out from the commonplace volume-selling competition.

Another point in its favour (or, depending on people's requirements, a negative point) is that the four-door Kizashi is a 'compact' saloon — its 4,650mm length is almost 200mm shorter than the sector's sales-leading Vauxhall Insignia. That said, the Kizashi's rear seat legroom is still good, as too is front space; only the headroom might be tight for drivers a little over six feet tall, but then only because of the standard-fit sunroof.

With the rear seats in place the boot has a capacity of 461 litres; not that large in this class but still useful enough. If you need more load carrying room you can fold down the rear seats, although if you do you'll find that suspension points intrude significantly into the load area. But where the Kizashi really scores is with its value-for-money purchase price and high level of standard equipment. Plus it has a two/four-wheel drive system that's operated by nothing more complicated than a push on a button.

“The Kizashi is also very
comfortable, with a
compliant ride — even
riding on the standard-fit
18-inch alloy wheels
fitted with Winter tyres,
which generally give a
firmer and noisier ride.
In fact Suzuki has done
a better job in the ride
and handling department
than many of their
competitors
...”
The Kizashi has seven airbags (including one for the driver's knees) to keep you safe if the worst should happen. Other important safety kit includes an electronic stability programme.

You also get leather upholstery, electric and heated front seats (the driver's seat with a three-setting memory function), power glass sunroof, electrically-operated windows and door mirrors, AirCon, cruise control, 8-speaker Radio/CD with Bluetooth and USB port and a set of 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Kizashi's interior is trimmed with good quality, soft-touch materials and looks good too; only the fascia sound system control panel looks a tad dated. SatNav is not included but is a dealer-fit option.

Externally the Kizashi looks sporty: tracks are wide both front and rear enhanced by sculptured, flared wheelarches; curved sills link the meaty front and rear bumpers; and the front-end features the prominent Suzuki 'family face' grille flanked by stylish sports headlights and low-mounted foglights. At the tail, twin triangular exhaust tailpipes show a sporty clean pair of heels to other motorists.

Given that the Kizashi is Suzuki's first move into this market segment, it really looks the biz and they deserve considerable credit for that.

The Kizashi is also very comfortable, with a compliant ride — even riding on the standard-fit 18-inch alloy wheels and Winter tyres, which generally give a firmer and noisier ride. In fact Suzuki has done a better job in the ride and handling department than many of their competitors. The steering is brilliant, with lots of feedback, and there's plenty of front-end grip, making it engaging to drive.

The weak link, however, is the powertrain. Apart, that is, from the Kizashi's 2/4WD system which is first class. So why cannot other manufacturers provide such a system without it being too expensive? A 2.4-litre petrol engine is not going to be the first choice for a lot of customers; neither, in this class, is a CVT automatic transmission.

However, with only 500 available the Kizashi will be a niche product and likely to benefit from its rarity value. Offering an automatic paired with a 2/4WD system does put the Kizashi in a fairly unique position in the UK market — unless customers are willing to pay 30K or more.

“The 2/4WD system
is so easy to use and
impressive for grip.
In 2WD, power is mainly
directed to the front
wheels with a small
proportion to the rear
under acceleration; in
4WD, drive is split 50:50
between the front and
rear wheels
...”
While the 176bhp/170lb ft four-pot engine should be acceptable, mating it to a continuously variable auto 'box makes it slow to respond: lethargic for acceleration pulling away into fast moving traffic and situations like that.

Using the tiptronic automated manual shift gearlever or the steering wheel paddle-shifters marginally speeds things up, but it always felt more inclined to do things at its own pace. Once in 'the cruise' it was fine and proved to be really smooth and easy to drive in slow moving town traffic.

Zero to 62mph takes 8.8 seconds and the top speed is 127mph. Fuel consumption in the Combined Cycle is officially 34mpg but the best I got from my test car was 29.8mpg. However, while the car wasn't being driven very hard there was ice and snow on the road which does hit the economy.

However, those same wintry conditions were perfect to try out the 2/4WD, which was so easy to use and impressive for grip. In 2WD, drive is mainly directed to the front wheels with a small proportion to the rear under acceleration; in 4WD, drive is split 50:50 between the front and rear wheels.

Reasons to buy include great looks, comfort, high spec, fine-handling, first class steering feedback and grip, and the easy-to-use 2/4WD.

But not everyone will want the petrol engine, CVT auto and AWD combo — what it really needs for wider appeal and lower running costs is a diesel engine.

The sporty looks of the Kizashi are really quite appealing, the 2/4WD is very good, as too is the car's ride and balance. But while the car wanted to play, its heart didn't. I just wish the Kizashi had the engine and gearbox to make the most of its obvious handling abilities. — David Miles

Suzuki Kizashi Sport | 21,995
Maximum speed: 127mph | 0-62mph: 8.8 seconds | Overall test MPG: 29.8mpg
Power: 176bhp | Torque: 170lb ft | CO2 191g/km