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Suzuki Kizashi Sport

Click to view picture galleryKizashi? It’s likely that neither you
  nor anyone you know has heard
  of it. Hardly surprising, because until
  now this debonair 4WD Suzuki saloon
  has only been available in the USA
  and Japan. The good news is that you
  can now buy one here...”

IT COMES TO THE UK IN JUST ONE SPEC: Sport, which means four doors, a 2.4-litre petrol engine paired with a continuously variable transmission and on-demand 2/4-wheel drive system.

The shocker is the price — all this for just 22,000. If you've seriously looked at four-wheel drive saloons, you'll know that you'd need to spend at least 30K to buy this combination elsewhere.

If you're thinking there has to be a catch, just check out the pictures. As you can see, there's no catch here — the Kizashi is a real looker.

Fronted by a deep smoked-finish mesh grille and stylish headlights, a sporty profile accentuated by crisply defined flared wheelarches housing custom lightweight 18-inch alloys, and taut shoulder lines that tail off with a flourish — into a fluently integrated bootlid spoiler and a pair of beautifully-fitted large triangular stainless steel tailpipes that exit through the corners of the lower rear bumper.

“Swing open a door
and you
ll be pleased to
find that the Kizashi
keen price doesn
t mean
going without
s little luxuries.
In fact, the cabin is
packed with them
Swing open a door (it closes with a well-engineered 'clunk') and you'll be pleased to find that the Kizashi's keen price (21,995) doesn't mean going without motoring's little luxuries. In fact, the cabin is stuffed with them.

Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, power-operated front seats with 3-stage heating, three-setting driver's seat memory, four electric windows (auto one-shot up/down on the fronts), powerfold heated door mirrors, keyless entry and push button start, dual-zone automatic air conditioning with pollen filter, eight speaker (including subwoofer) MP3/WMA-compatible CD tuner with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, cruise control, tinted glass with rear privacy glass to rear doors and rear screen, sunglasses holder, auto-dim rear-view mirror, and a tilt-and-slide electric glass sunroof with one-shot operation.

Additionally, the Sport-only spec has seven airbags (including one for the driver's knee), Suzuki's latest intelligent all-wheel-drive system (i-AWD), Electronic Stability Programme, Hill Hold, parking sensors, high-intensity headlights with pop-out power-wash, 18-inch alloy wheels wearing 235/45 Bridgestone rubber, and 'smart' auto lights — an optical sensor switches on the headlights when the car is about to enter a tunnel but leaves them off when it passes under a relatively short overhang such as a bridge. Metallic paint is also standard on the Kizashi — the sole option is a dealer-fit touchscreen SatNav.

The interior, like the outside, is not overstyled and makes good use of what our American cousins would call 'upscale' trim. Like the materials and soft-touch plastics, fit and finish is first rate and detailing thorough: clear white-on-black dials; cross-cut non-slip rims on rotary control knobs; brushed metal highlights. Even the door pulls are smartly fashioned — leather wrapped with neat chrome end-rings. The well-padded centre armrest (with two-tier storage) is set at a convenient height and large enough to be shared, plus there's a goodly supply of bins and cubbies.

While not quite as long externally as, say, an Insignia (a decided bonus when hunting for a parking space), the Kizashi is still welcoming for passengers with room for six-footers in the well-shaped, well-bolstered and very comfy seats. There's also ample headroom and plenty of shoulder, elbow, leg and foot room.

“As owners are generally
the driver, theyLL
be pleased to find that a
decent driving position
can be set without fuss
thanks to 10-way
power seat adjustment
and electric lumbar
support. A three-setting
memory ensures different
same family drivers
t have to re-set the
seat every time they need
the car
Those travelling in the back are equally well catered for with nicely-padded outer seats, a relaxing backrest angle, very good knee-room and a large padded centre armrest — all of which makes lounging easy.

Windows are deep and passengers enjoy clear views out. Three abreast is doable (and with 'adult' headroom) and made easier by the absence of a foot space-robbing transmission tunnel.

The boot lid springs up lightly and in spite of some suspension intrusion the boot's 461 litres takes four adults' luggage without complaint. The 60:40-split rear seatbacks fold down (although not fully flat) for through-loading longer items, and there's also a ski-bag facility. For the record, a space saver spare is carried under the boor floor.

As owners are generally also 'the driver', they'll be pleased to find that a decent driving position can be set without fuss. The driver's seat offers 10-way power adjustment (and is topped by a well-padded headrest), electric lumbar support, a height-adjustable seatbelt, and height and reach adjustment of the multifunction steering wheel. The tactile, perforated soft leather rim is pleasant to use, and a three-setting memory ensures 'same family' drivers don't have to reset the seat every time they need the car.

Another nice detail is the trip button on the steering wheel (plus, of course, audio controls) for easy cycling through the drivers' information menu. Also appreciated is the strong airflow from the vents along with a quiet fan.

The next question has to be, Does it go as well as it looks like it should? Once you get used to the way the Continuously Variable Transmission handles acceleration requests (the revs race to the redline as the CVT adjusts the engine speed to provide optimal power for acceleration) you'll find it's easy to live with. And if you like your driving served up stress-free, you'll get along together just fine.

Driving in heavy traffic and along busy main roads calls for no real driver effort in any department. The 2.4-litre DOHC in-line four-cylinder engine is always eager to rev and pick-up is smooth. Cruising along mixed A- and B-roads is not at all taxing but step hard on the accelerator and the solid 170lb ft of torque will take you to 62mph in 8.8 seconds.

The paddle-shifters on the steering wheel of out test car came in for a lot of use as they give the driver maximum control of the CVT's 6-speed manual mode for a more interesting drive, especially when you want to press on or get a taste of the Kizashi's sporty chassis.

“As there seemed to be
no noticeable penalty
in fuel consumption from
doing so, we left our
Kizashi in four-wheel
drive most of the time —
it feels definably
more ‘puntable’ after you
press the 4WD button
on the dash
Lurking behind the compliant ride there's an accomplished sporty saloon waiting to break out; one that, given its head, feels taut and handles very well indeed (engagingly so) with decent body control and reassuring grip.

The electric power steering is nicely weighted with decent feedback — so no worries about accurately placing the Kizashi through esses and around corners.

Brakes (ventilated discs at the front, solid discs at the rear) are reassuringly strong — as you'd expect knowing they're supplied by Akebono, the company that provides the braking system for Japan's famous Bullet train.

As there seemed no noticeable penalty in fuel consumption from doing so, we left our Kizashi in 4WD most of the time — in four-wheel drive mode the system sends power to the rear wheels immediately upon acceleration, with torque split up to 50:50 between the front and rear wheels. Switching between two-wheel (predominantly to the front wheels) and four-wheel drive modes can be done any time the car is in motion by pressing the button on the fascia — and the Kizashi feels definably more 'puntable' in four-wheel drive.

The suspension is confidence-inspiringly firm but not enough to spoil the compliant ride; road imperfections are soaked up quietly. Running at speed, the Kizashi feels refined and stable and Suzuki has done an impressive job balancing the ride and handling — you'd feel happy about making a regular daily commute in this Suzuki saloon.

Given the four-wheel drive, continually variable transmission and a 2.4-litre four-pot engine, you'd expect fuel economy to take a beating. Over the course of a busy week we recorded — and note that we were running in 4WD most of the time — an overall and perfectly acceptable test average of 29.7mpg (the official Combined Cycle figure is 34mpg).

Even fitted with a CVT transmission that doesn't do justice to its dynamic abilities, its keen price, well-rounded character, high equipment tally and four-wheel drive still make the Kazashi a feel-good car and we'd bet big money that Suzuki won't have a problem selling every last one of this year's allocation of 500.

Suzuki Kizashi Sport | 21,995
Maximum speed: 127mph | 0-62mph: 8.8 seconds | Overall test MPG: 29.7mpg
Power: 175bhp | Torque: 170lb ft | CO2 191g/km