Taking Motor Writer’s Name which sounds most like a sneeze award at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the new Kizashi saloon from Suzuki has just gone on sale in the UK.
According to the chaps on the Suzuki stand at Geneva, it actually means ‘next big thing’. Whatever it means (or sounds like), the Kizashi is a handsome beast. It has a purposeful body shape with swollen arches, clean, unadorned flanks, prominent sills and a bold Suzuki nose. There are no razor-sharp lines anywhere – it’s all pleasing, gentle curves. In fact, despite looking smaller because of its square stance and high waist, it is exactly the same width and only 12 cm shorter than a VW Passat. Which explains the good leg room and ample boot space.
I thought I’d been given the top spec model from the press fleet but in fact there is only one version currently available in Britain. It’s an AWD 2.4 litre petrol with CVT auto ‘box. There are only going to be 500 Kizashis here in 2012 but if Suzuki wants to increase sales, it will need to bring in a low emission variant quickly if it is to attract the fleet market. (191 g/km CO2 will exclude it from many company car lists.)
Good external impressions are complemented by the smart, well-equipped interior. Heated electric leather seats, dual-zone climate control, sunroof, Bluetooth plus USB port and a very good sound system give the Kizashi a premium feel. The switch gear is intuitive and pleasantly tactile; the displays are attractive and clear.
After enjoying the Swift, I was keen to see what the Suzuki engineers had done with the Kizashi’s handling. Ride is on the firm side and there is a tendency for imperfections in the road surface to be transmitted up through the steering. However, despite its slightly bouncy composure when trundling about, it is very well set up for pushing hard through the corners. In the dry, there’s little difference between two- and all-wheel-drive; in the wet, propelling all wheels adds that little extra sure-footedness.
One aspect I did notice was that the high waist line combined with thick A-pillar and large door mirrors means it’s easy to miss other cars signaling to change lane. The driver can see the other cars – just not their low-mounted, flashing amber signals.
The CVT is an odd gearbox choice as an only option because it seems better suited to smaller cars. A clever dual clutch gearbox would feel more contemporary and with the Kizashi’s excellent road holding and good chassis dynamics, a manual would be a whole lot more fun. I don’t believe the CVT ‘box is particularly efficient either – there’s a great deal of fuss for moderate reward; given the engine size, I’d have expected it to be quicker. In the end, I found holding the revs below 4,000 rpm provided enough performance without the constantly pitched shout that the CVT provides.
In summary then, the Kizashi is an attractive, spacious, fine-handling and well-equipped D segment car and selectable four-wheel-drive adds an appealing twist. However, whether UK customers want lower emissions for environmental reasons or just to pay less tax, they will certainly demand a cleaner engine option.
Suzuki Kizashi, £21,995
Power: 178 bhp (6,500 rpm), torque: 230Nm (4,000 rpm), emissions: 191 g/km CO2 (band J), 0-62 mph: 8.8 secs.
Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○Tweet