Kizashi, not quite the sound you make when sneezing, but rather the Japanese word for “Something great is coming”, “sign” or “omen”. Well they got it spot on. I’d wrap the bloody Japs over their slightly small knuckles for only bringing us the Kizashi 2 years after it launched in the US and then after India? Honestly we have tarred roads and less slumdog millionaires, I expected it here before India.
The Kizashi is an important car for Suzuki. It has featured in various incarnations in motor shows for years now, the production model being a little further from the concepts than, say, for example, the Range Rover Evoque, but still, a very good looking car in my eyes. It’s Suzuki’s first mid-sized sedan after some rather successful mini 4×4’s and recently popular hatchbacks. Damn what a superb effort is has been. This could have gone so horribly south, but I cannot give this car enough kudos.
Let’s quickly put it into perspective. The Kizashi retails for R295 000 and goes up against the likes of the VW Jetta, Mazda 6, Toyota Corolla & Opel Astra. In terms of the looks department, the Kizashi is by far the best looking of the bunch. A rather fluid design language, with some exceptional looking 158 spoke darkened rims and very unique exhaust pipes makes the Kizashi stand out like Tina Turner at a Martha Stewart cooking convention.
Whatever you’re thinking about Suzuki right now, banish that thought from your mind because it is more than likely to be something negative or cheap. The Kizashi looks quality, and you can see they’ve spent time on perceived quality inside and out. The door shuts with a solid thud, and the interior wouldn’t have a panel gap if you tried to find one. The interior is a comfortable, easy place to be. Leather memory electric driver’s seat and steering wheel, with soft touch plastics, not-fake looking brushed aluminium bits, steering wheel controls, auto lights on, ipod & usb prep, Bluetooth, a decent sound system and dual zone climate control. Everything is where you’d expect it to be and has a quality feel. The one thing I love about cars designed for the American market in mind, is the fact that their air conditioners cool like an arctic wind off the bow of a crab trawler. There’s very little to fault about the interior, everything feels, looks and is up to standard for the price. There’s enough space for 4 adults, however I’d probably say the boot is definitely not up to Jetta / Corolla sizing, but it does leave the rear looking more “sexy” and less picnic table.
It looks good on the outside, feels good on the inside but how does it drive? Well it doesn’t disappoint at all. The Kizashi is only on sale in 1 model variant in SA, and you get the choice of manual or CVT automatic whinebox (don’t buy rather die). This means you get it, very simply, in the 2.4litre 4cylinder pushing out 131kW and 230NM of torque. Probably the only thing I can fault here is that it feels more like half the amount of kW and torque. The engine isn’t exactly “swift”. There’s very little torque and requires that you really work through the gears to get going fast. I’d be worried to see what would happen if you put a whole family in the thing and tried to drag their asses up a long hill. Thankfully I encountered none of those so it wasn’t too bad, but the car is such a great package overall I would really have liked a little more punch in the engine department. The yanks have apparently raced one down the salt pans somewhere in the middle of nowhere and Hicksville to over 350km/h (replaced the engine with a turbine no doubt but still). No less it wasn’t this engine but still, the car can handle it!
This said, I’ve yet to see a Jetta / Corolla driver dice a chaiiirna off a traffic light so this isn’t really the be all and end all. What is however, as Trevor van der Ven will tell you, is fuel consumption. Overall I achieved just under 10l/100km, which is pretty much on manufacturer claims. It’s not amazing, but you’ll easily get over 550km out on the 63 litre tank.
Another surprise, and this time for the positive, was the handling. I expected her to be about as exciting as oats in the morning, but again I was proven wrong. The front set-up is MacPherson struts with a multi-link set-up in the rear, which already says huge amounts for the handling. The chassis is far more alive than the Corolla, and easily on par, if not better than the best from the German rivals (no doubt thanks to the 18inch wheels). Suzuki has apparently paid particular attention to lowering the centre of gravity on certain parts, and it shows in the handling department, with noticeably little body roll. Most importantly however, and no doubt way more important to the buyer of this vehicle, is the ride quality, which is su-perb! The car soaks up bumps and imperfections in the road in a way most luxury saloons do. To get to this level of balance in your chassis set up is no small feat, and is one of the reasons you have to drive it to experience this.
Steering is perfectly weighted, and braking also cannot be faulted due to the ABS and EBD assistance. The ABS kicks in pretty quickly but rather safe than sorry I guess. Speaking of safety, there’s a host of airbags should anything go wrong.
Overall, it’s an exceptional vehicle, and will no doubt do wonders for the Suzuki brand in SA, not only in terms of volumes of vehicles, but also brand perception.
I will single-handedly drag prospective buyers in this price category to the Suzuki dealership with my bare hands so they try it out. It’ll be a busy Saturday morning for me but I’ll do it.
The Kizashi comes standard with a 6year/90 000km Service plan and a 3year/100 000km warranty and roadside assistance.