Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 Manual – 2011

Chrome Paint. Optional

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.

Exhausts are an exciting affair

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.

Pretty ain't it?

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!

What - the steering wheel moved?

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.

Airbags. Blew the roof off.

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.

Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design

Diffuser on a Volvo?!

Well you don’t often hear people saying the words sporty and Volvo in the same sentence. It’s kind of like hooker and virgin or Art and great-national-anthem being in the same sentence together. So it’s not something that sits comfortable in ones mind, and look at what Volvo delivered…the S60 T6 AWD R-Design

I have reviewed a normal S60 T6 AWD before so I’m not going to go into much detail about the S60, but rather focus on the specifics around the R-Design changes.

So let’s start off with the exterior, which is what differentiates this Volvo from any other. The R-Design kit, which is essentially a cosmetic and accessorized performance / racing pack, ads some very attractive and sporty cues to the traditional S60 looks. There’s a black front grille, modified bumpers, rear spoiler, and most noticeably the rear diffuser with prominent twin tail pipes. I say let’s make every Volvo look like this, it’s a damn good start to getting the already quirky Volvo to stand out and most people, including myself were pleasantly surprised at how sporty they had made it look.  Included in this pack were 18inch wheels that would give you some good street cred in the Vale, as well as aluminum mirror covers. Hooray!

Stop. Staring.

Interior changes include aluminum interior trim, which was actual aluminum and not some sprayed milk bottle plastic. R-Design seats looked like they were fashioned out of a diving suit, and would be at home on a performance boat. They were, as always, supremely comfortable and more supportive than the traditional S60 seats. Steering wheel and some other bits are given the R-Design leather treatment. As I’ve said time and time again, it’s a pleasant place to be in a Volvo, the S60 being no exception to the rule. Some commented on the dashboard being a little daunting in size, however I can fault very little of the interior.

Swedish interiors. Pretty.

The S60 R-Design does absolutely no changes to the engine, the flagship T6 (a 3litre turbocharged six cylinder petrol engine) pushing out 224kW and 440Nm of torque through Volvo’s All-wheel drive system. That’s more than a BMW 335i and 20kW short of the Audi S4. To be frank, it’s fucking fast. 0-100km/h is dealt with in 6.2seconds … It’s deceptive as you really don’t realize how fast you’re picking up speed.. There is probably a little more perceived involvement in drive due to the sporty suspension, tyres and AWD system, however it’s definitely not as much a drivers car as the other two above. That said, it is lighting quick in a straight line, so quick in fact that the engine will easily pull up past 200km/h before you even notice it in wind noise or drive. Excellent stuff that.

The AWD system features something called “Instant Traction” which shifts power to the front or rear wheels dependant on the need in “lightning speed”. I must be honest, it’s not exactly as “lightning quick” as they claim it to be. I’m no tosser, I understand it’s not exactly an M3 track competitor, but pushing into a hard corner you’ll find it running wide, the traction control come on, the power being transferred to a wheel that has some of it, and then the power being cut. It’s not a very smooth system and seems to react at the speed of the dial up modem, and not lighting-zeus-speed. The problem with the S60’s has always been that the engine sits so far ahead of the front wheels which means there’s a lot of weight in the nose of the car, which immediately sends the nose wide and the stability systems in attack mode to fix that. This is really only when pressing on really hard, and you wouldn’t notice this in daily relaxed driving.

Airbags=Volvo

Sigh… another shortcoming is the Geartronic automatic gearbox, which leaves quite a bit to be desired when it comes to sporty shifting. It’s unfortunately (as I said about the traditional S60) the biggest weakness of the car. It does a great job when you’re just cruising along, however when pressing on it hunts for gears and you’ll be so irritated that you end up just putting it into manual. However, when that happens, you’ll wait while the car puts in a request for the shift to Swedish headquarters, the shift is than approved by the team, and then gear engaged. Not ideal.

Overall, it’s a very good-looking car…almost too good looking for what it’s going to deliver. This said, Volvo is already seeing a bias towards male drivers in the S60 range, which is against their traditional female bias…and this is good news. They are obviously hoping to attract some more macho to the range with this R-Design kit … yeah … guess it’ll work

In my eyes, it unfortunately just doesn’t come together nicely. Sporty and Volvo come together, but just not too well in this S60. It’s not water and oil, but it’s not strawberries and cream either. With great sporty looks and a beast of an engine, it’s kind of just let down as it’s not really that involved, nor really excellent in handling, nor really snappy in the gear changes. I understand what the sport kit is about, much like the guys with a 320i BMW slap on an M-Sport kit, but here it’s got half the goods, and then just seems to not really bring it all home.

Nice in Red.

Pricing, you’re looking upwards of R460 000 in this guise. So if you’re looking to just spruce up any of the S60 models, it’s worth the extra bit of cash if you can handle a sportier ride and want that sporty look.

You can find more information on this vehicle at www.volvo.co.za

Volvo S60 T6 AWD – 2010

Last year’s “Naughty Volvo” campaign that launched the S60 had me dare the Volvo twitter account (@volvocar_SA) to give me car to test out. They did. So we’re off to a good start. So, the 2010 Volvo S60 replaces the previous generation shape to align the all-new XC60 design language with a more aggressive grille. (Think whale shark) It also features revised engines and is built on the XC60 chassis. Full model line for now is a 2.0Turbo, 2.0Diesel, and this, the 3.0turbo All Wheel Drive. Volvo says this new S60 repositions it, as per CEO Stefan Jacoby’s 2010 address at the LA Auto Show, not only in direct competition to the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, but reaffirms the unique Volvo identity. Unfortunately, I think somehow they drank that one by the wayside. Volvo’s were always strange in the way that they never quite had models that directly competed (E.g. Mercedes C-Class vs. BMW 3 Series) and here again. The larger S60 competes against the BMW 3 Series, but where does the S40 fall in then? Confused, yet a nice Volvo quirk. More worryingly, is that this Volvo has a bit of an identity crisis. A high school student that doesn’t know if it wants to be a professional sports star, or follow the grades and be an accountant. The variant I drove was the T6 AWD (3.0turbocharged 224kW 440NM), which is the top of the line model currently available. The campaign positions this S60 as a “naught Volvo” … I know, it’s like a young Cher, but hear me out. This S60 needs to capture the current mid-segment market that is dominated by BMW’s and Audi’s. The Mid 30 exec that still wants something with a badge, performance and a slight sporty appeal. The S60, although qualifying on unique looks, and outright performance (0-100km/h in 6.3sec) makes a good case, it unfortunately leaves some gaps. It has one hell of an engine, with loads of grunt at any speed, and a fantastic AWD system that glues the power delivery to the road. The problem, comes in with the suspension and the gearbox. Volvo has employed the Sports suspension here and it leaves a lot to be desired, as it crashes over bumps (could be the 18inch wheels) and undulations. The gearbox, although great in sport mode, is still a little too tailored too relaxed driving. To ad insult to injury, the seats are supremely comfortable. Problem how? Well if we’re trying to be sporty here, I don’t want to float from door to door as I throw the S60 into corners. So they have ticked some of the boxes, and ticked em good, and then left others in the days of the station wagon Volvo. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent car, I just think it’s trying to juggle too many balls, and dropping some in the process. If you want a sporty car, it’s half way there. If you want a supremely comfortable cruiser, it’s half way there too. There are however some things they got spot on: Safety As with any Volvo, this car is packed to the brim with standard safety equipment, including the usual package of airbags, ABS, EBD, Advanced Stability control and the list goes on. This model came with optional City Safety, a system that should stop those low speed bumper bashings from happening. It worked the one time I didn’t intend to try it, stopping the car before I rolled into the car in front of me. There’s some T&C’s that come with that, so read your manual carefully, and don’t trust it to save a bad driver. Another options is BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) which notifies you of motor vehicles in your blind spot through a little orange light right by the mirrors. It works well, but you could just look in your mirror you lazy ass. Interior The interior is truly another Volvo masterpiece, with a simplified layout, and all the functions operating through the central LCD screen. Every material and button is of phenomenal quality, to the touch, and to the eye. There is loads of space, as well as boot that can swallow at least 2 golf bags. I cannot fault the interior at all. Exterior Although it might not be to the liking of everyone, by George thank God it doesn’t! Finally, a Volvo that splits opinion. I really like the looks, the short, tight rear, and mammoth front end (which is a bit of a bitch to park. Thank goodness for park distance control front and rear) Everywhere I stopped, I had at least 1 person ask me about the car, and commented that they liked the looks. Something I’ve never heard about a Volvo, so they’ve done something right. Performance and Drive Train The engine is a beauty, with loads of grunt in any gear, and the Haldex all-wheel drive system allows instant power delivery to the wheels. There’s a nice 6 cylinder growl when you get up in the rev range and I love the way the all-wheel drive system balances the power delivery just right, without understeer or heavy nose dives. Once again, I can’t fault these two. If I could fix one thing, I’d give it adaptive suspension. I think it would make a more complete 2-tone package, that allowed you to tear off the traffic lights and around the bends in sport mode when you wanted, but also allowed some more relaxed cruising in comfort. The suspension is really the only big sore that keeps that from happening, so if you can go for the adaptive suspension, I probably would. That said, be careful on the options list, it seems there are quite a few boxes to tick, which is a pity, as Volvo’s of old used to come standard with the works. Overall, it’s an amazing car, is unique in its own right, whilst offering a supremely luxurious interior and some fun when you want it. Most buyers will feel this is a perfect fit, and for the majority, it works incredibly well. Sure, if you really want a focused, sporty drive, you’d probably opt for its competition, but it stands out from the crowd, and for that, I can’t fault it. More detail on the web here – http://www.volvocars.com/za/all-cars/volvo-s60/details/pages/default.aspx Pictures referenced off http://www.autoblog.com