Tuesday, 23 October 2012

2012 Suzuki Kizashi FULL ROAD TEST

Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 Sport CVT 4dr

Suzuki is world famous for its hatchbacks and four-wheel-drive models, not forgetting their motorbikes. When it was revealed that a large saloon was on the cards there was a lot of doubt over what the outcome would be. The Kizashi arrived in early 2012 and was designed with the American market in mind, we get behind the wheel to find out if this curious creation can live up to the origins of its name which in English translates to "a sign of great things to come"

Visually the Kizashi cleverly blends elements of the current Swift with all-new cues that work well together. At the front there is an imposing grill surrounded by a pair of curvy projector lights and nicely creased surfaces. Side-on the relatively small glass area contrasts well with big protruding arches which house the gorgeous 18 inch wheels and sill extensions. The rear is perhaps the best angle with its swoopy duck tail boot lid and stylish metallic twin exhaust surrounds. It's a design that looks modern, sophisticated and thanks to splashes of chrome here and there oozes premium.

The interior is in keeping with the vibe set by the exterior with its American roots very evident. Everywhere you look there's generous use of sumptuous feeling leather from the commodious seats to the thick lined door panels. The architecture is similar to that found on other Suzuki models which is no bad thing. The centre console is logically laid out framed by more metallic trim with Suzuki's familiar 'built to last a lifetime' approach to the construction. It may not be crafted of materials to match premium brands such as BMW and Audi but it's not as far off as you would imagine. The dials feel particularly premium with their black and white graphics, the only real let down is the pixelated stereo and trip computer displays.

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 Despite being one of the most compact cars in its segment the Kizashi’s interior is very spacious. Head and legroom all round is plentiful and the wide seats make carry five a simple task. The boot is also a good size at 461 litres with a nice wide opening. The rear seats also fold flat making transporting long items a doddle. Furthermore there is a good sized glove compartment, deep door pockets and a handful of 'cubbies'.Suzuki tends to be generous with standard equipment and the Kizashi is no exception. In fact the only optional extra is satellite navigation which wasn't fitted to our test car. What you do get is keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, electric heated leather seats, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, electric sunroof and an 8 speaker stereo with sub-woofer, Bluetooth and USB input. There really is nothing more you could want and given the £21,995 asking price the Kizashi offers a lot for very little but it has to be good to drive if it's going to succeed.Unique to the D-segment the Suzuki is only available in the UK with switchable four-wheel-drive mated to the same 176bhp 2.4 litre DOHC 4 cylinder petrol engine as seen in the Grand Vitara. Frustratingly the only transmission is a six speed CVT automatic gearbox that isn't very appealing especially for a nation of manual gearbox lovers. The decent power on offer sees the Kizashi accelerate from 0-62mph in a respectable 8.8 seconds with peak torque of 230Nm accessible at around 4000rpm. Disappointingly the way it goes about its business is noisily. The lazy gearbox wrings the engine of all of its revs sending noise levels soaring to extreme levels. Despite this the Kizashi gathers speed quickly enough but is at its best when switching cogs manually using the paddles for quieter progress. Fuel economy really suffers if not driven carefully too, the best we achieved was 36mpg and the worst 19mpg - both figures are quite a way off similar models from rival manufacturers.

During its development the Kizashi spent considerable time lapping the Nurburgring honing its handling characteristics. All of the vital ingredients are there; sophisticated aluminium rich suspension of the multi-link variety at the rear, high tensile steels used throughout its body structure and brakes manufactured by Akenobo - the company who supplies brakes for the Japanese bullet trains. It has certainly paid off. The Kizashi handles brilliantly feeling wonderfully nimble and perfectly balanced through any series of sweeping bends. Body movements are extremely well controlled and thanks to the switchable all-wheel-drive system the Kizashi has a significant advantage over front-wheel-drive rivals with endless levels of grip even in damp conditions.

Although a lot of driver sensation is removed by the CVT gear box the steering more than makes up for it feeling meaty, well weighted and beautifully linear with plenty of feel during brisk cornering. The brakes are also; as expected, very powerful and progressive with good pedal feel. Ride comfort is also worthy of praise, despite the lowered and stiffened suspension compared to models offered over the Atlantic it is still very accomplished feeling well damped with an underlying firmness that never becomes intrusive. Refinement is also very good on the move with minimal wind and road noise although it's let down a little by the strained engine note.

Words and Photos by Rob McSorley

Price as tested: £21,995
Engine: 2.4 litre 16v 176bhp - 0-62mph: 8.8secs - Maximum Speed: 127 mph -
Economy: 25mpg (urban) –42.8mpg (extra-urban), 34mpg (combined) - Emissions: 191g/km (Band J) - VED (12 months): £460
Dimensions: Length: 4650mm - Width: 1820mm - Height: 1470mm - Wheelbase: 2700mm
*data from Suzuki UK

The Verdict

There is no doubt that the Kizashi is very different from anything else in this segment. It offers buyers genuine driving thrills in true Suzuki tradition. It rides and handles beautifully and has plenty of space inside for five passengers and their luggage. It also comes with plenty of equipment wrapped up in a well-designed, premium feeling interior with a svelte but unmistakably Suzuki exterior design. The lack of engine and transmission choice dents the Kizashi’s appeal as it's thirsty, expensive to tax and the gearbox isn't great to use. However at just under £22,000 buyers are getting a lot of talented, well equipped car for their money with the unique appeal of driving something very different from the norm. The Kizashi is a car that tugs at the heart-strings and for that reason we really enjoyed every minute it was with us.

You will like;
Unique looks
Superb ride/handling
Value for money
Plenty of kit

You won't like;
Poor economy
CVT gearbox

All photographs and text are the exclusive property of Rob McSorley (except where stated otherwise). They are made available for your personal viewing enjoyment only. No images are within the Public Domain. The photographs may not be copied, reproduced, redistributed, manipulated, projected, used or altered in any way without the prior permission of Rob McSorley (mrrobertmcsorley@gmail.com).

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