Suzuki is evaluating the Kizashi for UK sale. This is the first D-sector, family car entrant from Suzuki, which has historically specialised in small cars and rugged, good-value SUVs. Can the Suzuki Kizashi really tempt us out of our Mondeos and Insignias?
Suzuki GB has imported a Kizashi 2.4 Sport to the UK for evaluation with dealers and selected media. CAR's first drive review should reveal if they're barking up the wrong tree - or if there's a case for a family car from Suzuki in the UK.
It looks promising in the car park: the design is sharply chiselled, with a striking face, balanced proportions with a hint of old-school Subaru aggression and a stubby rump zipped up with concept car-style alloy-tipped exhausts.
Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 Sport: the background
The Kizashi isn't quite as big as a Mondeo and the other leviathons of the D-sector. It stretches to 4650mm, making it more of a curious half size between Focus and Mondeo classes - a shade bigger than the 4569mm Skoda Octavia.
It's really roomy, though: the front compartment is comfy and there's plenty of space for large adults in row two, although the transmission tunnel impinges on rear legroom and the sunroof robs headroom front and rear. Boot space stands at 461 litres, and it's a large, easy-to-access luggage area.
What about the engineering of the Kizashi?
This is a new platform, says Suzuki, with no architecture lurking underneath from its SUVs or smaller cars. The 2.4 petrol is borrowed from the Grand Vitara, but upgraded for saloon usage. This is the biggest obstacle facing the Kizashi: Europeans buy hardly any petrol family cars, and the 35.8mpg combined economy and 183g/km will deter plenty of buyers.
However, Suzuki claims that it has the largest retail penetration of any UK maker, giving the Kizashi more plausibility. With fewer CO2 tax worries and a likely lower annual mileage, the 2.4 petrol will be less of a hindrance, says Suzuki.
It's an unremarkable enough engine. It revs quietly and you'll need to hit high rpms to achieve those sharpish acceleration claims of 0-62mph in 7.8sec. At higher revs, it rasps and shows a turn of speed, but this doesn't feel like a fast saloon. In days when Ford 1.6-litre Ecoboost engines are turning out more power, this engine is off the pace in most key metrics.
How does the Suzuki Kizashi drive on UK roads?
Very well. The Kizashi's road manners are civilised, our left-hooker had a clean gearchange action, a neutral helm and generally smooth ride and handling. It feels very together. The Sport suspension package includes 18in rims and 10mm lower ride height, yet the Kizashi four-door feels composed on all but the bobbliest road surfaces.
Overall, the Kizashi feels smooth, capable and easy to drive. It's a wholly stress-free experience. But we'd have to point out that it also lacks the sophistication of a Mondeo or the polish of a Passat.
And the quality?
We've already praised the room available (bar the intrusive sunroof) and the milieu of the cabin is well judged. Even in the back, there are soft-touch door trims to rest your elbows on. It feels very well built.
And the spec list is generous, as it should be for an anticipated £21,500 price: the front seats are electric, there's keyless entry and ignition, climate control, trip computer, those 18in alloys, xenon lights, ESP and a host of safety equipment.
In many respects, the Kizashi feels like a grown-up Swift. And that's a huge compliment. We love the Swift and named it our 2005 Car of the Year.
But is that enough in this sector? The Kizashi would cost between £21,000-£22,000 if it gets the go-ahead for sale in winter 2011. That's serious money that would bag a lesser Mondeo or Insignia, and is knocking on the door of entry-level 3-series territory. Thing is, motorists wanting a good-looking, reliable alternative, bristling with kit and with a polished, relaxing drive won't be disappointed by the Kizashi.
There's no diesel looming until the full fruits of the cooperation with VW are felt (an auto and 4wd are also on the cards), and that lack of derv is the Kizashi's killer blow. But Suzuki only needs 500 UK sales to make the numbers stack up, and we suspect it will find sufficient fans among its loyal fanbase. They'll find an accomplished, if extravagant, all-rounder.