I’m not sure who has the higher expectations of the Kizashi, me or Suzuki? Since Suzuki first entered the South African market, it has managed to establish itself as a serious contender in the compact segments; models such as the Alto, SX4 and Swift have not only established solid reputations for quality and performance, but have become volume-sellers. In a few short years, the brand has managed to find a solid footing, which is why the company felt that it was time to spread its wings and enter the hotly-contested C-segment with the Kizashi.
Kizashi is a Japanese word meaning “a sign of good things to come” and I’m sure that is what Suzuki will be hoping for with the introduction of the marque’s first mid-sized saloon to the South African market. I share Suzuki’s sentiment, because I will be covering 20 000 km in the car over the next 12 months.
The newcomer affords Suzuki an opportunity to speak to different potential buyers, but also presents fresh challenges: The Kizashi is Suzuki’s first foray into the medium passenger vehicle market and, while first impressions of the saloon are positive, it does face stiff competition from the likes of the Honda Accord, Mazda6, Toyota Corolla, Audi A4, Volvo S40, to mention only a few. These are heavyweights in the industry and recent Naamsa sales figures (only 48 Kizashi units were sold during August and September) suggest a muted response from the market.
That said, I’ve covered a few thousand kilometres with the newcomer since its arrival and remain happy with it. The Kizashi offers great cabin space and a reasonable luggage capacity, good perceived quality, a neat interior design and a great list of standard features. The cabin is roomy and comfortable, both at the front and especially the rear, but the dash does impinge on the driver’s left leg to an extent.
From the front of the cabin, the car offers electric adjustment for the front seats, satellite controls on the steering wheel, a radio/CD audio system with USB connectivity and dual-zone climate control. The Kizashi also has an anti-dazzle rear-view mirror, sunroof, cruise control and park distance control. Safety features include six airbags, ABS with EBD and ESP.
There’s currently only one engine to be had, a 2,4-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine similar to the unit that propels the Grand Vitara, but with 131 kW at 6 500 r/min and 230 N.m of torque at 4 000 r/min on tap (compared with the 122 kW/225 N.m of the Vitara).
CAR’s long-term test unit comes with a six-speed transmission, while the Vitara has a five-speed unit. The resultant shorter ratios and increased performance gives the Kizashi a freer and more willing power delivery compared with the Vitara and, even at altitude, the car managed to reach higher speeds with relative ease (but sometimes requiring third to be hooked). A turbocharged engine is available in overseas markets, but Suzuki hasn’t suggested this model will be added to the local line-up.
Progress is swift when considering the car’s weight and size, and the shifts are quick and smooth, although there is a strange plastic clicking sound when changing from fifth to sixth. I may decide to have a Suzuki dealership take a closer look at this if the problem gets worse…
On the road, the Kizashi has a very supple ride quality, despite riding on standard 18-inch alloy rims. It offers a good compromise between a plush ride and sporty handling, although it does exhibit a fair amount of body roll through corners. The steering is also rather vague and too light to offer the desired amount of feedback. That said, it compares well with its competitors in this segment.
The Kisashi has covered just over 600 km since joining our fleet three weeks ago and during the time has consumed an average of 10,04 litres/100 km, which is a little high, but it did include a fair amount of city driving. I am sure that this figure will decrease over longer trips.
In the months and weeks to come I will keep you updated on the Suzuki’s performance. It will be roped in for a long trip to the Lowveld in December, strut its stuff in the annual Hamilton-holiday longtermer evaluation, and will continue to be used by fellow CAR staffers for the daily commute.
Mileage: 6 008 km
Pros: Spacious cabin, large boot, specification, refined ride
Cons: Slightly underpowered engine, not very frugal
Fuel economy: 10,04 L/100 km