I’LL start this review with a summary, if you’ll allow me. After spending six months and the better part of 24 226 km behind the wheel of the Suzuki Kizashi and, having travelled with it through most of South Africa’s provinces, what struck me most about Suzuki’s first D-segment saloon was that I rarely saw another Kizashi. This is not only surprising but, considering how good the Kizashi is, also a trifle disappointing.
A look at the monthly Naamsa new-vehicle sales figures paints an enlightening picture; the Kizashi remains (along with the Grand Vitara) the manufacturer’s poorest-selling product. On average, two Honda Accords are sold for each Kizashi. Interestingly, the former is also Honda’s weakest seller and both Japanese vehicles lag far behind the premium Ds, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.
This could have something to do with Suzuki and Honda’s roots as manufacturers of smaller hatches. I’m sure a large number of Accord owners upgraded from Honda’s smaller products and, from what I experienced from Suzuki, these manufacturers employ the long-term strategy of enticing customers into their smaller and more affordable products and then relying on solid customer service to build loyalty in order to upsell this clientele.
The problem with this strategy is that it is long term and, for Honda, has not really translated into high-volume figures for its Accord. So, in order to shift units, Suzuki must challenge brand perception. It certainly has the building blocks required to achieve this: a strong focus on customer service and backup, and a very good product.
Just prior to the car’s single-longest trip to the Lowveld, it underwent its scheduled 15 000 km service at Suzuki Parow in Cape Town. I was forced to make use of the Parow dealership because the busy workshop in Somerset West neglected to return my call to book a service. Nevertheless, Parow did a superb job: the car was booked in two days after scheduling and, to my pleasant surprise, they offered to drop me off and fetch me at work after the work had been completed. This is great service. The bill came to R867,27, which was covered by the car’s standard six-year/90 000 km service plan.
Two days later, the Hamilton family set off north on the N1 for a 6 000 km round-trip holiday to Mpumalanga. While a short-term test is usually sufficient to glean a solid impression of a car, a long trip is certain to highlight any imperfections … of which there were very few.
Let’s start with the good stuff: the Kizashi has loads of comfort features, including electric adjustment for the front seats, satellite controls for the cruise control and audio system, a radio/CD audio system with USB connectivity and dual-zone climate control. It also boasts an anti-dazzle rear-view mirror, sunroof and park-distance control front and rear. Safety features include six airbags and ABS braking with EBD. The cabin may not be visually exciting but it is very comfortable and spacious, with enough room for four adults, and has high levels of perceived quality.
An issue we uncovered with five people in the car is the uncomfortable middle seating position in the second row. This seat is very narrow, the belt is difficult to operate with passengers on either side and the backrest does exactly the opposite, with every passenger complaining of lower-back pain within a few minutes. A great plus is the large luggage area (416 dm3, expanding to 1 444 dm3 with the rear seatbacks folded) that is bigger than most cars in its class.
Over the 12-month period, I had few gripes with the 2,4-litre naturally aspirated, four-cylinder, petrol-powered unit. It delivers 131 kW and 230 N.m of torque and, while some may complain about a lack of mid-range stomp, it had more than enough to handle longer distances.
The six-speed manual trans-mission ensures low revs in higher gears and impressive fuel-consumption figures. A CVT unit is also available in the range. Early in the test, a clicking sound emanated from below the gearlever when shifting from fifth to sixth as a result of the shift-blocker catching the gates. This problem was quickly fixed by the dealership and required the lever to be replaced. The sixth ratio manages to keep engine noise to a minimum and the Kizashi boasts a very quiet cabin. This made covering longer distances a breeze … but a very quiet breeze.
The Kizashi has very civilised road manners and, while offering surprising dynamic flair (owing to the fair amount of grip from its 18-inch rubbers and well-weighted, precise steering), it is very much a D-segment family saloon with a comfortable ride.
If the Kizashi has one short-coming, it’s the lack of a diesel engine in its range. It is something that all of its direct competitors have and is a big selling point for a vehicle such as the Passat.
We got an unpleasant surprise on our first day in Kruger National Park in the form of a punctured front-left tyre. Luckily, the Kizashi has a full-size spare. There was a tyre outlet in the nearby town and we placed an order for a replacement Yokohama DB Decibel 235/35 R18 at a staggering cost of R3 650. Considering the positioning of the Kizashi, this is too steep. According to the man at the shop, the “funny size of the tyre” is to blame. It appears there is a trade-off to be had for the Kizashi’s fancy appearance.
As CAR is a consumer-driven title that aims to provide readers with practical advice, here’s mine: beside the lack of a wide range of engines and its expensive tyres, I can’t think of any reason not to recommend the Kizashi, except potential resale value. If you’re brand-conscious or a fan of turbodiesels, choose German. If you’re brand-loyal and a fan of diesel, stick with the Accord. For everyone else, Suzuki has ticked all the boxes with its very first effort in a demanding segment.