Sunday, 6 January 2013

REVIEW - Suzuki Kizashi

A while back I showed you a glimpse of a car you would most likely never have seen before; the Suzuki Kizashi. With only 500 of them coming to UK soil there is a good chance you may never even see one in the flesh. However in Japan and America they will be a resounding success. So why only 500 to the UK? Well I shall explain, and I shall also find out if the Kizashi is any good. The CVT gearbox is interesting and it also has a 4WD system. Read on to see the full review...

Looks - 10/10

The world of executive saloons has never been one that interests me too greatly. They're too big and too practically-styled to look good. Well that's not entirely accurate any more. There are more and more car manufacturers trying to add a bit of style to the larger cars, and this is having a great effect. Take the Suzuki Kizashi you see here. This is a rather large car but by looking at it you wouldn't necessarily know it. It has sleek lines and a curvy shape and this make it seem more compact than it actually is.

The exterior is a true success for this car because it looks awesome. It looks sleek stood still, imposing in your rear-view mirror and impressive from every conceivable angle. Even the side indicators are well styled. Suzuki has put a lot of effort into making the Kizashi stylish, and I think it is a testament to their recent improvements as a car maker that has put them right up there with the best of them.

The impressive design continues inside. There are lovely materials everywhere, from the soft leather on the seats to the silver trim on the dashboard. There are even some sleek lines on the inside too, and the whole cabin has a quality look to it that will offer luxury and comfort as well as please aesthetically. The centre console looks good, as do the steering wheel and even the gear shifter. My only slight gripe is with the buttons to the driver's right on the dashboard. It's not that they're bad as such, but they just aren't of the same quality as those on the steering wheel and centre console. Another great feature of the interior is the door trim, which is full of soft leather too, and makes the driver feel surrounded by plush materials and style, which is nice.

Handling/Performance - 8/10

The engine powering the Kizashi is a 2.4-litre petrol unit. It develops 178PS and 230Nm of torque which isn't half bad, but is less than you would expect from such a large engine. 0-62mph takes 8.8 seconds and the top speed is 127mph. On paper this is average, but there is a slight twist. In fact there are two. Firstly, the Kizashi comes with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) gearbox. The second is the AWD system, which massively changes how this car goes.

Let's take the gearbox first. A CVT box means that there is an infinite number of gear ratios and it can be adjusted constantly. This is noticeably different than a regular automatic. There have been negative reviews suggesting that there is no kickdown and the engine just jumps up in the revs with no forward momentum, and I will say that people claiming this obviously have no clue about how the CVT gearbox works whatsoever. Driven properly this is an effective system, and there is a paddle-shift mode with preset gear ratios and I found the car most pleasurable to drive in this mode. The only downside is that some of the gear ratios are quite long, and so it's a bit harder to be in the power band.

On to the AWD system now because this car handles extremely well. The first thing I did when testing the Kizashi was to push the AWD button and stick it round a few corners. Wow. The Kizashi has seemingly endless traction, whatever the weather and whatever the road. Even on the slipperiest roundabout the Kizashi never even attempted to let go, and I was very impressed. Being on a tight twisty road the flappy-paddle mode on the gearbox helped as well because it gives a driving experience that's just that little bit different. You feel more involved in everything and more like a proper driver. Unless you have actually driven one you may think I'm barking at this point, but anybody who has will know what I'm talking about.

Economy - 5/10

As I mentioned, the Kizashi will be a resounding success in America. One of the reasons is the fuel economy. In the land of the almighty Dollar and cheap fuel, 34mpg combined will be a godsend. Here, it's below par. Everyday driving will return you a mpg figure in the 20s somewhere, and this car if not driven carefully could really hit you at the pumps. The emissions don't help the Kizashi make a case either, because at 191g/km CO2 the Kizashi falls in VED band J. Road tax will set you back £250 for the year, and the first year rate is a whopping £460. It can be argued that the Kizashi's cheap list price can excuse this somewhat, but I still hoped for more. It was the only element of this car that left me feeling disappointed, and it is a true shame. If there were a more frugal diesel model then it would suit the UK more, but in America and Japan there is little demand for diesels and so I can see Suzuki's logic here.

Practicality - 9/10

As you would expect with a large family saloon the Kizashi is roomy. Being for the American market there has to be room, so for us Brits there's more than enough. Even with the front seat shifted quite far back adults will be comfortable in the back. There is a large boot too. Admittedly it is an awkward shape, and being a saloon the loading area is limited; this will always be a drawback of saloon cars.

To live with the Suzuki was easy. With comforts like bluetooth, cruise control, speed limiter, dual-zone climate control, heated seats and keyless access you really do get the best of a luxury lifestyle without having to spend ridiculous amounts of your hard earned money. The Kizashi doesn't feel as big as it looks, and will fit into villages and parking spaces with minimal effort. 

Fun - 8/10

When people mention 'large saloon cars' the last thing that comes to mind is the word "fun". I didn't hold great hopes for the Kizashi, but I was pleasantly surprised. What makes the Kizashi a fun car is a combination of several factors that come together to give an unexpected ability to put a smile on your face. Firstly, there is the rarity of the car. Because nobody knows what it is, you can almost sense the puzzled looks from other motorists, and will catch people turning round for a second glance when you drive through town. I like that a lot, and I often wondered how many people managed to figure out what it was that had driven past.

The driving experience in AWD paddle mode will always put a smile on your face. You kind of feel like an executive rally driver, and the speed you can carry through the bends on the A-roads will be guaranteed to put a smile on your face. I would be interested to see if any car for the same money could keep up on a wet country road, as I imagine there would be few, if any, that could.

Finally you have the host of gadgetry that make driving an absolute pleasure. It's fun to be able to twiddle all the different dials and switches and then just sit back in amazement of the technology. Even in the worst weather the Kizashi was comfortable and relaxing, and so you always arrived at your destination in a good mood, and that to me is a tribute to Suzuki because they have made a great car.

Concluding Remarks

The Kizashi is certainly an interesting car. I think I could be forgiven for saying that it will suit the American market more than the British one. That said, I think Suzuki will easily sell the 500 they are bringing here. At a price of £21,995 you will struggle to find anything that will offer you as much for as little money. It almost excuses the poor economy and the fact that you will be driving something almost unique can not be overlooked too. As I said, many people won't have heard of the Kizashi, let alone have seen one, and you be met by puzzled looks as to the car you are in from many other motorists. Personally I like that, and I think it's the Kizashi's greatest success. If you want to find out more, visit Suzuki's website or head to a dealership where there may even be one in the flesh.

Total Score - 40/50

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