|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Outside, the Suzuki Kizashi is quite an interesting car. It’s a looker that carries its sporty credentials squarely on its broad shoulders. Upfront, the mesh-type grille with the dominant Suzuki “S” logo brings a hint of sportiness and refinement to the package. The headlamps feature a “connected rings” look achieved by a high-gloss silver finish. At the side, the Kizashi spares no expense and features a high-luster piano black finish on the B-pillar and the beltline moldings; very reminiscent of German sports sedans. The wheel wells are filled with generous 215/55 R 17 tires. At the back, the rear lamps convey a cylindrical theme that matches the headlamps upfront and give an impression of depth. Finally, capping things off, the Kizashi features twin exhausts with distinctive looking covers which were said to have been inspired by the company’s range of sports bikes.
As nice as the Kizashi is on the outside, the experience begins to muddle the moment you step into the cabin. Though the cabin proportions reward comfort and roominess (an advantage perhaps of Suzuki’s vast experience in the compact car segment), the overall execution, let alone the equipment level looks and feels too bare to even be seriously lumped together with any other executive car. There’s not an ounce of leather in the cabin: the seats are covered in fabric; the steering wheel and shift lever, urethane. In a blindfold test, without realizing its price and size, you’ll actually think it’s a mid-grade compact car rather than a P 1,288,000 car. On the bright side, the black and beige color scheme does lighten things up and the fabric used on the seats is actually top-notch stuff.
The confused execution of the Kizashi extends even to its weird mix of standard features. As mentioned, there’s no leather in this executive car and neither are powered seats nor cruise control. It doesn’t even have HIDs! And yet, it comes with a push button engine start/stop, foot well lighting, and dual zone climate control with rear vents. On the other hand, the audio system may look simple, but it’s surprisingly packed with features with CD, MP3, AUX, and even USB inputs as well as six speakers. The only thing lacking would be Bluetooth connectivity.
Ergonomically, the Kizashi is modern enough with ample adjustments to the steering wheel and seats while providing excellent interior visibility. The gauges, though lacking the fanciness of its competitor’s set-ups, are easily readable packing even an on-board computer between the large diameter tachometer and speedometer. The rest of the controls are mixed though ranging from the nice, tactile operation of the climate and audio controls to the throwback location of the front fog lamp switch (it’s located on the dash as a separate button).
Like the interior, the Kizashi’s performance is rather mixed. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, with its all-aluminum construction, drop-forged connecting rods, and forged steel crankshaft all seem impressive. In fact, it does deliver the power with 180 horsepower and 230 Nm of torque, but there’s a large degree of coarseness especially at the critical 2,000 to 4,000 rpm range. What’s worse, the drone makes its way to the cabin lessening the feel of refinement. The Kizashi eschews a traditional automatic or even a dual-clutch transmission for a CVT. This move proves to be a good one, mating well with the engine, making the Kizashi feel quick and spirited. However, choosing a CVT should result in good fuel mileage, but on that front, the Kizashi falls short delivering just 6.75 km/L in city driving.
As coarse as the engine is, the Kizashi’s suspension undoubtedly feels well-tuned and driver-oriented. The body itself is made from extremely rigid steel with reinforced independent MacPherson Struts upfront and multi-links at the back. Constructed with embedded aluminum, it makes for crisp and nimble handling with excellent stability as well as a sophisticated ride and reduced chassis vibration. The steering is responsive, but offers vague feedback. The handling package is completed with standard four-wheel Akebono disc brakes which bite well.
In designing and developing their executive car, the ‘Kizashi’ name is certainly appropriate. With eye-catching good looks and exemplary handling, the Suzuki Kizashi has solid foundations to work with. In fact, it re-energizes the brand by proving that Suzuki can build interesting cars without abandoning its traditional core values. Unfortunately, it’s hampered by its mixed bag of standard equipment which puts it too much as an in-betweener between a compact and an executive car. Ultimately, this confusing classification and execution makes the Suzuki Kizashi hard to understand and limits its appeal with potential customers.