By Andy Enright
It's true. We Brits are prone to a bit of a parochial view. We overstate our own importance in the world and we tend to react badly when we're reminded of our true status. Such a reminder occasionally comes in the form of cars that do very well for their manufacturers in other markets but are clearly not aimed at the UK's very specific set of requirements. Such an example was the Suzuki Kizashi all-wheel drive saloon. Here's what to look for when searching for a used example.
4dr saloon (2.4 petrol)
Think Suzuki cars and you'll probably think of buzzing superminis and Grand Vitara SUVs. The idea of Suzuki producing a car that might compete with an Audi or even an upper specification SEAT or Skoda doesn't seem particularly credible. Suzuki had other ideas, however, and attempted to convince us that it was able to trade as equals. To that end, it introduced the Kizashi, a really good looking car but a model that was never a great fit for the UK market, being better suited to the US and Australia. This was something of a shame as the Kizashi is an unusual and talented vehicle. Suzuki imported a couple of demonstrator vehicles for the UK press to try and the feedback was almost overwhelmingly positive. As a result, the UK importers dipped their toe in the water with an agreement to bring over 500 cars. Even today, Kizashis are a rare sight but just because a car flops when new doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad used buy.
What You Get
Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder and all that, but it's tough to find any beholders who felt that the Kizashi was anything but a really handsome piece of vehicle design. The muscular bulging wheelarches and the sculpted tail pipes combine with a classic long bonnet, stub tailed silhouette with an aggressively rising beltline. It's a smaller car than something like a Mondeo or a Peugeot 508. Think SEAT Exeo or Skoda Octavia and you're not too far off the mark. The interior design is neat without offering too much that's particularly ground breaking. Some of the materials aren't up to the standards of the entry-level cars of the premium brands but it feels far from built down to a price. The one shortcoming really only applies to very tall drivers as the sunroof robs you of an inch or so of headroom. The boot looks small but is a reasonable 461-litres. The Kizashi is seriously well equipped. And the fundamentals smack of quality, the all-wheel drive system, clever CVT transmission and sophisticated suspension being features that its rivals will often lack. You'll spot the handsome 18-inch alloy wheels and the full leather interior, extras which could easily tack a couple of thousand pounds onto the price of some other cars. It doesn't stop there. You'll get seven airbags, high intensity discharge headlights, an electric sunroof, ESP stability control, front and rear parking sensors, electric front seats, of which the driver's seat is 10-way adjustable, keyless entry, an eight speaker stereo with subwoofer, cruise control, USB port and audio controls on the steering wheel. The only option available was a touch screen sat nav.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The Suzuki Kizashi is built well. The cabin materials feel a bit budget but everything is reasonably solid and the seat fabrics are hardwearing. The mechanicals are all tried and tested and the all-wheel drive mechanicals are rugged. Most cars will have led a very easy life and you have the advantage of being one of the few potential buyers who know what this car is, so negotiate hard.
(approx based on an 2.4 Kizashi inc VAT) Spark plugs are £7 a piece while rear brake pads tot up to £45 per pair while fronts are £55 a set. Expect to pay around £15 for a fuel filter and £9 for an oil filter.
On the Road
The chief impediment to the Kizashi's sales success was its engine. Mid-sized saloons with 2.4-litre petrol engines are never going to threaten the sales charts and with no diesel engine offered, the Suzuki's 178bhp powerplant is the long and the short of it. It's mated to a six-speed CVT gearbox with paddle shifters behind the wheel and a gear lever you can prod back and forth. The box works well in concert with the engine and it's better still when you press an inconspicuous button on the lower fascia which switches the Kizashi into four-wheel drive. It's an unusual car. The i-AWD four-wheel drive setup is a very smart system able to direct up to 50% of torque to the back via an electromagnetic coupling device that controls a series of clutches. It can even counter over and understeer via a torque vectoring facility. The engine is a development of the Grand Vitara unit and is a little vocal when extended, but the ride and handling is well-judged, even with winter tyres thanks to a strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup. At cruising speeds, the engine is nicely muted, with only some wind noise around the huge mirrors disturbing the peace. Performance? It'll dispatch the sprint to 60mph in 8.5 seconds and run onto a top speed of 127mph.
What Car? magazine, usually a reliable arbiter of a vehicle's talent, rated the Suzuki Kizashi as a one-star (out of five) vehicle. That's a harsh appraisal. Yes, the efficiency measures are some way off the class best, or even the average, but that fact is reflected in the asking price of a used example. Were running costs not such an issue, the Kizashi could more than hold its own. It makes a lot of sense for those who want something that works and works well in all weathers and which isn't going to cover intergalactic mileages. It's hard to know exactly who the typical British Kizashi buyer might be, but sometimes the most interesting people buy the most overlooked cars.